Today we want to explore networking and the Texas entrepreneur, which is an important topic for many of the firms that participate in Austin Inventors Syndicate (AIS). Networking is a critical activity for those in business, especially for entrepreneurs. However, there are a couple key problems with building networks. First, according to Mike Macedonio of the Referral Institute, a serious active networker spends eight hours a week on networking events, online networking, meeting with referrals, and other networking activity — and that works out to 400 hours per year or 20% of a professional’s annual working time.
The second is that most networkers do not have a clear idea on the benefits of their specific efforts due to not having a clear plan, concrete goals and a full understanding of the benefits they seek. As a result, networking is often underutilized, particularly for important yet non-urgent issues. As the AIS participants are typically young companies (less than 10 years), networking is a key activity for keeping their business models in a high growth mode. These firms use networks to address their most critical and urgent issues: developing and maintaining a customer base, accessing capital, and building a competent staff. Some are more successful at addressing these issues than others. But few use networks to address other, less urgent but still vitally important issues. Yet addressing these “important but not urgent” issues can often provide huge payoffs to firms that aggressively network.
Potential benefits for those with a broader networking mandate include sharing market approaches where partnerships create innovations for cross-industry solutions; reducing outsourcing costs – such as for joint procurement or insurance; staff training and hosting thought leaders for senior management; and best practice sharing for non-core competencies.
Austin Inventors Syndicate helps finalist firms build the networks they need to address both urgent and strategically important issues. The organizers host meetings to introduce entrepreneurs to financiers, thought leaders, and each other. Some encounters have even generated sales. The finalist firms themselves are some of the more innovative firms in their region – and meet periodically to discuss their challenges and solutions, and often share best practices with unusual innovations. The group will continue to grow over time and may create odd scale opportunities for training, purchasing, and more.
These Texas stars from various regions will have the opportunity to leverage this global network to reap deeper awards – without wasting time and with a clear understanding of what the network can offer. Perhaps most significantly, it will allow the group an opportunity to use networking to address the important strategic issues that are often over-looked. As part of the AIS program, we will continue to develop tools and events that help facilitate SMEs to plan for and benefit from the kind of strategic networking discussed in this blog.