Network, Network, Network
The motto for small businesses used to be “location, location, location.” In this digital age in which geography is less important, I’d suggest it is more likely to be “network, network, network.”
Last week I attended an event that is certainly one of more recent favorites. The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program and the Tory Burch Foundation teamed up to each invite a set of their female scholars (business owners in the 10KSB program) and mentors (participants in the Tory Burch mentorship program) along with several women from Accion USA, the Tory Burch Foundation’s lending partner. It really was an electric event, primarily for three reasons (in order of occurrence and not necessarily of priority).
First, walking into Tory Burch’s showroom is a fantasy come true for many of us anyway. The main room where we were hosted was designed to prompt creativity and connections – and that certainly works. The room is vivid, lively, and ever so welcoming. After all, there is nothing wrong with bonding over shoes as you figure out how businesses can work together and business owners can help each other.
Second, it was a pleasure and a privilege to learn from the attendees about the businesses they have already created, the business growth they are pursuing, and the savvy they exhibited in the way they recognized what they still need. It really came down to the openness and focus they demonstrated during our networking exercise that made the event so purposeful …. and fun.
Third, the speakers on our closing panel drove home the importance of considering networking as an entrepreneurial resource; one that needs to be intentionally developed and managed if it’s going to be useful. (After all, since Gary Becker can win a Nobel Prize for the concept of human capital, we should surely be able to promote the productivity potential of our social capital). Our panelists each spoke on how they had been impacted by networking.
- Jessica Johnson (Johnson Security Bureau, Inc. and 10,000 Small Businesses scholar) spoke movingly of early mentoring by her grandmother, who was one of the founders of the business.
- Natasha Wozniak. (Natasha Wozniak Designs and Tory Burch Foundation loan recipient) raised the interesting concept of learning to also include a component of self- mentoring, developing the internal tools to help in decision making.
- Dina Powell, Managing Director, president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and global head of Corporate Engagement, and Tory Burch, fashion designer and entrepreneur, each provided the audience with tactical tools to use and develop as networking skills.
Tory spoke of practicing being short in your networking outreach, practicing so that you can present quickly and professionally. Dina advised all to also do their homework in under to understand who you are approaching and how they might best be able to connect with you. Overall, all agreed that developing your network is not about one off transactions, but building meaningful relationships that support both parties involves.
Tory Burch’s showroom features a series of wall size posters that capture thoughts, phrases, words, and even pictures to prompt our thinking. We considered a few of the phrases, and this one in particular, “You are your best investment.” These programs are all about investing in ourselves, with one of the outcomes as the ability to help others. Makes it all worthwhile.
Paul T. Babson Chair in Entrepreneurship