Wednesday, January 23, 2019

New Year, New You? How To Get Your Business In Shape For 2019

What are your New Year resolutions for 2019? If you’ve set yourself personal goals, good luck with them, but don’t forget your business – January is a great time to reassess where is stands and where you’d like to get it to.

Every entrepreneur should give their business an annual health check. It’s an opportunity to take a step back, to reflect on successes and failures, and to focus anew on the challenges to come. Treat this exercise seriously and it will provide an invaluable spring board for the year ahead. Here’s our 10-step action plan:

  1. Revisit your mission plan – set a clear vision of where you hope your business is heading over the months and years ahead; is that vision evolving over time as your marketplace and environment change?
  2. Set targets for the journey – think about the goals you must achieve in order to realise that vision, and how you will do that. Be realistic with your targets, but be ambitious too, and set definitive dates on which you will measure progress.
  3. Review your customer base – identify your most valuable customers and think about how you can focus on them over the year ahead. Data and analytics tools can help you do this more effectively than ever before.
  4. Re-evaluate business partnerships – are the relationships your business has put in place still working well for the company? Are there new relationships to target for development?
  5. Rethink marketing - your marketing plans may need revisiting in the changing economic environment. Can you encourage existing customers to spend more and how will you attract new customers? How could advances in digital marketing benefit your business?
  6. Set new targets for sales – what is achievable in 2019, compared to years gone by, and how will you get there? Do your and your staff have realistic objectives?
  7. Write an action plan – this will lay out the specific actions your business will take over the year ahead, including when you’ll take them, in order to work towards its goals and vision.
  8. Make sure staff are on board – communicate the action plan to all employees and make sure they understand their responsibilities for implementing it. Support staff with training and career development in order to keep them engaged and inspired.
  9. Seek third-party advice – it may be worth finding an external reviewer to talk through your plans in order to provide fresh perspective and critical appraisal. Do you need a mentor or more formal support such as non-executive directors?
  10. Consider personal development – think about how your own practices and attitudes may need to change in order for your business to succeed. What skills and experiences are you lacking and how will you remedy that?

Don’t think of these 10 points as New Year’s resolutions – they represent a useful way to take stock at any time of year. But if you can work through these priorities, your business will be better placed to take advantage of new opportunities over the next 12 months. And in a rapidly changing economic environment, all businesses should be thinking in this way.

Image Credit: Getty

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Modern Sales and the Lost Art of Relationship Building

The sales industry seems to experience major shifts every five or ten years. Many of these shifts are the result of the way technology changes. Others have to do with cultural ebbs and flows. But one of the more confounding changes over the last decade has been the lack of personal attention clients and prospects get in sales.

Why Relationships Matter

Over the years we’ve seen an influx of sales and marketing automation tools in the business world. The result? If there’s an aspect of your sales strategy that you want to streamline, there’s an app, software, or innovative tool to help you remove yourself from the equation and automate your interactions. But is this a positive development?

Sometimes automation is good. It can save time, improve accuracy, and promote greater consistency. But too much automation can hurt the overall health and vitality of your business. That’s because automation undercuts and compromises your ability to connect with prospects on a personal level and build relationships with them.

Customers are people. And what do people care about? If we’re being honest, we’re all looking out for numero uno: ourselves. We spend almost every second of every day thinking about how we can make ourselves comfortable, happy, healthy, or secure. Nearly every decision we make is a decision to put ourselves first.

This “me-centric” mentality may seem overly selfish, but it’s a part of natural selection and survival of the fittest. For millions of years, the animals that have survived the longest have been the ones that are capable of looking out for themselves. (The moment a small rodent loses focus in the vast expanse of the rainforest is the moment he’s eaten by larger, stronger prey. As soon as a soldier stops protecting himself in the line of battle, he gets a spear thrown through his chest, etc.)

We all care about ourselves – and that includes your sales prospects and clients. And if you want to appease this fundamental element of humanity, you have to make the person on the other end of the conversation feel special and important. You have to stroke their ego.

Relationships appeal to our sense of importance and belongingness. When we perceive that others care about us, it validates and reaffirms the notion that we matter. In the business world, as in our personal lives, this plays a distinct role in how we make decisions.

4 Tips for Building Stronger Relationships in Sales

Jim Davidson is the founder of Coral Gables Trust Company. For years he’s worked closely with business owners and successful professionals and he’s noticed the most successful people are the ones who have the deepest relationships with their clients.

Davidson recalls a story some years ago when he went on a hunting trip to South Carolina with a handful of friends. One night, in the wee hours of the morning, one of his friend’s phone rang. It was a VIP client of his whose son had just been arrested on narcotics charges. The client was desperate, emotional, and in need of comfort. Davidson’s friend stayed on the phone with him for two hours.

This may seem like an extreme example, but it speaks volumes. This individual had built such a solid relationship with his client that he called him in his greatest time of need.

You don’t need relationships that are this deep, but you should strive to go deeper than surface level. Here are some ways you can strengthen your sales relationships:

1. Don’t Screw Up the First Meeting

“When you use traditional sales language, potential clients can’t help but label you with the negative stereotype of ‘salesperson.’ This makes it almost impossible for them to relate to you from a position of trust,” entrepreneur Ari Galper writes.

Your first meeting with a prospect is often the most important. It sets the tone and establishes the first impression. But if you spend too much of this time focusing on a sales pitch, you’ll set the wrong tone. Instead, you need to foster a genuine connection.

2. Listen More Than You Speak

There will be times for you to talk, but these moments are much fewer and farther between than you probably realize. The majority – or at least half – of your time spent with prospects should be listening.

When you listen, you get the chance to see where people are coming from. They’ll tell you what they want and why they want it. This eliminates much of the back and forth guessing game that often exists in the traditional sales process.

3. Find Common Experiences

If you want your relationship with prospects to go beyond the product or solution you’re selling, then you need to find some common ground. Whether it’s sports, mutual friends, hobbies, or interests, common experiences will pull you together and strengthen your sales pitch. Over time, these elements give you something to rekindle the relationship with. They’re invaluable in the big picture.

4. Be Transparent

You can’t hold back in your relationships. There eventually comes a point where you may have to create some commotion or insert a little friction.

As a sales consultant, Warren Wick writes, “The deeper the conversations become, the more transparency you need to provide. Sometimes you will actually have to tell customers something they don’t want to hear. That’s OK. Like any relationship — sales or otherwise — honesty helps both sides grow.”

Giving Weight to Relationships

You have to stop selling and start building meaningful relationships with prospects and clients. The person on the other end of the phone, email, or dinner table is an individual with specific needs, wants, desires, and frustrations. As you get to know that person, you’ll become aware of what matters to the individual, which gives you an opportunity to build a strong relationship that’s predicated on real connections and ideas.

Now’s your chance to revamp your sales strategy and include action steps that prioritize relationship building. If you don’t, one of your competitors will.

Image Credit: Depositphotos

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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Join WNFP Communities!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Professional Networking That Will Power Your Startup

According to the last research from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the secret ingredient that nurtures the entrepreneurial success of a startup ecosystem like Silicon Valley is informal professional networking.

When you are a startup founder, you’re on your own working 24/7 tackling the challenges of how to find investors, how to find a business partner, how to promote your project and how to team up with other talented hardworking fellows like yourself.  78% of business owners confirm that building a face-to-face network that will support you with guidance and advice is more important for growing a startup than accelerators, incubators, co-working spaces and other formal settings designed for progress facilitation.

So if you feel bad hanging out at costly events, rest assured, creating a professional network that you can tap into for assistance is the most valuable investment of your precious time to provide a smooth launch of your business.

What’s the best networking strategy?

To save your time so you can focus on core business functions, we have conducted a survey on professional networking and here is what successful founders say on how to build a network of power relationships.

The best professional networking strategy is as simple as the soul of genius, and it is not what you think. The key insight is before growing your network, make sure you’ve grown your business and trust of your customers. Business first! You can pump up your communication skills and have your pitch on point for a networking session, but if there’s no personal gain for your potential investor, it’s done in vain.

All founders of successful startups to mention iconic Facebook, What’s up, Apple and Dropbox focused on product development and raising clients’ credibility, spending just a fraction of that time seeking funding. Once they produced something of value, investors came to them flocking at every event they appeared. Sure you can’t do epic shit with basic people, so you build your surroundings to create the right state of mind, but that does not mean that if you befriend with accomplished people they would magically sprinkle success into your existence. Having a working product is a prerequisite for the investors to take an interest in your startup.

To maximize the benefits of a networking event here are some top tips that prove useful

For picking a networking event

Attending every event would do you more harm than good, so be savvy, not sorry. Align your professional networking strategy with your target result so that you have a well-defined clear goal when picking an event. The rule of thumb is to choose highly specialized activity-based events where you can engage in problem-solving work or discussion and reach your ultimate clients preferably as a speaker.

For developing communication skills

Frankly, you don’t need to attend 99% of the events, if you can have a blast at the rest of them. There is another open secret that 90% of people feel nervous when speaking in public, while the other 10% are just faking it out. Practice makes perfect, developing communication skills becomes imperative when you are faced with the challenge of being paralyzed by fear of public speaking.

An idea that the better half of the visitors are introverted newcomers will relieve your anxiety besides no one has ever answered “No” to a phrase “Can I introduce myself?”. Follow your introduction with open questions like “What brings you here?” “What challenges do you see for your company?” Listen more, talk less, be genuine, think what benefits you and your product can offer and you are a networking champion!

For building network

There is a huge scope of events such as conferences, meetups, networkings, pitches and hackathons which are mostly designed for making connections. TechCrunch Disrupt, AMBAR’s SVOD, WebSummit and Collision are among the most featured, crowded and intimidating. That’s why you should go there if you see a clear benefit and have enough time to get ready.

Focusing on your specific goal, make a list of attendees you would like to meet, including guests, speakers, exhibitors and local companies’ representatives. A month before the event write a message to make sure your potential acquaintances have time in their busy agenda to schedule a meeting with you. Talking about your business, make a real personal connection.

Don’t forget to take business cards it may seem old-fashioned, but this is the first thing that will remind of you when the event is over.

For pitching

Number one challenge for young entrepreneurs is funding, though it might be useful at early stage of your start-up to test your idea against the expectations of angel investors and market opportunities.

There is a number of events, where you can pitch such as PechaKucha, Participant driven Open space, PitchNight, though you should not expect it to work right the first time at these seemingly directly relevant events. Pitching works better through warm calling. A clever move would be instead of approaching investors to connect with their investment portfolio companies and ask them for an introduction. –°hasing your business angels, jumping around to every event, does not make any sense unless you have something worth investing.

The worth of your business when you seek outside funding is determined mainly by customer lifetime value. CLV is the borderline between success and failure. At the end of the day, it’s not the business idea but facts and figures mere metrics you can captivate and inspire investors with. So, when you make your pitch don’t forget to back it up with KPI’s.

For aspiration and mentoring support

The other key challenge for a young entrepreneur is a fear of failure and lack of mentoring support. Navigating through an array of obstacles such as regulatory compliance, lack of financing, promotion and talent acquisition issues, it’s easy to get discouraged. Networking groups like MXify and various meetups are places where you can get connected with fellow entrepreneurs in a casual environment and power up with encouragement and advice.

There are more than 10000 meetup groups with 4 million high-end professional members starting from web-developers and engineers and ending with security analysts and neuro-hackers. The strongest group in the east is NY Tech Meetup with about 50 thousand members and Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs & Startups with about 25 thousand members respectively. Provided you come up with the right questions, it will be the perfect place to engage in beneficial and insightful discussions with top experts.

For hiring

To some degree tech meetups and hackathons could also be used as a talent acquisition source, since there you can observe visitors working on a specific problem and assess their competencies based on what they have accomplished. Don’t forget to check career history for relevant expertise in similar projects and add your potential candidates to your LinkedIn or other social networks. If it’s an immediate opening for top-notch specialists, turn to a hiring service which already built a strong professional network of leading specialists and can help you choose an employee with the right expertise.


Whatever your goal is, the basic idea behind building a strong professional network is quality supersedes quantity. Be savvy, not sorry, and remember, everybody knows somebody. Nurture relationships with your peers and they will be happy to introduce you to their partners and investors.

Image Credit: DepositPhotos

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Friday, January 18, 2019

When Networking in a Big Room Scares You… Change the Game

Recently, I informally asked 25 professionals at different stages of their careers to share their thoughts on networking.

In every case, the word itself elicited a sigh, groan or eye roll, and a story about fears of being in a large room with a lot of strangers. Networking to build your personal brand is different.

  • It has specific purpose – a means to achieve your reason for action
  • It should be tightly targeted to the right individuals – those in your stakeholder plan.
  • And it can be done only in environments where your value proposition can shine. It doesn’t have to be done in a big room with strangers if that’s not your happy place.

Let’s talk about three tips for networking

First, before casting your net wide, establish your own personal Board of Directors. This is no more than 5 individuals who can help steward your brand and both spark and direct your networking. Your board is made up of:

  • A few connectors (those that make introductions).
  • A mentor who may be a technical expert and knows your space.
  • And a peer-level individual who can serve as your reality check without competing with you.

Second, know your ask. Knowing what you stand for and what you need makes it easier to engage and network.

Example: Hi, I am an investor relations professional developing a specialty in environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing. Would you be willing to spend 30 minutes sharing your perspectives on ESG?

Asking is uncomfortable because it puts us into a potentially vulnerable spot. A recent book about networking and influence said it well, “Ask for what you want. Be specific. Give other people the opportunity to say yes.”

Finally, engage in a comfortable and authentic way. If that is engaging 1-1 through introductions from your personal board of directors, that is great. If it is forming your own small group breakfast discussions. By all means.

Our investor relations professional may never need to step foot into a large meeting again if he is successful connecting 1-on-1 with chief financial officers and other investor relations professionals as part of his ESG learnings.

These are three ways to help you change your game around networking and focus it on building your personal brand and achieving your reason for action.


Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Networking Is Not About You: Lessons From Experience

Karen Wickre, a former colleague and communications professional who is known for shaping the voice of Google, recently released her book, Taking the Work out of Networking. In it, she lays out strategies to help introverts network in ways that feel natural to them. While I’m by no means an introvert, this did get me thinking about my own experience networking.

There is no doubt that networks are powerful tools, and more often young professionals are being told to network as if it is an obligation of their career. Technology platforms have been created to help people network better. Companies now even dedicate time and events purely for networking purposes. Part of this is positive because it recognizes the value of building new relationships, but part of it is also negative because it makes it easier to lose sight of what networking really is.

At its core, networking is making a meaningful and valuable connection at multiple levels, including with the individuals networking and within the greater ecosystem they belong to. In other words, networking isn’t just about you. To see it that way is shortsighted, in my opinion, and it also adds an unnecessary amount of pressure to an activity that already makes many uncomfortable.

The community connection, to me, is the definition of successful networking. To achieve it, I like to remind myself of three main principles I’ve learned along the way.

Your Network Is Not A Utility

It’s easy to want to network for a short-term end goal, to want the time you put into networking to always result in something of benefit or usefulness to you. But that won’t always be the case, and networking is that much more enjoyable when it’s a little unintentional and for the purpose of making a connection at that moment in time, rather than for some sought-after return. Networking should be authentic because it should be a natural extension of your own genuine interest, instead of something more purposeful.

I started returning to my alma mater, USC, as a guest lecturer because I wanted to give back to a place that gave me great memories and a good education. In the process of getting involved again, I was invited to give more talks about my entrepreneurial journey, which in turn lead to students learning about my company. The talks were not intended to be a recruitment channel, I was just there to talk about my career path, but in the end, it resulted in dozens of applicants to my company, many of whom became valued employees.

The Network Is An Ecosystem

The traditional (and perhaps easy) way of thinking about networking is to focus on the development of one-on-one relationships. I think there’s a better way to think about it, and that’s by taking a step back and recognizing that networks are really ecosystems. Consider the ecosystem approach many tech firms use, which means developing technology and business models that benefit all participants in the ecosystem. I believe in approaching your networks in the same way, where your role is really to share information, create opportunities and support others in ways that make the ecosystem you’re in that much stronger.

Earlier this year, I connected a friend working at HGTV with a real estate entrepreneur. I knew that one was writing shows for HGTV and the other had a fascinating story to tell about improving communities at a very local level. My goal was to hopefully add value to both of them, and it was one of those serendipitous opportunities that turned into a big career move for both of them — the new show "Fearless Fix."

Your Network Is Your Community

Networking can often take on the stigma of being very transactional, and I’ve both heard and complained myself about it being a “chore.” But a shift in perspective can make networking feel like a much more inspiring activity. I like to remind myself that my network is a community that I’m building and that I should take ownership of this community. By that, I mean that I should maintain it and give back to it without expecting anything specific in return. The danger of thinking transactionally is that it is a shortsighted way of networking and may ultimately lead to a more limited network. A community, on the other hand, lasts a long time and will come together for you at surprising moments.

The thing to remember is that networking doesn’t always have to mean something, and it certainly shouldn’t be an instant sales pitch. You may simply be motivated to stay in touch or connect with someone due to a shared interest or experience — do that, and let the result surprise you.

I’ve learned that it’s not about networking, the verb, but rather your network, the noun, and how to grow, expand and nurture it in a way that benefits not just yourself but the other participants as well. It’s a difference in angle, but by looking at your network from above rather than out from the center, you’ll be able to give more to your network while also gaining more from it.

Image Credit: Getty

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Networking for Small Business Owners

Networking for small business owners is imperative to make vital connections to grow your company. Interacting with potential investors, business partners or clients will help you form loyal and trusting relationships and open up new opportunities.

The biggest roadblock that prevents small business owners from networking is lack of time—it’s difficult to carve-out hours to attend an event or a conference when you are practically living at the office. However, networking should not be ignored—with these tips, you can achieve this goal.

Utilize LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social media platform designed to connect professionals in virtually any industry. They currently have over 500 million members in over 200 countries around the world. The first step to using this site is to create a personal account with your photo and contact information. You should add details about your business so that when you communicate with other members, they are able to easily find what company you own.

You can also create a business page showcasing your business on LinkedIn. If you connect your email account, you will automatically be able to add your contacts. You can also search for contacts via their name or company they work for.

LinkedIn transformed the networking world by allowing users to create groups by interest or industry, where you can find like-minded entrepreneurs or clients without leaving your home or office. You can also join professional groups and ask questions to get help in growing your business.

Host a Meet & Greet

Devoting time to networking can be especially productive if you combine it with other goals, such as brand recognition and connecting with new customers. A great way to do all three is to host a meet & greet inside your business if it has a physical location.

Start with inviting other small business owners either in your niche or simply in your area. This will be a great way to connect with other entrepreneurs, bounce ideas off each other and learn new tips on improving your business operations.

To make sure that everyone interacts and has a good time, plan some activities, such as icebreakers or fun games. Make sure the attendees have enough room to mingle and get to know one another. Facilitate interaction by setting up small tables where attendees can congregate, but encourage everyone to move around the room.

This will not only connect you with other like-minded professionals but also expose your business and products to possible new customers.


If your goal is to network with potential customers, a highly effective way to do so is cross-promotion strategies. Partner with another business, preferably not in your industry so as to avoid competition. You can work together to promote each other’s brands on collaborative materials.

This can be as simple as leaving flyers or coupons in each other’s locations, or as complex as creating a marketing plan to promote both brands. For example, think of world-known companies such as T-Mobile and Netflix offering their services in a joint plan.

By joining another company in your networking efforts, you can expose your brand to a brand new customer base and decrease your marketing and advertising costs.

Image Credit: TheDigitalArtist / Pixabay

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

3 Networking Tips for Introverted Business Leaders

If you want to be a successful business owner, there’s really no way around it: you have to learn how to network. It’s the most efficient way to learn about business, meet other professionals with similar goals, and build valuable connections that may come in handy down the road.

But what if you’re an introverted business leader? If that’s the case, the thought of having to network with complete strangers can leave you feeling stressed, anxiety-ridden, and unwilling to attend. But if you want to gain knowledge and expand your business potential, you have to come up with ways to cope with a crowded atmosphere.

According to Forbes Insights, eight out of 10 executives believe face-to-face communication is essential in building professional, profitable relationships, so it’s important to make networking part of your regular business strategy.

Just because you’re an introverted business owner doesn’t mean you aren’t suited for entrepreneurial life. This is who you are and the sooner you accept it, the quicker you’ll be able to develop skills and strengths to work around it when you need to.

If you consider yourself an introverted business professional, here are three tips to help you network more efficiently.

1. Set actionable goals

You need to consider your goals when attending a networking event. If you walk in without a clue of what your plan is, you’re going to feel stressed out before you’ve spoken to a single person because you won’t know what to expect.

Make a list of small baby step goals you know you’ll be able to achieve. Be as specific as you can. You want to talk to eight new people? You want to trade business cards with 10 professionals? If a conference is three hours, you want to make it at least halfway through?

Whatever your goal is, stick to it. If you have multiple small goals, think of them as baby steps that will get you toward a bigger goal. For example, let’s say your big goal is to have a one-on-one discussion with a keynote speaker. Whenever you have to make small talk to introduce yourself to someone new, remind yourself that this baby step will help get you to your final big goal. That way, the smaller stuff doesn’t seem so intimidating.

The more you break up your goals into tiny, more achievable ones, the likelier you’ll be able to succeed at them.

2. Practice your elevator pitch

Sometimes called an ice breaker, your elevator pitch is a short spiel of basic information about who you are and what you do that you can rehearse prior to conferences for better delivery. Its delivery shouldn’t take longer than an elevator ride from top floor to bottom and its goal is to build connections, inquire about job opportunities, and learn more.

An elevator pitch usually includes these elements:

  • Your name
  • Your business title
  • The title/position you’re aiming to obtain
  • A valuable skill you possess
  • Asking or expressing interest for more information
  • Inquiring about the other person

For the best delivery, practice, practice, then practice some more. You don’t want to it come out like you’ve been rehearsing it because this will seem disingenuous; rather, you want it to flow and sound as natural as possible. This will help you come off as someone who genuinely wants to make professional connections.

Use conversational language and make your pitch natural by using enough body language and maintaining a fair amount of eye contact. Don’t use tacky sales terms or try too hard to be something you’re not. People can sense phoniness from a mile away. Be yourself, just a more confident, talkative version.

3. Ask questions

The good thing about being introverted and having to mingle with people is that you can use questions to deflect extra attention away from you and onto the other, more talkative person. Being a good listener is a vital skill to have when learning new things. What’s important is asking the right questions.

Think about your business goals. Consider the big picture and what you’d like to get better at, who you’d like to meet, or what experiences you’d like to hear about. Once you find professionals you believe could give you significant answers, you’ll not only feel more comfortable letting them speak, but you’ll learn something that could really benefit your career down the road.

Brainstorm your questions before you have to network. Think about what it is you want to know more about and seek out the right people to chat with for the most valuable insights.

What’s next

Having an introverted personality doesn’t mean you aren’t cut out to do business. There’s a place for everyone. What’s important is using your strengths to your advantage so that you’re able to blend into the conversation and learn just like everyone else. It’s important not to give up as soon as you see a crowd. Remember what you’ve practiced, keep your goals in mind, and ask the right questions.

With enough determination and practice, you should have a networking system that works for you. Don’t be scared to introduce yourself to people, ask for their contact information, or see what’s new with their company so you can learn from them. As business professionals, you’re all in the same boat trying to make connections. With a bit of confidence, you’ll be able to network like a pro.


Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Five Rules For Networking Your Startup In A New City

As an expat Canadian (New York City has been home for over 20 years), a question I am frequently asked by foreign startups seeking funding or new customers is “how do I network in the United States?” Oh, if only it was so easy to give a single piece of networking advice for that 50 state question. Here’s why: when it comes to networking, it is as much about location as the people you desire to meet . One set of networking rules does not fit all geographic locations. To be successful at building networks in new cities, you need to understand how the locals interact – as it will improve the likelihood you’ll make the right connections and enhance the interactions you make.

“ In Austin, breakfast tacos and craft coffee rule for a first meeting - and don't be too formal as Austin is a super casual city ” – Julia Cheek, founder of digital health platform EverlyWell

Know Before You Go

Do your research on the investors or companies you want to meet, and the city you’ll be meeting them in, well before you book a flight or send a “here’s my pitch deck can we meet over coffee” email. You’ve undoubtedly heard the advice countless times before - and it’s guidance worth adhering to, as it will save you endless wasted hours and dollars in the long run. Google meetups in the city where you’re headed. Sign up for hyper-local event newsletters. Crowd source suggestions through Twitter. Whatever your source of information, study and take a keen interest in how the local entrepreneur community interacts – then mirror their behavior.

“Some of the networks do not mix with other networks. It is important to know which are the most relevant networks for your specific startups and in some cases, you might want to participate in completely different events so that you build connections in several networks.” - Itxaso del Palacio. Investment Director at London-based Notion Capital.

Learn The Unwritten Rules

Nashville's business community prides itself on accessibility and a willingness to meet regardless of seniority , Mucker Capital’s Monique Villa tells me. People who want to be connected within the Toronto startup ecosystem should look to add value , according to Janet Bannister, partner at Real Ventures. As a Canadian I can confirm that we are a friendly, sincere and helpful nation and it is not surprising that the Toronto tech ecosystem reflects these values. The point here is that every city operates a little bit differently and the more you understand those nuances, the more successful your network-building will be. Ask the investors or advisors you already have if they’ve done business in the city you’re headed to – then pepper them with questions about their overall experience (rather than immediately leaping into an ask for introductions).

“People will go out of their way to be helpful and, generally speaking, entrepreneurs, investors and others in the community genuinely care about each other and want others to be successful as they believe that a "rising tide lifts all boats" and the more success stories we have in Toronto, the more likely it is that other successes will follow.” - Janet Bannister, partner at Real Ventures

Skip The Sales Pitch 

Your goal is to make long-term connections, not simply to close a funding round or land a business deal. Entrepreneurship is a precarious, challenging and uncertain pursuit. When resources (such as time, money and introductions) are scarce, the default is to invest those scarce resources in those with shared values and a demonstrated commitment to the community. If you’re not prepared to invest in the targeted ecosystem, why should they invest in you?

“ undefinedEveryone knows everyone, literally. In such a close-knit ecosystem like Singapore, all parties play in the same pool - government, corporate innovation teams, startups, accelerators, VCs, angels... One particular thing that people like talking about (think Crazy Rich Asians) is their family ties and the rich families they know.” – Pocket Sun, Managing Partner, SoGal Ventures

Warm Introductions Work Best

The foundation of strong introduction is trust – and trust does not arise from a perfectly crafted pitch deck[/tweet_quote] or complimentary email or hunting down an investor via a conference app. Avoid conferences is the advice of Singapore-based Anne Marie Droste, partner at Entrepreneur First. Droste, as with many venture capitalists seeks introductions that come from her network, preferably from another startup. “CEO to CEO [introductions] are always best for intros” in her mind. While avoiding conferences may sound harsh, I would suggest avoiding conferences if your only goal is to secure investment. If you’re attending to learn more about the dynamics of a startup ecosystem or further develop relationships you’ve made previously, then by all means, attend those conferences!

“ Whatsapp is where it’s at - no one emails. Business cards are less necessary than people like to think - just when you talk to corporations.’ – Anne Marie Droste, partner, Entrepreneur First (Singapore)

Understand Communication Preferences

To build a strong network you need to recognize the communication preferences of the other person . Are they a “meet for coffee person” or a 15-minute phone call type? The same is true when it comes to technology. The good news is that many investors share their communication preferences from interviews, podcasts, blogs and tweets. You should be able to discern the best way to engage. Be prepared to adopt their preferred communication tool(s) when necessary. “ WeChat is the predominate messaging app in China and it's the most important tool for networking and getting things done” Tina Cheng, Managing Partner at Cherubic Ventures tells me, adding that the custom in China is to add business contacts on WeChat by scanning a QR code. Figure out before you reach out whether you need to get a QR code, download a new app or jump on a video chat platform, and avoid looking like yet another startup founder who doesn’t know the local networking rules.

" The Warsaw start-up scene and investor community love networking. the language of communication is English. It is easy to get a meeting with any investor out there, people are very open. Just send an email ." - Kinga Stanislawska, founder and managing partner, Experior Venture Fund. 
Image: Getty

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

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Join WNFP Communities!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Promoting Your Business at Events and Festivals

Promoting your business at events and festivals can be a very effective way for a business to reach their target market. The opportunities can range from large trade shows with very specific target markets through to local community festivals, school galas and sporting events with a wide variety of attendees.

No matter what size the event is, you will need to invest resources into preparing for and attending the event including time, money and perhaps staff. To ensure you get the most benefit from this investment it is important you put some careful thought and planning into how you approach this type of marketing.

This article provides an overview of what you need to consider when planning and preparing for an event. It will help you get maximum benefit from your investment.

Slice Creative can help you with planning and designing your site and organizing any promotional material that you need. Please contact us if you would like to know more about how we can help.

To do this you will need a good understanding of your target market to help you identify what type of events they are most likely to attend.

Find out what events are held that would be suited to your target market. Use the internet, contact local councils and art galleries, read newspapers, ask others…

If at all possible attend the event as a spectator first or attend a similar event. Really take notice of what other business owners are doing with their sites. Take notes, ask questions – this is your chance to really find out what is required and how to best approach this type of marketing. What sites really stand out? What sites look scruffy and why? What sort of people are at these events – are they really the type of customer that would be interested in your product or service.

Once you know which event/s you are going to attend, contact the organizers as soon as possible and find out how things work, what facilities are available and any other information that will help you prepare your display.

  • Find out how much space you will have. If your stand is complex, get exact measurements. You will need exact measurements for printing banners and other signage and you will want to know how much room you have so your display looks complete but not overcrowded.
  • Will you be in a covered area or do you need to supply your own cover? If you are outside and have to supply your own cover, make sure it’s sturdy enough to handle wind and rain – just in case… and that any products that can get damaged by the weather will be well protected.
  • How far will your vehicle be parked from your site? You may need to organize help carrying your display material to your site or need more time to set everything up.
  • If inside, are there partitions to fix promotional material to and if so, what will you need to do this? If there are no partitions, will you need to organize some yourself?
  • Power, water… what other services will you require?

Once you know what you have to work with, you can start planning your display.

  • If your stand is complex, draw up a scale plan of where everything will be positioned, including each wall if applicable.
  • Will it benefit your product to allow people to walk in and around your display or is it better that you display your products on a table with you standing/serving behind the table? The type of event can influence this to a certain extent.
  • How are you going to entice people to your site? Competitions, moving display items, music (check with the organizers first and if they allow it be respectful of your neighbors), if you want to run a competition ask the organizers if they would like to promote the competition in their marketing material – it can be a win win, it gives them something to help draw crowds and you get some free advertising.
  • If you plan to give away items such as food, wine, balloons or other items please check with the organizers first. For small events in particular, it may not be fair on other stallholders who are selling these items.
  • Decide how you are going to collect prospective customer information if that is relevant to your business. This can be a great opportunity to collect names, contact details and email addresses for further promotions in the future or email newsletters.
  • Where will you sit/stand? Do you need chairs and tables for visitors to your stand?
  • What display material and other equipment do you need? Banners, posters, stands, tables, chairs, flooring, pot plants, backing sheets, signage, brochures, business cards, table covers, food and drink for you – it can be a long day, and anything else you think you will need.
  • What will you wear? If you will be standing all day wear appropriate shoes. If the day is hot keep this in mind – your site might be positioned in direct sunlight for several hours.
  • How are you going to talk to people? How do you want to talk about your products and services? Perhaps jot down a few notes so you don’t overlook anything important.
  • Presentation is everything. Try and tie all your presentation and display material into your brand. If your brand colors are red, green and black – don’t go for a pink chair! Look for something the same color as your brand or perhaps something neutral such as silver or white as a last resort. Make sure your logo, business cards and other marketing material look tidy and professional and are consistent with the rest of your brand.

Draft up a budget. Take into account your time (to organize the event, set up for the event, attend the event, and tidy after the event), additional staff, loss of income if you are not able to carry out your normal working day because of the event and any other costs that you will incur such as display material, stock etc.

Make sure you allow plenty of time to organize everything. Give your designer a call as soon as you can to find out how much time they will need to organize the job for you, especially if they are organizing the printing as well. Order in stock with plenty of time to spare in case something goes wrong. You want to be calm and relaxed on the day – not feeling like a frazzle from running around at the last minute trying to get everything finalized.

Yay – the day has finally arrived. You have had lots of rest, are full of energy, look amazing and are rearing to get out there and promote your products and services. Yeah right – probably not after organizing for the event as well as keeping on top of business – ignore it, you can rest at the end of the day!

Try and get to the event well in advance to give you plenty of time to set everything up – and allow time to spare for the inevitable last minute oversights.

It’s time to start promoting your business. How you do this will depend on many things, including the type of product or service you have, your level of confidence and comfort level – it can take one or two events to really get comfortable for some people, and the type of people attending the event. Engage with people walking by, smile and chat with them to make them feel welcome… and don’t forget to give them a business card and take their details if they are happy to give them.


  • Follow up with any contacts you have made during the event. Try and do this within a week of the event, two at the most.
  • Spend an hour or so reviewing the event before you forget anything. You want to learn from each experience and continue improving your presentation and promotional methods. Make notes of what you want to remember next time. Now is a good time to write a checklist for next time and a template timeline.

It could be some time in the future before you really know if attending the event has been a worthwhile marketing strategy for your business or not. You may never be able to assess the full extent of how your business benefited from the event. Marketing and advertising is the perfect example of the phrase ‘the sum is greater than it’s parts’. An effective marketing strategy is made up of many parts; vehicle signage, advertisements, consistent look and feel of all your marketing material, sponsorship, brochures, mail-outs, attending events… depending on your business. It is the combined effect of all these elements that has the real power. That’s why it is important to follow up with contacts made, perhaps do further follow up advertising three or four weeks after the event targeted at the same people who attended the event or think of other ways you can remind attendees of the event about your business.

You will need to decide if this is in fact the best way to spend your marketing budget. If for example your primary target market is global then attending a local school gala obviously isn’t likely to be worthwhile to you… do keep an open mind though, they may have international feature guests at the event!

This is a very summarized overview. How you approach a small school gala will be quite different to attending large trade shows. There are many more considerations you need to take into account if you are attending international trade shows or events.

Good luck with your next event. You are welcome to contact me if you have any questions or need help organizing your next event. I can help you with designing your site layout, designing and printing your promotional material and give you ideas on ways you can let people know you will be at the event to help you further promote your business. If you have any feedback, comments or suggestions that may help others please feel free to leave a comment below.



You can almost guarantee that when you pull out the kit set shelving your products will be displayed on from its box the color will be wrong or a ‘bit’ will be missing. Or, something will break or you will realize you have run out of tape… don’t do as I did for the last event and leave everything until the day before when all the shops are closed and you have no time left for those unexpected ‘things’!


Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business organization focused on providing our members and guests with an extraordinary networking experience, bringing business professionals together for the sole purpose of generating new relationships and developing new business opportunities. Not a member, learn how you can become a member and join this awesome group of professionals to connect and grow your business.

Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!