Research shows that entrepreneurs with larger and more diverse networks grow their businesses bigger. Yet, even though women are great communicators and collaborators, we don’t excel at building power networks. “Women tend to build deep and narrow networks and men wide and narrow ones,” said Kelly Hoey, Connector, Catalyst and Co-Founder of Women Innovate Mobile (WIM) Accelerator. The weaker ties built by casting a wide networking net are the greatest source of new ideas, information, and opportunities.“Whether you’re just starting out, looking to raise capital or planning to expand into new markets, it’s your network that can help you take your business to the next level,” said Ingrid Vanderveldt, CEO of VH2 Energy Investments and Green Girl Energy. Relationships Vanderveldt made at Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) inaugural event in Shanghai in 2010 enabled her to find a buyer for her alternative energy company and later become Dell’s first entrepreneur in residence.
Whatever it is you want to accomplish, you don’t need to do it alone. There’s a community out there ready to provide support. But, your voice must be heard on a daily basis and its message must be clear… “Craft an elevator pitch that tells people what you do and what you need,” said Hoey. “The more specific you can be in your ask, the more likely you are to get help.”
“Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up!” said McPherson. “Don’t do it to ‘get ahead.’ Do it because its fun and you’ll learn so much about the world around you and yourself.” In order to get what you need, you’re going to have to give, perhaps even more than you get.
When it comes to networking, persistence is the name of the game. “The people who are doing the big things in the world (and who we all love learning from and want to work with) have a LOT going on,” said Vanderveldt. “They have already built their networks. So if you want to meet them or connect with them, it requires a lot of hard work and it takes time.”
It isn’t an us-against-them thing. Men control the vast majority of leadership positions. “I need to be strategic in getting to know and making an impression with those who may be able to help me and open doors for me,” said Newton. That includes men.
Hoey, McPherson, and Vanderveldt concur. We need men if we’re going to make the connections to money, markets, vendors, and employees that will grow our businesses.
Many men are supportive of women entrepreneurs. I’ll be writing about some of these men in the coming weeks.