Avoid These Common Business Mistakes
Q: What's one common networking mistake or turnoff that you see business owners make?
The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization composed of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published “#FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good),” a book of 30-plus proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.
A: Stop Gloating About Your Personal Wonderlife
We live in an era that affords many new entrepreneurs the opportunity to redefine work-life balance. But even though your life might be the most outlandish saga since “Deep Space Nine,” talking about your personal life for a moment too long can morph "Hmmm … interesting guy" into "This person is full of himself." Don't overemphasize personal stories when business is what brought you and a prospective customer together.
Kent Healy (twitter.com/Kent_Healy), The Uncommon Life (theuncommonlife.com/blog)
A: Following Up Too Late
When you meet someone in a networking environment, it is important to follow up by email within 24 hours or connect through Twitter or Facebook. We live in a fast-paced world, so if you meet someone for the first time and send an email four days later to say thanks and follow up, the timing of your note communicates, “The time I spent with you really wasn’t that important.” Be quicker.
Erica Dhawan (twitter.com/edhawan), Erica Dhawan Inc. and Galahads (thegalahads.com)
A: Forcing Followers to Verify Humanity
If I send an email or direct message on Twitter and get back a verification link, I'm immediately turned off. Setting up barriers in networking doesn't make sense when the point is to enable easier communication! Be personal, don't act like a robot. Those who don't have enough time should be outsourcing nonpersonal tasks more to make the time to connect without all the hoop-jumping.
Kelly Azevedo (twitter.com/#!/krazevedo), She's Got Systems (kellyazevedo.com)
A: Not Listening to the Other Person
Sometimes we get so passionate when talking about our products, it seems as if no one else is in the room. That passion is great and people like to hear others who love their jobs. However, it is important not to dominate the entire conversation and allow other people to share what is important to them. The more you listen, the higher likelihood of discovering a business problem you can solve.
Lawrence Watkins (twitter.com/#!/lawrencewatkins), Great Black Speakers (greatblackspeakers.com)
A: Wantreprenuers Mislabeling Themselves
You know who they are! The ones who are at these events looking for people to help them get started with their business — they're still unclear about what exactly they do, or they don't want to tell you their business idea because they haven't started and they don't want you stealing their millions. They're immediately closed off to any type of relationship unless you can help them.
Angela Pan (twitter.com/#!/abpanphoto), Angela B. Pan Photography (abpan.com)
A: Leading With a Business Card
A big no-no at any networking event is walking up to an individual or group and chucking your card to everyone within seconds. It feels like you are desperately fishing for leads in the hopes that if your card touches enough hands, you might make a sale. It would be just as effective for these people to walk into the middle of the room, launch their cards into the air, and yell, "52 pickup!"
Seth Kravitz (twitter.com/secondcityceo), Technori (technori.com)
A: Abusing the ‘NY’ State of Mind
New York City is fantastic. Anyone who has been there can feel the fast-paced vibe of the city. However, it's not home to every entrepreneurial venture that has ever existed. I've met far too many business owners in the NYC area who dismiss anyone not based there. You're limiting your worldview and looking less impressive to me in the process.
Emily Eldridge (twitter.com/emilyleldridge), Book'd (bookd.com)
A: Not Showing Up at All
As Woody Allen said, "80 percent of success is showing up." Many business owners (including myself) can at times feel too busy to attend events, but that's a mistake. It's critical to get out of the office, bounce ideas off of other people, get fresh perspectives, and meet potential clients, vendors and employees. None of that can happen if you don't show up.
Phil Frost (twitter.com/#!/pcfrost), Main Street ROI (mainstreetroi.com)
A: Asking Too Much, Too Soon
A serious networking error is focusing too much on what you can get out of an interaction. If you meet people by asking for something from them, it's a huge turnoff. However, if you offer up your services to help them achieve their goals without asking for anything in return, chances are they'll offer to do the same, and they'll enjoy working with you. Don't bargain or trade, focus on giving.
Travis Steffen (twitter.com/travissteffen), WorkoutBOX (workoutbox.com/)
A: Forgetting It's a Mutually Beneficial Relationship
Networking isn’t just about you — you should be thinking about how you can help the other person too. Why would this stranger want to help you if you’re only in the relationship for yourself? Think about how your skills and expertise might be useful to your networking contacts and give, give, give before asking for something in return.
Heather Huhman (twitter.com/heatherhuhman), Come Recommended (comerecommended.com)
A: Failing to Research Attendees
Many events share attendee lists through Eventbrite or other sites. The biggest mistake one can make is not being thoughtful about who you target, and then not being prepared to speak with those folks. The more that you can make the conversation personal and thoughtful, the more likely you are to succeed when meeting new people. Take advantage of great resources like LinkedIn, and prepare wisely!
Aaron Schwartz (twitter.com/#!/ModifyWatches), Modify Watches (modifywatches.com)
A: Confusing Networking With Sales
Too many business owners view networking as an opportunity to sell themselves or their company. Networking is about making connections that can lead to sales down the road. The biggest turnoff is when someone starts talking pricing and "What can we do for you?" at an event. Network, meet people and use the follow-up as a way to set up a sales meeting. If you network properly, the sales will come.
Aron Schoenfeld (twitter.com/aronschoenfeld), Do It in Person LLC (doitinperson.com)