When you start off as an entrepreneur, a big part of your job is networking. You have to build a solid base of connections that can help you find employees, raise capital, promote your ideas, and give advice. But after meeting hundreds of people over a number of years, networking can feel less like an opportunity and more like a hassle.
When you have a reasonable number of connections in a community or industry you are active in, you’ll get introductions to more folks without even trying. One connection begets another connection down the road.
Should you meet with everyone that asks even if you are skeptical of the value? No matter what stage you are at, the lesson I’ve learned is you should take the meeting.
Looking back over the past eight years of being an entrepreneur, it has been impossible to predict which introductions would lead to something interesting versus the ones that were not useful. Some of the meetings I was most doubtful about ultimately were very valuable. At least if the introduction is coming from someone in your network, the request has been filtered by someone you know and (hopefully) respect.
Some number of meetings you take will be a waste of time. Often these come from someone looking for a job. The job seeker goes in through an existing connection who does an intro without asking if you are hiring in a specific area. But even in this case, I can think of several times the meeting was still worthwhile.
Maybe the person you are meeting knows a great developer looking for a job or has a connection at a company you’re trying to sell into or is a great potential hire down the road.
It may not be immediate. There are times when someone I met over a year ago connected the dots between a person they met at a conference and my business, which lead to a new customer. You just can’t predict it.
After several meetings where I went in thinking it was going to be one-sided or a waste of time, but came away pleasantly surprised, I’ve decided to not rely on an email first impression as the key criterion for whether I take the meeting. Unless there are other constraints, I’ll take the meeting.