It was a hot, summer day in gorgeous Tuscany. We arrived in a small village in Chianti, where we’d heard there was an amazing ice cream place. Driving around, we searched, but had no luck. We had already given up when suddenly – there it was, right in front of us. I had lime-basil ice cream, something I’d never imagined as a combination, but it worked: delicious.
My search for ice cream is just what networking and relationship building is like. You try to put the puzzle pieces together and connect the dots. It is not always the most likely combinations that bring about the best outcome. Sometimes you can find the missing piece in an unexpected place and conversation. You can find mutual interests, business opportunities and perfect matches when you least expect them. But how to expose yourself to not-so-obvious alliances?
The key question is to first ask: What can I do for you? Where can I help? You become relevant and interesting by creating added value for other people’s lives and businesses. If you ever need anything from them, it is much easier to ask for it when you have first done something for them.
Any conversation can turn into an opportunity. Listening is a far more valuable skill than talking and pitching your own story and case. Too often we are preoccupied with what we want to say, and we forget to be present and listen. The only way we can gain valuable insights is to understand what is important for another person: What are the challenges and problems that they are dealing with? How can you create solutions for those?
There is almost nothing more valuable than the feeling of being heard and understood. We all appreciate people who give us that feeling. When listening actively, you can also hear something that turns a random conversation into a tangible business opportunity, or you simply learn something new and interesting. Conversations can be the start of a long and fruitful cooperation and business relationship.
Building your own network takes time. But you do not always have to do it alone, or in some cases, at all. Leveraging other people’s networks is also an option. Look for people who already have a network in an area that you want to access or perhaps gain a new opening and introduction.
This is what we love to do at Amcham Finland. We offer a platform where you can meet business people in a more informal and relaxed atmosphere. It is so much easier to have that business conversation later, when you have already made your first contact and established a shared starting point. We encourage our members to join our events, to talk and get to know each other, no matter what their background and business.
We can all find incredible opportunities in unlikely places. Just keep your eyes and ears open and be ready when an opportunity appears. You never know where that next big idea will come from.
Head of Advocacy at Amcham Finland