So I’m admittedly new to the startup community and I’m trying to figure it out as well. It’s a very fluid community that’s always shifting and moving so it can, at times, be hard to get your head around it. Especially for someone new, which at this point is me. So how am I getting acclimated and figuring my way around it?
Well I somehow earned enough credit in the community to earn a spot on a startup panel this week as one of the panelist. Up on stage I gave some of my own words of wisdom, whatever that’s worth :). But what I ended up speaking the most about, as well as my colleagues, was the importance of networking. I think a general consensus, not only at this panel but throughout all of my previous interactions with entrepreneurs, is that making connections in your community is of utmost importance.
***I’m the goofy kid in the black stocking cap***
The phrase I’ve always used in life is, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” Well the preparation part of the equation is the work that you put in. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that to be successful you’ve got to put in work, that’s obvious. It’s so obvious that that’s what most people focus on, just putting their head down and grinding. I’m a worker, I completely get that. I have an extremely unhealthy work ethic actually, where I work all day, go home and work on my computer, and then go work on projects when I have more free time. This at face value seems like the right thing to do, how could working harder be a bad thing?
Well I hate to break it to you, but you’re not the best at everything. You may be great at a few things, that’s true! But no one is an expert at everything, it’s just not possible in such a specialized world. So it’s important to meet those people that know how to compliment your weaknesses. This networking part is the opportunity part of the luck equation. You’ve got to get outside of your bubble and explore the different opportunities around you if you’re ever going to truly succeed. No man is an island!
This to me, being the social recluse that I am, has been by far the hardest part of being an entrepreneur and it’s the one aspect of my new lifestyle that I had never truly considered. Now that I’m slowly starting to get into the startup community and I see that everyone says that networking is one of the most important aspects of success I feel like a fool for not giving it more consideration! I grew up on a farm where working your ass off was the key to success. I never thought about the phrase my father had told me while we were clearing a hedge row, “It’s always better to work smarter than it is to work harder.” That phrase had always stuck with me but I had never thought of it in terms of relationships.
Now everyone says that entrepreneurs should get a mentor. Don’t listen to that crap. You should have atleast 3 mentors! Because your inevitably going to hit a roadblock somewhere some day and your not going to know what the hell to do. Or you’ll just have general strategic questions about the direction of your organization. Or you’ll have tactical questions, “What’s the best CC processor in the area?”. There are a million things that’ll come up in your career where you’ll be at a complete lose. This is when it’s important to have those invaluable contacts to fall back on. These contacts will invariably get your ass out of more hot water than you could ever possibly imagine.
Have a great idea? Better know a VC! Doing a build out? Better know a few good general contractors! Redoing your menu? Better have an experienced chef! You really never know what it is that you’ll need or when you need it so you have to always be out there finding the best and brightest to help you out. If your good at it then you’ll develop friendships with these contacts and develop long term mutually benefitial relationships and save everyone some money and headache!
So that at last brings me to the defining quality of the startup community, networking. The startup community is so diverse that there isn’t one stereotype that is all encompassing. You’ll have VC’s, biohackers, bloggers, social media experts, farmers, and carpenters all co-mingled together in the “startup” community. But if they want to be successful and really know what the hell they’re doing, then they knock out their work and then they go out and network. Find meetup groups, accelerators, speeches, and workshops. Go to anything and everything. You’ll never know who it is that you’ll meet that could possibly change your life and launch your career!