Entrepreneurs: You Need to Speak Up or Starve!
I am an introvert. That’s why my relationship with computers is a perfect match. My computer never judges me. My computer never plots against me. At least that is what I think. I think I am an introvert. But as soon as I quit my job to follow my entrepreneurial dreams, I realized, even as an introvert, I missed the buzz of an office.
After nearly six months, I started to actually feel a bit lonely. My computer doesn’t tell me jokes. My computer doesn’t challenge my theories. My computer doesn’t share stories about the weekend. So, I had to find ways to get out and about. Here are some ways that I found to not only give me a human connection but to help my business at the same time.
Get out and get networking.
There was this one time, a few months before I left my job, that I attended a networking meeting without even knowing it. I was looking on Meetup.com and I found this group that would meet for lunch “exchange business referrals.” I had never heard of such a thing. I checked it out and it was just too weird for me. There seemed to be a lot of rules that I didn’t understand.
I also started to attend many of the local networking event mixers. My problem was that I hadn’t been around very long and I didn’t know many people. I looked around and it seemed like everyone knew everyone else. I felt out of place. I let the introvert win and I didn’t get to meet new people.
After I quit my job, I took a more intentional approach. I began attending meetings for another referral networking club. It was just starting out and there were a lot of people who were getting involved. Each meeting I went to I learned from the other more experienced members how they pitched their business. I watched as they would present their business to the group and observed in areas where they won and lost.
The more I attended these meetings the more I came to know these people. The introvert was losing his grip. I realized this was a good training ground for me to start promoting my business. If something didn’t work one day, I could try another way the next. There was no judgment, we were all trying to figure it out.
Now I consider my networking friends to be like my coworkers. It’s like we all take a lunch break together almost every day. Once a month we get together at a local restaurant and let loose and enjoy each other’s time and company. The more comfortable I get around them, the more I want to perfect my business while helping them with theirs.
I jump at any chance to present and have found that I really enjoy speaking. I recently went to a networking event and found myself getting around the room now that I knew a good portion of them from my networking meetings. Networking allowed me to try out value statements and figure out how to present my business. They would ask questions and I would refine my pitch. Now when I meet people I don’t even know I am confident giving my elevator pitch to them.
Start meeting up with people in your community
One of the principles of our networking group is to get out and meet people. We call them connections and the more connections your make, the more you get connected to your community. We don’t just meet with each other. In fact, half of my meetings are with people that aren’t even involved in our networking community.
As I shaped and molded the future of my business, I began seeking potential vendors who would support my business, people in the industries that I wanted to serve, and even potential mentors. With each connection meeting, I strive to never sell anything. I also strive to learn everything about their worldview and their business.
Spending an hour with someone to have a cup of coffee with them is a great way to not only learn about them but let them learn about you. As you go through life, you begin to run into people that may be a good referral for the person you met with and send them along. The feeling is mutual and they reciprocate. By getting out of your shell and meeting up with people you begin to develop an army of people out there ready to send you referrals.
One lesson I have learned about business is that you cannot do it alone. There are many different roles to fill and whether you rely on employees, contractors, or other vendors, everyone gets together in a symphony to make the music of helping your business succeed.
Take every opportunity to present your business
Another thing we do at our networking meetings is to take about six minutes to present our business to the group. At first, I didn’t think that I should present to the group. It seemed like all of these established businesses were already doing a fine job. But then I realized something. The same people were presenting on a regular basis.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Let’s say there are actually three reasons for this.
- People are scared to get up in front of people and speak.
- They probably don’t understand their business well enough to present.
- The people who were presenting knew something that the others didn’t.
What did they know? They knew that they should jump at every opportunity to present their business. Now you can’t have the same person present every single time because then it would be boring and just unfair. But, the more they presented, the more they perfected their presentation.
Me, I was too scared. I thought I would fail until I was finally asked to get up and present the following. I agreed. I spent the whole week wondering what I was going to say. I decided I would just tell my story of how I got into building websites.
I put together my outline and I began to practice. I am pretty sure that my dog became sick and tired of me presenting my business to him. I think he just wondered if he was going to get more food. I practiced staying within the time limit. I practiced my story. I practiced making sure that I threw in something of value. Then the day came.
We were sitting there and the time was getting closer to when I had to present. I felt like I was about to have a heart attack. Finally, it was time. I stood up in front of the room. I centered myself, took a deep breath, and let the practice take over.
I had forgotten that I had actually trained to be a speaker. I forgot that I had spoken in front of tough crowds. As I told my story I remembered where I was at. I realized these were friends. I also realized that everyone had stopped eating and was captivated by me. When I finished they just continued to stare. Everyone couldn’t believe my story and they wanted to hear more.
But time was up. I answered a few questions, sat back down, and wondered to myself why I had waited so long. I forgot that I loved to speak. I remembered I was in a safe place. I love my networking groups because they had become a training ground to learn how to speak up. It also became a place where I could get instant feedback on my business.
I will continue to strive to get better and go out into the world and pitch my passions. By the way, if you live in the Tulsa area and we haven’t connected, let’s schedule a time to meet. You may already be a part of a referral group and getting plenty of referrals. If not, let me know. I’d love to introduce you to my friends. If you are an entrepreneur and you are stuck at home talking to your computer, get out and meet some people. Your bank account will thank you for it.