Question: What is the most unexpected place ambitious entrepreneurs can find/meet high-quality industry connections?
"Surprise, they’re working all around you. When people understand what someone is 'doing' versus what they merely 'do,' there’s more opportunity to form meaningful relationships, which are the lifeblood in building a business. Reach out to your desk mates, and ask them what they’re working on today."
"I've developed some solid connections through an intramural basketball league I play in. Friendly competition is a great way to develop relationships."
"Perhaps not unexpected but certainly underutilized are affinity groups. If you're part of any minority, join the relevant affinity groups. The people you meet there are typically ambitious businesspeople, from various industry backgrounds, who share a personal trait with you. They want work with businesspeople like you so there's a lot of opportunity for partnerships and business."
"Since one of my passions is personal health and fitness, I've encountered a number of incredible industry professionals at the gym. Conversation is natural when you work out next to someone. When I travel, the other people exercising in the hotel gym often turn out to be the most interesting folk I meet during my trip. Next time you hit the gym, watch how easy it is to walk out with a new friend."
"Coffee shops are great work environments and tend to draw a lot of entrepreneurs who are looking to get some work done in a more vibrant environment. If they're not working, then they're meeting with other entrepreneurs. Hint: Just look for the people on their laptops or visit coffee shops that are in the area of the industry you want to network with."
"The question should be 'Where do these people spend their time?' As anyone, high-quality industry contacts have their social circles, and if you’re not in theirs yet, how can you put yourself in their picture? By attending networking events and conferences and taking part in associations and mentoring programs, you can get on their radar."
"I spent the last three years living in a small fishing village (now expat surf enclave) in Mexico. I never would have expected to find so many successful business people there doing the same thing. I made better connections during my time there than I ever did in my hometown."
"Surprisingly, Burning Man is full of high-quality connections. While it is hard to know ahead of time who is who, most of the people I met there were successful entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers or accountants."
"Blopboard is kind of a twist on Quora, and it's rather new. It's a great place to make high-quality industry connections, and you'll be sure to meet cutting-edge pros since the site is so new."
The Nonprofit Sector
"If I were to offer one 'secret' about meeting successful people it's to get involved with local nonprofit organizations. Join a board, volunteer your time, or get behind a cause that you really believe in and you'll meet a ton of influential people. You can also reverse engineer the process by finding specific influential people you want to network with and get behind the causes they believe in."
In Town, After Happy Hour
"Next time you're unwinding at a coffee shop or watering hole in the business district after working late, take a minute to pull your chin out of your chest and look around you. You're not alone. There's at least one other hard-working person who, incidentally, knows even more such people. If you can manage a 'Long day, huh?', then you've started a little networking/group therapy meeting."
"Many entrepreneurs think business school is all about education (which is amazing and allows you to have instant credibility), but the best part of business school is the networking with people who want you to succeed. I would not be where I am today without my Duke MBA. I encourage all entrepreneurs to consider an MBA."
"I served in the army and found some incredible people who have turned out to be very valuable industry connections. The army in Israel is very similar to college in the U.S.; it makes for a great networking platform."
"Some people still enjoy browsing and shopping in bookstores, and this can be a great place to meet like-minded people. Naturally, the best sections for this are the business, self-help and financial sections of a bookstore. I've struck up conversations with people who were browsing through business books I've read or were curious about."
"There's nothing like being stuck in an airport due to a delayed flight. You know you should be using the time to work, but somehow you don't feel like it. You are primed to begin a conversation with the business traveler sitting next to or across from you who is in the same boat. The instant camaraderie will hopefully reveal things you have in common work-wise."
At a Party
"It's often said that like attracts like and that it's all about the company you keep. So, if that's the case for you, then it would be likely that when you're attending dinners, parties or gatherings with friends that you'd be able to meet high-quality industry connections and better yet, in a comfortable and laid-back environment where everyone's guards are down."
The Golf Course
"People golfing on random Tuesdays are people I want to meet. They have structured their businesses in a way that allows them to have a flexible lifestyle, and those are the people who make things happen."
Rental Car Parking Lots
"People within my industry are constantly traveling, and eventually they need to pick up a rental car to get around town. At this point in time, their journey has slowed down -- they're stuck in one place, and they're eager for conversation. Striking up a talk with someone else in this environment can lead to their full attention, and thankfulness that you broke up the banalities of their trip."