Imagine you’ve just worked a 12-hour day at your favorite co-working space – laying out plans for the next stage of your product roadmap, having endless calls with potential candidates to build out your team or finally filing the patent for your machine learning technology. Now it’s time to wind down and head across town to a networking and educational event for about 500 startup founders and VCs.
Do you feel optimistic, energized and excited to meet people within this community? Or overwhelmed, paralyzed and unsure where to start working this room? Maybe you associate quickly with one of those two camps. Or maybe you’re in between, thinking it depends on the day.
Industry events, networking groups and LinkedIn can all present fantastic opportunities for you as an entrepreneur, but they can also feel daunting if you don’t know how to navigate them with purpose. If you know how to build your network deliberately, it can be one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal.
Rather than try to create 100 connections overnight, focus on surrounding yourself with people with valuable mindsets and skillsets to help you navigate your journey as leader of your startup.
Here’s Part 1 of our suggested “must-have” types of people for your network.
Visionaries dare you to dream, get you to put your futuristic hat on, encourage you to go outside your comfort zone and inspire you to see “what could be.” They look at the future and disruptive ideas in ways that others can’t. Positive, optimistic and forward-thinking in nature, visionaries can guide you in building an action plan for bringing your idea to life or achieving a big goal.
Realists – in simplest terms – keep it real. Practical and pragmatic in nature, these people are an important balance for the visionaries in your life. They respect and admire your big dreams and goals, but they help keep you grounded and manage your expectations. When you ask their opinion about how to reach a goal, they won’t sugarcoat it like others might try to. Realists are usually great problem solvers – they know how to break complex things down into simpler, more achievable steps. They can inform you of helpful details you’ll need to know to hit that milestone, along with timing, expected costs and pitfalls to avoid. They often bring a healthy dose of skepticism along with tough questions to make you think, but that will only make you more prepared and confident down the road.
The Fellow Entrepreneur
Fellow entrepreneurs just get it. They are (or have been) in your shoes as a leader of a startup and fully understand the rollercoaster ride you are on. They understand how hard it is to find the CTO who’s right for your company. They have experienced the happiness, excitement, exhaustion and frustration that comes with the startup territory. They’ve likely pulled the all-nighters, created dozens of draft pitch decks, navigated fundraising rounds and made pivots when needed – all while remaining focused on their goals and passion through it all. They can be important sounding boards or advisors for you when you need them.
Creatives help you think outside the box. Typically curious and enthusiastic in nature, they will help you see things in a new light. The creative is open to new ideas and ways of solving problems, and they embrace risk taking and learning through trial and error. They aren’t afraid to experiment with new ideas and love to put their imaginations to work. Often creatives naturally connect the dots where others don’t see the connections; they can be important allies in helping solve key problems or looking for opportunities that others may overlook.
The Devil's Advocate
Devil’s advocates are unafraid to challenge your opinion and enjoy a good debate. While they’re in your corner, they will force you to see things from different perspectives and ask you tough questions. Masters at engaging in “what if” scenarios, they can be critical in helping you identify blind spots in your strategy or tactics of execution. They try to poke holes in your thinking even when you feel pretty confident – but that’s only to ensure you have your facts straight. Have you thought of all possible viewpoints and options on the table?
When you need a confidence boost, call a cheerleader. They’re positive, optimistic and believe in you. They are there when you need a pick-me-up after you hit a roadblock, and they’re quick to remind you that you’re the rock star founder you are.
Our list of people you should have in your network continues doesn’t end here. Check out Part 2 of this list, where you’ll meet:
- The industry insider
- The connector
- The mentor
- The coach
- The change agent
- The moral compass
- The rising star