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What's the best way to expand your network?

July 2015 | Servcorp

Based on surveying 100 entrepreneurs, the most common way to expand your connections is to attend networking events.

Two Japanese businessmen exchanging business information through business cards. Networking and making connections. Expanding my network.

Personal connections are an important “operational resource,” and creating connections are an essential “upfront investment” for entrepreneurs. So how are people expanding their networks? We asked 100 entrepreneurs what they thought.

Only a handful of people are actively trying to create new connections?!

Only a handful of people are actively trying to create new conncetions?! 46% No, 54% Yes What do you do to expand your business connections? Passive - Attend a networking event incited by a friend/acqaintance 59%. Have the client introduce someone to me 53.7%. Aggresively approach people whom I want to contact 22.2%. Attend Diverse networking events 20.4%. Attend seminars/workshops and exchange business cards 16.7%. Participate in community meetings over the internet 11.1%. Become a member of industry organizations 11.1%. Host an event 7.4%. Take lessons 5.6%. Become a store regular 5.6%. Other 5.6%. participate in social media 3.7%.

54% of the respondents have taken action to expand their network. Even though some people may view that as a lot or only a few, if we break down the answers we find out that the most frequent responses were “attending networking events invited by friends/acquaintances” and “having the clients/suppliers introduce someone to them.” Which means that a lot of people rely on their existing connections rather than starting from scratch and approaching new people/places.

These days there are several opportunities to make connections such as multi-industry networking events, networking among start-ups, seminars, or even venture and investor matching events. Information about events like these can be easily found on the web, but despite the convenience, the fact that active networking has taken a backseat gives the impression that most people prefer to network passively.

Have you ever felt like networking wasn't effective?

When asked the following: “Amongst the networking activities you have tried, were there any that you have felt were ineffective?” Approximately 70% responded with “yes”, saying that they had times when they felt it was not effective.

amongst the networking activities you have tried were there any that you have felt were ineffective? 72% no. 28% yes.

So what are some examples of networking activities that were ineffective? We've shared a couple below for your reference:

  • “Old acquaintances and connections from my previous companies tend to have some complications, so I have started avoiding them” (Male/55 years old/Lease, Rental)
  • “Meeting with parents/siblings of my child's friends was unproductive.”(Male/63 years old/Wholesale, Retail)
  • “I have participated in networking events held by political organizations, but it felt like I would lose more than gain from my involvement, so I haven't been going.” (Male/58 years old/Manufacturing)
  • “Meet ups via SNS and over the internet have not given me any business opportunities, especially since you don't know what the person looks like and thus it's hard to understand their true intentions.”(Male/51 years old/IT)

On the other hand, people who continue to actively network said the following about their experiences:

  • “There are more times that networking has been ineffective, but by continuing, I've started to see good results.”(Male/58 years old/Manufacturing)
  • “I don't think that networking produces immediate results. This is something you need to take your time and continue for the long run.” (Male/65 years old/Service Industry)
  • “It's too early to determine its effectiveness.”(Male/52 years old/Broadcasting)

These comments emphasize that networking is not something that produces results immediately; therefore, it is important to continue taking action. There may be several people who would want the results quickly, but it's also important to not make decisions in haste.

【Survey Details】
Survey Title: Survey related to work
Survey Method: Internet Research
Survey Period: April 16 – 22, 2015
Survey Respondents: 100 male/female respondents across Japan who have experience starting a business (Qzoo members)