We’ve heard it said a million times: “It’s all about who you know.” Whether you’re looking for a job, talent to join your startup team, or investors to fund your great idea, leveraging your network will help you achieve your goals. But how do you go about building a strong network? To answer this question, we turned to rockstar entrepreneur T.A. McCann, the founder of Rival IQ and Gist, which he sold to Blackberry in 2011. McCann is an active angel investor, a startup advisor, and a former America’s Cup winner. He is also a master networker, and attributes much of his success to the power of connection. In his words, “Your success is directly correlated to the size and strength of your professional network.” McCann joined us during Entrepreneur Week 2014 to share some of his best networking advice. We’ve included a few of our favorite tips below:
- Do your homework
If there’s someone out there you’d like to meet, do your research. A few years ago, McCann was headed to a conference where he knew he’d have the opportunity to connect with Brad Feld, “one of the best investors out there.” McCann did his research, and found out that Feld is a runner. He reached out to Feld via twitter with a simple note, saying “I know you’re a runner, and I’m hoping to run while I’m at this conference. Can you recommend any good places to run while I’m there?” Feld got back to him and suggested the two of them meet up and run together. So they did. Feld ultimately ended up leading the series A financing of McCann’s company, Gist. “All because I did the research to figure out who this guy was and what he cared about,” says McCann.
- Add something of value, and give before you get
Great networkers ask themselves, “What can I do for this person?” before they ask, “What can this person do for me?” If you’ve found someone you’d like to add to your network, do your research, ask questions, and learn what’s important to them. Once you do this, share something of value with them. This might be an opinion, relevant information, or a new connection. “Think about how you can give something that’s going to help the other person first. If you give first, you’re much more likely to get in the future,” says McCann.
- Get involved
“Volunteer your time,” says McCann, “and you’ll make new connections at the same time.” McCann spends a lot of time sharing his experience and ideas at Startup Weekends, where he’s constantly exposed to fresh ideas and smart people to add to his network. “Startup Weekend is a kind of competition,” he says, “but it’s much more about building skills and meeting people.”
Want more networking advice from T.A. McCann? Check out his slides here.