Guest Writer Nicole Quiroga
President and CEO of GWHCC
I remember my very first networking event over 20 years ago. My boss had asked me to attend a local chamber event and return with as many contacts as possible. It was early on in my career at Telemundo Washington DC and I had no experience in these situations. I was terrified, I didn’t know how to start a conversation, introduce myself, or how to identify who were truly the contacts I should be trying to connect with. So, when I walked into the room and quickly realized I was in over my head, I swiftly made my way towards the back where the exit sign was located, and left.
Years later, after a myriad of uncomfortable moments and awkward silences, I have been able to fine-tune my networking skills by building a robust, diverse, and extensive network that reflects years of hard work and razor-sharp attention to detail.
Today, as the President and CEO of the GWHCC, I am able to offer my insights (and connections) to small business owners and entrepreneurs in the Washington DC region so that they too can build a vibrant, cohesive, and diverse network that will make a remarkable difference in the way they do business.
The reality is that cohesive, diverse networks radically affect entrepreneurial activities and outcomes such as profitability, innovation, efficiency, and even survival. The networks we form and nurture can stay with us for a lifetime and, if properly cultivated, can deliver powerful advantages such as: preferential access to resources and customers; information about, and access to, market opportunities; and a pipeline of potential employees.
No matter what type of business you own, or even if you are simply interested in diversifying your pool of contacts, it is imperative that you find opportunities to network.
I simply cannot tell you how many times I have benefited from the connections my network has afforded me. But how do you truly connect and make such impact? It is truly important to know how to introduce yourself and explain in a simple way who you are and what you do. The next step is to continue your conversation after the first introduction. Make sure you exchange information and you follow up on that. Last but not least, make sure you are ready to support the community as much as you benefit from it. Throughout my career, I had many opportunities to assist others and be the bridge that connects people. This strengthen my relations in the business community but also reinforces my position as a business leader.
We as Latinos are actually very familiar with the concept of giving preferential treatment to the ones we love including members of our family and close friends. This is the same dynamic that exists within professional associations, chambers of commerce, and other business groups. Individuals share experiences with those who they connect with, or better said, “people do business with people they know, like, and trust.”
As such, becoming a master networker is not only critical, it’s fundamental. If you are timid about this, find a mentor who can coach you until you are ready to take your first step. There are thousands of articles online about networking - best practices, do’s and don’ts, tips, tricks and much, much more. (So, I won’t bore you with that here).
The most important thing is to understand WHY networking is essential to your business’ well-being: and it’s because of the simple fact that it exponentially escalates your rate of success by automatically increasing your access to resources, information, opportunities, connections, and capital.
My friends, networking is the oil that keeps our businesses running and should be treated as such. Remember that you don’t have to go to a special event to network…opportunity is all around us. Every person with whom we connect could be our next million-dollar client, the connector we have always hoped for, or simply just a nice person we can call a friend.
At the end of the day, work on casting your net as strategically as you can, and you will come out winning.