Leverage Professional Networking to go beyond Leads and Referrals Business

(Mr. AgneloRajesh Athaide, Global Citizen, Serial & Social Entrepreneur, Real Estate Developer, Educationist, Angel Investor & Motivational Speaker)

The past decade has seen a wave of disruptive entrepreneurship across sectors, thanks to factors like technology enhancements, pro-SME/MSME government policies, open international trade opportunities, and focus on skill development and vocational training. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) India Report 2016-17, prepared by Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDI) and its associates, 11% of India’s adult population is engaged in “total early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA)”, which makes them first generation business entrepreneurs. India’s Start-up ecosystem is one of the fastest growing in the world, with over 190 deals worth $ 4 Billion closed in just Q1 of 2019.

However, despite the buzz and the glamorous funding opportunities, the ground realities in the sector can be quite disturbing. Being a first generation entrepreneur or a start-up founder, can be a lonely job, with various roles to juggle single-handedly. This often also leads to an overwhelming pressure of execution and micro-managing the business, and ultimately loosing track of the larger goal and growth opportunities. From cash flow constrains and challenges with scalability to internal difficulties with hiring and retaining talent, competing in an almost global market, legalities and accounts, self-doubt, long-term business planning and strategy to overall business positioning and goal setting, are all extremely vital factors that need to be addressed for the business to be successful. Despite a brilliant innovation and the right mix of service and solution, most entrepreneurs and start-up have difficulty holding on to the market and eventually fail. Even the ones with a glamorous round of funding lose track of strategic growth and spend chunks of the investor money on marketing and offering discounts, eventually burning out!

  • According to Shikhar Ghosh’s Harvard Business School study, almost 90% of start-ups and small businesses fail in 5 years
  • 75% of venture backed start-up also fail

As if in response to the above challenges, professional networking platforms have seen a steady rise in popularity. While on the primarily are looked upon as ‘new business’ opportunities, professional networking has evolved to go much more beyond the leads and referral domain. These platforms offer entrepreneurs, start-up and SME/MSME businesses a common ground to interact, learn and grow. Apart from fellow entrepreneurs, the platforms also offer mentorship and business guidance from people in the form of success stories, case studies and learnings, which is readily shared with the group.

Here are 5 ways how networking platforms double up as strong mentoring sources:

  1. Exchange of challenges and learnings:
    Networking platforms offer a supportive environment to entrepreneurs where they can discuss the challenges they are facing or share learnings from a recent setback. These exchanges help create a sense of positivity and hope to know that the challenges are common and can be overcome, instead of being overwhelmed by trying to solve it alone.
  2. Providing solutions:
    Being a group platform, the access to different point of views and recommended solutions to problems often comes from outside the sector/ industry, and can thus be enlightening and innovative.
  3. Right connections:
    Apart from being a platform to voice out and exchange information, networking platforms also offer access to a vast network of reputed experts and people who can directly help in not just problem solving or getting new business but also to consult on varied factors of business.
  4. Industry insights and best practices:
    Apart from focusing on new businesses and solving challenges, networking platforms also offer insightful analysis of industry and economy developments, impact of governance policies and recommendations on best practices which can help an entrepreneur to tide over rough weather by leveraging group intelligence.

We have all heard and read inspiring stories of great business leaders who owe it all to their suite of advisors and mentors. It is also a proven fact that companies with founders who are mentored by other successful entrepreneurs are three times more likely to become successful entrepreneurs themselves. However, to be a successful entrepreneur, one need not necessarily be mentored under a world-class mentor or guru. Access to the right information and a close knit support system of fellow entrepreneurs whom one can trust, can work wonders on multiple levels. From opportunity to forge lifelong professional friendships to gaining trusted new business referrals and access to seasoned mentors, networking, when done right, can be a vital force in the evolution of a business and the businessman!

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