The Networking Challenge – My Personal Development Goal Put Into Action

Personal Development Challenge: NetworkingYesterday, I have decided to make one of my biggest personal development goals for 2013 a ‘public’ challenge.

“What is this goal?”, you ask.

Here it comes: “To succeed in business, I want to enlarge my professional network as a new entrepreneur by 40 new people.”

Here, I am not talking about new connections on social platforms, I mean real-life work relationships with people that I get to know during the course of this year. Maybe not all of them physically, but at least through direct exchanges such as on Skype calls or Google Hangouts.

On a side note, the number “40” is not a key factor here, I use it as an indicator to have something tangible to measure myself against. It might be slightly more or less at the end of the day.

Why am I doing this?

Well, the reason for it is simple, to make it public will help myself and all of you to become more familiar with the modern process of business networking in 2013 (from the ‘how-to’s to the ‘do’s and don’ts) – whether you are a business owner yourself, happily employed or just interested in increasing your networking opportunities. I will report as much as I can along the way, including my successes and my failures.


The Background

In the beginning of the year, I started my own business. Here in Duesseldorf (Germany), on my own in my apartment. And when I developed my goals for this year, one thing was obvious for me. I need new and good connections to succeed.

I did not know any entrepreneurs in the area, nor in my field of expertise. So, I made “build a solid network to succeed” as a primary objective for this year. As a side note, I am not doing this with a pure business focus to gain sales, it might be a result of it, but it is not a driver.

“The knowledge you’ll receive is only a potential until you take action.” – Neil Patel

The Current Situation

Up to now, I have to admit, I was busy with setting up the business, developing a business model and a plan, as well as acquiring my first two clients and working on two online projects (including this blog). So, my focus has been elsewhere.
I believe, however, that I can develop much further during this phase, if I continue to expand my network and learn from others (to hopefully avoid some mistakes along the way, too).
To quickly recap what I have done up to now:

  • I have successfully engaged a business coach who helps me through this startup phase (we have regular exchanges, either face-to-face or on the phone)
  • I have attended a couple of seminars for entrepreneurs, where I have met not only other entrepreneurs, but also a great trainer and startup coach.
  • I reached out to old connections to get introduced to successful German Startups (ongoing)
  • I am exchanging with people on Internet Business Platforms

This sums it up. In terms of exchanges and knowledge received, this has already been great. And there are more exchanges and seminars to come. Talking about numbers, I will now start off this challenge with 7 new face-to-face business contacts (not counting the Internet Business contacts I have made online).


The Goal & Strategy

My focus for this goal lies on building work relationships, not acquaintances. Here is a short definition of what I mean:

For all once-off advice, I will be mostly relying in existing contacts and services such as

With the overall objective in mind, I had developed a few concrete second tier goals like “Attend startup training & events in the region on a regular basis”.

How am I going to achieve those personal goals?

I have broken them down into the following challenges I shall face before December 2013:

  • Start a local networking group with regular meet-ups
  • Find a mentor (through existing or new contacts)
  • Start or join a mastermind group
  • Join & participate at existing networks
  • Attend conferences & fairs
  • “Cold calls” to projects’ contributors

So, roughly speaking I have one challenge per month for the rest of the year. I am going to document and report my progress on building a solid network of influencers. And I am going to invite you to take a seat in the front row of this little challenge.

I will be researching upfront each challenge to see what are the best tactics in 2013. While it is very easy to connect with people nowadays, I also believe it got harder to build trust. Maybe I am wrong.

I have been reading lots of articles over the last years, I have attended quite a few conferences, thought at seminars, talked to people, observed them etc.

Do you know from whom I have learned the most?

Undoubtedly I have to say: “From French colleagues!” French people, in my belief, grow up with a gene to network. It is amazing. They, generally speaking, really like to talk, so that is a good start. And at the age of 45-50, the majority still has good contacts to their former class mates and professors. Something to learn from, so, I might just start here.


The Reports and Success Criteria

So, I decided to create this challenge and make it public so you will hopefully learn something – both from what I find that works as well as what does not.  Whether you are an entrepreneur or an employee who wants to boost their networking fundamentals.

Also, I want to use this publicity as a way to hold myself accountable for making this work, because if it does, I will have improved my networking skills, be less afraid to talk to complete stranger and I will see a great added value to my business. I intend to share as much information as possible with you, notably as I launch different steps throughout the next weeks.

Some things will be easier to measure along the way than others, but I will definitely look out for the following criteria:

  • Ease vs fear to talk to strangers (improve my skills to connect with people)
  • Number of real-life business relationships made in 2013
  • Number of people I connect with per event
  • Number of connections I establish between people
  • Number of (Skype) calls, hangouts etc. with new work connections
  • Number of people participating at my events (vs. people cancelling)

These criteria might change a bit along the way, as it is the first time that measure my networking skills that closely.

I have not set a fixed budget for this, but my objective is to spend just what is really needed to not miss out on a big networking opportunity. I will be outlining any possible costs as they occur.

For privacy matters, I will not disclose any names or details of any person I get in contact with.

Here is the summary of it all:

The Networking Challenge – My Personal Development Plan Put Into Action -2


Do You Want To Join?

In case you have a similar ‘networking goal’ for 2013, you are more than welcome to join the challenge, just write me a note in the comment section below. I would be happy to have you on board!

You have the choice, you can either do it in parallel or after I have completed one milestone, as you like.

The Next Step

The first challenge I have decided to tackle is to organize a local networking event. So, watch out for Friday’s post in which I am going to share how I launch this activity!

Until then, take care!


Image courtesy of Michael Heiss

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