When new entrepreneurs hear the word “networking,” it often conjures up the following game plan:

  1. Talk about the challenges you face in your business;
  2. See if the other person has any sage advice or relevant contacts to offer to help you overcome those challenges.

Of course, as is the case with most of what we think we know about business strategy, this is backwards. Instead, the sequence should look something like this:

  1. Ask the other person about his/her current challenges, motivations, projects or goals;
  2. Listen and find a way to help.

In his book,The Education of Millionaires, Michael Ellsberg covers an approach to networking that is based on what I have written above: Find a way to help others. Period.

As a new entrepreneur, who do you wish to network with? Most commonly it is someone who is affluent or notably more successful than you are in a given domain. So how do you establish that connection?

The key to really connecting with these people is to figure out what you can bring to the table. Networking is a two-way exchange. You already know the type of help you want, but what kind of help can you offer?

As an example, I have a great number of friends who are specialized physicians. On dozens of separate occasions, I have connected some of my contacts to one of these physicians for personal or family-related health issues that were mentioned only briefly during an initial conversation.

Recently, I gave advice about outsourcing to a very successful business executive, helped the Dean of a reputable business school navigate the process of self-publishing and introduced a surgeon to the world of do-it-yourself web design using WordPress.

The list above could go on and on but the point is the following: Find ways to help people using your own skills, contacts, efforts and ideas and they will want to reciprocate. Period.

Shawn Maloney, Journal Prep, www.journalprep.com, Montreal, QC, CYBF Mentor

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