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I’m sure you’ve heard it before; when growing your business you need to network but has anyone ever told you that there are different types of networking?

Ok, let’s start at the beginning, when running a successful business, relationship building is the name of the game and one of the tried and true ways to build those relationships is, of course networking. Business owners are encouraged to put themselves out there regularly and truly connect with others in the hope that a relationship produces something fruitful such as establishing a lead that turns into a well paying client.

At the root of it all, nothing beats, what my mentor calls ‘belly to belly’ conversations where you can share your passionate ideas with a brand new pool of persons who are in need of you and your business right now. With networking:

  • You get to be in a room with like minded persons from all walks of life who are already in the right mindset, because they took the time to be present at the event. That means more meaningful connections and fertile soil for your growing business.
  • The fact that you have made a commitment to the investment of time and money to attend, means that you are ready to take the leap. Think about it, if you can be there then you are certainly in the right mindset (and so is everyone else).
  • You are no longer in isolation;  You are building your brand and increasing your visibility. Something that any serious minded entrepreneur needs.

Now that everything is in the virtual realm it makes it much easier to connect with others from around the world, just throw on a fancy top, get your hair done and you’ve made a great first impression. (And if you take a look back at Issue #3 of Personality Magazine, you’ll unlock my secret formula for creating a killer elevator pitch!)

That being said, while getting a great lead is just one of the most fantastic things that can happen, I challenge you to look deeper, and see how the relationship can be formed and maybe….just maybe….that relationship may look like partners in a joint venture, which in my opinion, is even more fabulous.

Lateral networking is really about forming those ‘partners in crime’ type alliances that can help you take over the world. It’s about seeking out and connecting with persons who you can collaborate with and create great ideas that will help catapult both of you to a success you’ve only ever dreamed. Think Ben & Jerry or Procter & Gamble; These partnerships happened because there was a deeper understanding that business isn’t just about making the sale, it’s also about being a force to be reckoned with that can help you stand out.

True story time: Back in 2016, I was just starting out on my own and was invited to attend an event, those were the days we were allowed to go out mask-free…..aka the good old days, but seriously, this meet and greet was held at one of the most prestigious banquet halls in Trinidad & Tobago. The extrovert in me made the decision to connect with as much persons as possible and to help get noticed, my girls and I decided to wear matching head to toe black & white polka dot outfits. Needless to say, we didn’t have to do much, we stood out and our ‘uniforms’ that served as an ice breaker of sorts. People just approached us with smiles on saying “I see you three wearing polka dots, you must be from the same company!!” ……..ammm yeah!!! Anyway, many conversations later, I did get a few leads, but better than that, I connected with a marvelous woman who was, at the time, an up and coming life coach. We chatted and remained in contact and now, nearly five years later we’ve collaborated and made money together on many projects. Not Procter & Gamble money but close.

Seriously, we’ve got to get rid of the notion that our competition is somehow our enemy and embrace relationships that can put us on the fast track for success. That’s the very essence of lateral networking, understanding there are others out there who are just like you, looking to make that connection that can help you both grow. It’s not a situation of how you can help me and how I can help you but of how we can come together and help our audience, our shared community and our people.

Now I know what you’re saying “Carla, how do I know who to trust?” and the simple answer is, you don’t but if you network and truly feel people out you’ll get an idea of who this person is and if they’re aligned with your values, ethics and business goals. I am not saying you have to collaborate with everyone but what I am saying is that there are different types of relationships and boxing yourself into just one type for the sake of hopefully getting a sale is a waste of your time and energy.

Which brings me to another valid point, with collaboration being the currency of entrepreneurship, forming these lateral relationships will actually generate much more wealth for you sooner. How many times have you networked and someone seemed sooooo interested in working with you and it turns out that they ‘weren’t ready yet’ or ‘not able to pay yet’ or [insert excuse here]. The person who you thought was so ready to invest in your product, service or package just ups and disappears and leaves you wondering why you even wasted your time. Forging that relationship with someone more focused on long term growth means that when  you two powerhouses come together you can create something that will dazzle your audience and will bring you the returns you’re looking for. The idea is to think LONG TERM!!

Finally, I want to dispel some myths around collaboration. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard these lies that entrepreneurs tell themselves that keep them from creating the wealth that they deserve. If you’ve uttered or even thought of any of these, please let’s change our thinking for the new year and beyond. I mean if last year has taught us anything is that we’re all stronger together so here are the myths:

MYTH #1: People will steal your ideas

The truth is that there are no new ideas under the sun, but it is how you execute it that makes the difference. Once you find a team of individuals who are aligned with your values and are working towards a common goal then there is no chance of something like this happening. Take the time to get to know the people who you are partnering with and ensure that they are on the same mission as you are.

MYTH #2: Some persons will get more credit than others

Keep in mind when embarking on collaboration the relationship must be mutually beneficial and must address the benefits each person will receive when working with the team. Ensure that there are contracts drafted so that everything is equally shared.

MYTH #3: Collaborating with persons in the same industry doesn’t make sense

Joining with other people in your field makes sense because if you think about being in service to customers, you will understand that people would rather come to one place and get everything. For example, if you have a wedding to go to won’t it make sense to book one appointment to have your hair, makeup and nails done rather than three different appointments? Look for persons who you share the same target audience and compliments your business and create packages to serve your customers.

MYTH #4: Collaborating with the competition doesn’t make sense

If you can offer something that your competition can’t then it makes perfect sense. Similar to the myth #3 people want to get everything they need in one place, therefore if you partner with a competing entrepreneur and offer something to their clients that they cannot then it works well for both parties. In cases like this, one entrepreneur will outsource the expertise of another to satisfy the needs of the customers.

MYTH #5: I don’t need to collaborate, I can do it all myself

This is possible but it will take you longer and the journey that much harder to get seen by your ideal customers. Plus working as a team helps you brainstorm ideas better and get appropriate feedback.

So there you have it, hopefully as you move forward you’ll look at networking in a whole new light and, as I mentioned before, with everything virtual now,  you’ll be jet setting all over the world giving you the opportunity to make global connections that can make a global impact.

So go forth my little butterfly and spread your wings…’ve got this!!