There’s been much written about networking and its value in business.Most of those articles read like a “how to” list, providing a step by step guide to becoming more effective at networking, with helpful tips about the need to do your homework, balancing time, prioritizing, and of course following up. Many read these articles and think they can check another box in their business development skills.
Throughout my career, I’ve had friends, colleagues, and new acquaintances regularly tell me I’m a great networker. These same people ask me for tips on networking, so they can learn and improve their efforts. Successful networking comes from an instinct to strategically connect your friends and colleagues in a way that is meaningful for you and them. Unfortunately, I have bad news for those folks and for any reader seeking networking tips – it’s more than a learned skill.
That’s right – yielding results from networking is really a combination of focus, dogged persistence and the right DNA. Making these connections has been a significant driver as I built my biotech company – LifeStory Health – from the ground-up. When I set out to build LifeStory Health, I sought to find and meet people I thought would help me build both the technical and business acumen I needed to turn my idea into a successful venture. As my business now grows, I find myself actively networking less and less.
The reason is quite simple: time. When you’re an entrepreneur actively building a company, your time becomes your most valuable asset. That means every second, every minute and every hour must have a purpose and must be directed toward the greatest possible outcome. I used networking as a single tactic in my efforts to develop a concept into a business and then develop that business into a functioning operation with a team and intellectual property.
Ultimately, the people I brought on to my team as a result of networking came aboard because I purposefully sought them out. I aggressively and unrelentingly engaged them, finding the right fit for their skill set. This perseverance is the lifeblood of entrepreneurship.
Take for example my research team and Board of Directors, all heavy hitters in their respective industries. Rick Roberts, former Commissioner of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission is a member of the board to strategize materializing LifeStory Health into a successful operating public company that would be both profitable for shareholders and positive for women’s public health.
On the other hand, Dr. William Hancock, founding Editor-in-Chief of the ACS publication, Journal of Proteomic Research, which is a leading journal publishing research in related areas of functional genomics, proteomic methodological research, disease, agricultural proteomics and metabanomics. Dr. Hancock, who I feel is the Godfather of Proteomics, has been essential in driving the research strategy.
In his wildly popular book “The Tipping Point,” author Malcolm Gladwell wrote about people who are “connectors.” He said: “What makes someone a Connector?” The first–and most obvious–criterion is that Connectors know lots of people. They are the kinds of people who know everyone. All of us know someone like this. But I don’t think that we spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of these kinds of people. I’m not even sure that most of us really believe that the kind of person who knows everyone really knows everyone. But they do.
That’s important for entrepreneurs as they build their network and grow their business, but identifying the most valuable use of their time, doggedly pursuing those efforts and persevering through challenges and hurdles are truly the measure of an entrepreneur. Greg McKeown, Harvard Business Review-published author, goes so far as to say that “99% of networking is a waste of time.” I wouldn’t go to that extreme, but I will insist that success as an entrepreneur is who you know and how hard you work.
Stick with it and endure. Mine your opportunities, work them hard and move on. The most valuable thing in the world is your time. And persistence built far more businesses than any cocktail party has.
About Anna Villarreal
Anna Villarreal is Founder and CEO of LifeStory Health, a biotech company that is working to develop the first ever, non-invasive, menstrual blood diagnostic. This new methodology will enable the testing and analysis of women’s health and female prevalent diseases at the molecular level to detect a wide-range of diseases.