According to the Duden dictionary, networking is the establishment and maintenance of contacts that serve the exchange of information and professional advancement. So far so good, founders hear time and again that networking is important for their own start-up career. But networking is more than just a hackneyed buzzword. It is an elementary component of making your own business successful in the long term.

However, a study by the University of Toronto shows that people feel bad about networking. The bad feeling arises above all when they cannot offer the network partner any meaningful value in return. Networks are therefore only really effective when the quality of the relationships is of equal value.

And what does that mean for founders? If you want to build up a good network, you don't just randomly ask people for favours. Rather, they are clear about their needs and have a concrete plan. They know the purpose of their network and are prepared to give something in advance. Networking is therefore not just about building the largest possible network, but also about intensifying and maintaining it. It is a constant give and take and can even be fun. If it is not, you are simply surrounding yourself with the wrong people.


3 good reasons for active networking

1. nobody knows everything.

That's why it's right and important to learn from and with like-minded people. There are numerous start-up events in every city, often even free of charge. Whether in the form of meet-ups or workshops, there are numerous opportunities to acquire knowledge. In addition to personal development and further training, event participation is worthwhile for socialising. It's all about finding the right people to work with. Whether co-founders, co-operation partners or the first employees.

Of course, we will also support you here at innoWerft. We help you to expand your network through coaching, mentoring and our Up2B programmes.


group-people-together-team2. together instead of alone.

Especially at the beginning of your start-up, everyday working life can seem pretty lonely. Especially as a solo founder who is still looking for suitable team colleagues. What's more, you have to take care of everything from product development to finances at the same time. This is where working in co-working spaces can help. Here you have the opportunity to exchange ideas directly with people who are in a similar situation. Intelligent relationship management is worth its weight in gold for early-stage start-ups. Gaps in expertise can be filled via your own network and the workload can be spread across several competent shoulders.


3. new contacts bring new customers.

Your own network can therefore be used as an acquisition channel. This does not mean clumsily advertising your own offer to your counterpart. This requires a little more sensitivity. It's not about being pushy or constantly having to sell yourself. Clever use of expertise and sharing knowledge gives you the chance to present yourself as an expert. This leads to interesting new projects through recommendations. According to an IBM study, 80 per cent of all contracts are awarded through recommendations. Nothing is more convincing than good old word of mouth.


7 tips that make networking a success

The next event or training programme is coming up. If you want to network successfully, this is not just an opportunity to broaden your own horizons. It's a chance to meet interesting people and make new contacts. The be-all and end-all is thorough preparation. Trade fairs and congresses often offer the option of researching participants in advance. It is advisable to make appointments in advance and contact specific people. Make sure that these people offer you added value and that you can also offer them something worthwhile in return.

It is a matter of course and yet it happens again and again - business cards are forgotten! If you can't pass on your contact details, you've already lost before the networking has really begun. There are already alternatives to the usual paper cards. Platforms such as LinkedIn or Xing offer the possibility of networking via QR codes as a digital business card. Virtual networks serve as a supplement to real networks. Digital networking should not be done arbitrarily. A presence in the usual professional online networks requires meaningful content, just as in face-to-face dialogue. The objectives are varied, but ultimately all play a major role in self-marketing.

When interests and topics of conversation are similar, it is easy to exchange ideas with like-minded people. Even if a certain distance to hierarchically superior persons is perceived. However, these people often have relevant information or can help in certain situations. When building up your own network, you should therefore make sure to involve people who have mentoring qualities.

The private networks of friends and family are often underestimated. Valuable expertise also lies in the personal environment and often remains undiscovered. Networking in a private environment also has the decisive advantage of being trustworthy. Trust does not have to be worked hard for, but has usually been built up over years.

Networks are based on trust, respect, mutual support and honesty. It's all about relationships with people. It is therefore all the more important to remain authentic. A person who behaves in accordance with their ideas and stands up for their principles is perceived as credible. This applies to all areas of life and also to networking. It seems less sensible to go to a trendy golf club if you don't really think much of the sport or the atmosphere.

The good news is that networking can be learnt. Especially those who are reluctant to approach groups of people need their own strategy. This strategy varies just as much as your own personality. Networking does not have to be done as a lone wolf. It is often easier to approach strangers together with a colleague. This strategy has the positive side effect that the colleague can introduce you to people from their own network. And perhaps the colleague is also one of those people who enjoy networking. In this way, they not only act as a door opener, but also as a role model from whom you can learn how to approach others.

Approaching and getting to know new people is only the first step. The contact must be expanded and deepened. A solid network is created through lasting contacts that are cultivated. The more time and attention is invested in the new contact, the more intensive the relationship becomes. Editor Christian Helten puts it in a nutshell. "Not networking is to your professional life as never brushing your teeth is to your love life: rarely successful".


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