Startup 101: Make Informal Networking Part of Your Business Strategy or Risk Being Left Behind July 30, 2013 RICCentre By: Shamini Sellvaratnam ”The bigger your rolodex, the bigger your business” In a survey conducted by Kauffman FasTrac, over 5000 entrepreneurs saw networking as the top skill necessary for entrepreneurial success. This finding confirms the importance of networking, which allows entrepreneurs to share ideas, learn from others and make critical business connections. Failure to continuously engage in networking sessions can lead to missed opportunities, overlooked clients, and not being informed of hot industry news as it happens. With networking platforms moving online, entrepreneurs must take advantage of both formal and informal opportunities available today. Formal networking “People do business with people they know, like and trust.” – Rieva Lesonsky, President and Founder of GrowBiz Media. For business professionals, the largest benefit in attending networking events is the chance to meet other industry professionals who may act as an important connector in the future. By attending these events, entrepreneurs get the opportunity to not only make such connections, but gain access to information crucial for their business success; such as information on regulatory matters or technical developments in the field. For formal networking events happening in Peel Region, please view these event calendars: Mississauga Board of Trade Brampton Board of Trade Caledon Chamber of Commerce Informal Networking “You can connect with major industry influencers in seconds … It is a great way for startups to build a community around their business” – Shane Gamble, Sweet Tooth Nowadays, staying connected through social media is the norm. Professionals and organizations alike are seeing the benefit in using social media to connect with customers, clients, colleagues and keeping tabs on competitor activity. With the growing number of social media platforms, Venturebeat has narrowed down the list of top soc-net tools available for entrepreneurs; the following are the three most popular options to explore: Meetup.com: This widespread social networking site is used as a way to link members who share the similar interests and organize local meetups to explore these topics of interest. For a group of entrepreneurs in Vancouver, Meetup.com was crucial in creating a startup support system. This group allowed founders to share advice and meet with other entrepreneurs facing similar business issues. Beyond simply meeting others, this group gave them access to local start-up success stories, lessons learned, and proven advice to solve current and future problems. Ryze: This well-known and well-liked platform encourages industry professionals to connect with both peers and clients. Members using this site are able to expand their network by finding relevant individuals in the same industry to build relationships and “rise” above their competition. Startup Nation: This website is specifically built to introduce entrepreneurs to each other. Startup nation offers their community relevant business information and facilitates connections between founders interested in starting and growing businesses with one another. Today, networking is a necessity and often the only way start-up members can meet with one another outside the office. However, with informal networking now rapidly gaining popularity, entrepreneurs must employ social media networking as part of their business strategy or risk being left behind. For information on becoming part of RIC Centre’s network and joining our Emerging CEOs Peer-to-Peer Group, please click here. Remember, you are no bigger in your industry than your rolodex! Shamini is completing her final year at the University of Toronto Mississauga and is pursuing an undergraduate specialist degree in Business Administration and a major in Communication, Culture & Information Technology. Shamini is joining the RIC team this summer as a Communications Intern bringing with her a passion in marketing and various experiences in online marketing. The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal and professional experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.