So you are an entrepreneur. Networking is crucial to your success. You attend a few mixers, events and possibly volunteer and somewhere in the midst of your constant planning, events and cocktails you meet other entrepreneurs who mirror your zeal and work ethic. Are you long lost soul mates (BFF’s) or are you simply networking buddies?
Hopefully after reading this article, you will have more of an idea.
Worthy Definitions: Just so we are all the same page these are the definitions that we are working with for this article.
BFF’s- Maybe not besties but we are loosely using this terms to describe a person you feel like you can trust. You can talk business and personal life with them. They are supportive beyond a point of it being convenient and beneficial for themselves.
Networking buddy: This is someone who you can talk to for hours about business but after the engaging dialogue about brand recognition ends there is very little to discuss. Their network however is very useful to you. This is still someone you can enjoy a nice cocktail with and causally discuss your company with. But when you need a break they may not be the best person for you to call.
So you are attending your monthly young business professionals mixer. The drinks are complimentary. The hors d’oeuvres are heavenly and you just made a connection with a fellow entrepreneur. You gab over how you don’t want “True Blood” to end and how “American Horror Story” with steady of stream of “Scandal” will sustain you but never complete you. You notice the immediate connection and vow to keep in touch. There is something different about this vow. It’s not the standard chemically euphoric exchange of business cards and promises brought to you in part by a utopian atmosphere sustained by cocktails and a chic atmosphere.
You meet again hesitant about whether or not the chemistry will be there but to your relief and surprise, it is. You begin hanging out almost every weekend. Then there is the standard exchange that can only come after hanging out at least three times.
“It is so hard to find another woman who is on the same entrepreneurial track with the same level of commitment. It’s embarrassing to admit but I don’t have a lot of female friends.”
In that instant, you believe you are bound to each other fueled by a common purpose and ultimate goal. But then the most unexpected thing comes out of nowhere. It’s called life. It is in those moments that you know who your friends actually are. Friendship is about so much more than a great conversation. We don’t mean to sound like guys, but friendship is about action. You will know who your real friends are by how willing they are to match their actions with their words. So here a few signs to help you figure out the nature of your relationship
Signs that you are networking buddies
1. You have a huge upcoming project that you need help organizing and your buddy is right there helping you with your guest list and finding a way to have their company be on board. When it comes to the to-do lists, budgeting and running errands not so much. (Please note that this could also be because she has her own projects and growing to do list) This instance is not a deal breaker.
2. You are determined to make the most out of next month. So it is time to make a vision board. Your networking buddy is there with champagne. Together you ladies construct the most epic vision board ever. Once the champagne runs dry there is an uncomfortable silence. You ladies exchange your goodbye’s.
3. Whenever you need to talk business even at 3 a.m. your networking buddy is there. But when the conversation takes a different turn for the personal issues, something comes up and she has to go.
Signs that you have a friend
1. You need to talk business and personal obstacles. You can’t afford the usual restaurant that you and buddy love. You call your friend anyway and they take care of the bill and listen to your problems and offers some really great advice that you will not use. Or if you are both running short on field trip funds you hang out at one of your places, launch the Netflix and nibble on a few snacks. You share your problems and offer encouragement and accountability to one another.
2. You have an event that you are trying to plan. You have no clue what you are doing but you are determined to succeed. Your friend is there to assist in the planning, list making (both guest lists and to-do lists) and makes it a priority to attend and promote your event.
3. You are growing and your expenses at the moment seem to be greater than you profit. The financial difference is very small but you just don’t have it. Your friend who is doing a little better makes your union even more serious and makes a small investment in you and even introduces you to their network to help you. If this happens, congratulations you have an entrepreneur wife. This is an amazing luxury not something to expect from all of your friends. Everyone has their own expenses too.
The main indication of whether or not you are dealing with a friend or a networking buddy is whether they are willing to be there for you even when it is not convenient for them. The contribution does not need to always or ever need to be monetary. The greatest sacrifice is time and effort. Are they trying to make you better person professionally and personally? Are they a positive encouraging voice in your entrepreneurial journey and your life?
The best advice our magazine has ever gotten from a networking buddy is that you can always make your money back, but you can never get your time back. Once you spend it, it’s gone.
Hopefully this short list helps.