Networking is an introverted founder’s plight, but it is crucial to a startup’s success. But it’s so draining that you barely have any energy left to run the businesses.
Does that mean founders with introverted personalities cannot succeed? Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffett, all founders with a mile-wide shy streak, prove otherwise. Introversion has qualities that entrepreneurs can use to their advantage while networking.
Networking Effectively by Playing to Your Introverted Strengths
A founder’s ability to network effectively influences a startup's success, at least partially, especially during tough phases that the startup goes through, like the funding winter. If building professional relationships is not your strong suit, here’s how you can master it.
1. Find Your Limit and Network Within It
Introverts can mingle, but only to a limited extent. Find your optimal level of social interaction — one that doesn’t rob you of all your energy. Do this by tracking how many hours you networked and your energy level later.
Aim for quality, not quantity. For an introverted founder, a bigger network is not always better. So, rather than opting for large groups, go for one-on-one meetings. Work towards creating deep, valuable relationships with a few people who will lend long-term value to your startup. Make sure your modest network has variety.
2. Network Digitally
The current era is a boon for introvert founders. Social media is a great place to build new connections because it requires less energy. Use video calls, LinkedIn groups, Twitter, webinars, or virtual events to do a big portion of your networking. Once you connect with the right people, remember to engage with their content to build the relationship.
3. Always Follow-up
Being an introvert means you might delay meeting new people. As a founder, you cannot afford that. The failure to follow up is the number-one networking mistake. So, make following up a habit. Send an email, text, or even a Direct Message (DM) after you meet someone at an event or a personal meeting.
4. Practice These During Networking Events
When at a networking event, go up to people and introduce yourself. And if your personality gets in the way, ask a mutual acquaintance to introduce you. Such introductions hold more weight.
Introverts are good listeners. Play into it by prepping questions and letting the other person carry the conversation. You'll need to do your homework and learn about the people you’ll meet.
After the initial introduction, don’t ask the usual questions. Ask surprising ones. It ensures the conversation does not devolve into canned answers. For peer events, use questions like "So, what’s delighting you these days?"
For events with VCs, mentors, or seasoned founders, ask specific questions about your current problems. Make the best of your little time with them at these meetings.
5. Set Goals
Before walking into an event, have an objective: stay for an hour or talk to 5 people. You can leave only after accomplishing the goal. And it so happens that you're comfortable enough to stay longer by the time you’ve completed the goal.
6. Take Microbreaks
Introverts re-energise when alone. So, take a minute when you get overwhelmed during a networking event. Walk outside, find a quiet corner, and then come back.
7. Bring a Partner
There will be times when you have to network beyond your optimal limit. For those days, bring your co-founder to the event for support. Solo founders can bring a mentor, a co-worker, or even a friend who knows the business. Make sure the person complements your introversion.
Being an introvert does not necessarily lead to startup failure. However, if you do not push the boundary of comfort for yourself, you will not meet the right people to help you build and grow your startup. Be it an investor, partner, customer, service provider, etc. It is the actions a founder takes that matter.
Master the skill of building new connections with ease, even when all you want to do is escape the crowd. Learn to cope with the exhaustion that comes with networking.
If you’re a new founder struggling with networking, contact us. At Scalix, we help founders get easy access to community, capital, customers, and convenience to build sustainable and scalable startups.