Networking: The Secret of Entrepreneurial Growth and Peace of Mind

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The other day I was speaking with my friend, Justin, a guy I met after I graduated from business school through the Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities program. He’s an attorney out in Colorado. Each year we meet up and hang out at the conference. Some years we meet up in Florida, other times Colorado. This year it’ll be Georgia.

Justin is an incredible friend. He’s the kind of guy who not only understands business but also doesn’t make you feel stupid for not understanding the same nuances he does. We tease each other a great deal. He tells me he’d love to work for my company because I dress women and as a consequence spend a great deal of time with ladies in their undergarments and I tease him and tell him I could surely be a lawyer because the only thing he does all day is read and write and then bill people and talk about what he just read and wrote. Oddly enough, even though his billable hours are much higher than mine, we have the same hourly rate and similar target markets.

I learned about Justin through business school. He was at the same conference that I was in Disney World and we found that we just clicked. Instant buddies. We ate all of our meals together, and he teased me for eating an exorbitant amount of food. We would pick each other up from class, and each year before we head to the next conference we call the other to make sure the other will be there. In my opinion, conferences wouldn’t be the same without him. Now before you insert your imagination into the piece you should know that he’s married with children and I am in a wonderful relationship with a great man who also has children so there’s no danger of chemistry between the two of us. He’s like my brother and as we all know once we banish someone to the “brother” or “sister” category, there’s no turning back.

Yesterday he and I were chatting about business. We were talking about the legal aspects of signatures, loan ramifications and who bears the onus of a loan if another party is unable to pay. You know, boring legal stuff. And in that instant I had a realization. Yes, business school educated me on the general overview of entrepreneurship but it gave me something I had previously neglected to talk about: it gave me a network. Justin is part of my network but we didn’t develop a bond because we both graduated from Syracuse, though that helped. We bonded because we spent time together, ran around the conferences together, learned, hung out, explored, talked and were vulnerable enough around the other to be able to look at the person and say, “Hey buddy, I am scared shitless to do this presentation.” And he’d look at me and say, “I’m nervous too but you’re going to do great.” I’d tell him I thought I was going to throw up and he’d reassure me it was just hangover and it would pass.

Now I’m not advocating drinking and cavorting with members of the opposite sex and running around at conferences all willy nilly. But I am advocating one thing that they taught me in business school and I realize I have with Justin. You’ve got to have a network. You’ve got to have people you trust. You have to surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth when you’re too afraid to see it for yourself.

I’m sick.

You’re hungover.

I’m afraid.

I am too.

That’s camaraderie. It’s a stupid example but it illustrates the point.

Build a network. Build a bond with people you can trust. Surround yourself with people who respect you and who you respect, too. Build friendships with people halfway around the country not because you need to have a superficial relationship and feel popular but because it is imperative as business owners that we have people who feel the same struggles, same apprehensions, same victories that we share because sometimes it feels awfully lonely trying to run an enterprise without a sidekick.

Here’s what I have learned through business school and subsequent networking that it’s important to have in a network:

In my experience, I want to surround myself with people with whom I can be authentic and vulnerable because when you’re in the Mile High City and facing altitude sickness along with anxiety over giving a VC presentation along with not knowing how in the world to get from Point A to Point B, you’ve got to have a buddy who cares about about you and respect you enough to help you get on your way and make sure you arrive at your goal safely.

I want to develop a network of people who won’t just help me but also afford me the opportunity to add value to them. When I see them struggle I am bound to help them—not out of superficial obligation but out of real friendship.

I want people that I can count on. I want a team.

And that’s one of the best lessons that I was educated on in business school but learned through my experience with Justin.

About the Author

Named Top 100 Leaders by 2012 Magazine, Jasmine Grimm has been nominated for Central Penn Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40,” and The Lancaster Chamber’s ATHENA Award.

Jasmine founded Ruby, Inc. a personal styling business that teaches women how to dress for their body types and became a two-time nominee for Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Top Young Entrepreneurs in America. She won the 2013 SCORE Business Development Award, won the Central Penn Business Journal’s Top 25 Women of Influence Award in 2013 and the 2013 Leadership Award from the MS Society.

She has been a popular guest lecturer at the Maastricht Institute of Entrepreneurship and has been featured in Under 30 CEO and Productive Magazine, was the cover story for Harrisburg Magazine and her writing has graced National Geographic Television and Film, Harvard University and more.

She’s a 5,3,8,3 on the Kolbe A Index and her strengths include input, relator, learner, responsibility and achievement.

For more information visit her Google + Page.

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