Blair Thomas is a card-processing and payments industry expert, entrepreneur and co-founder of FAM. Besides running his business loan and payment processing company, his passions include writing/producing music, and traveling around the world. Follow him @1stAmericanFund.
Recently, YEC spoke with Blair about his experiences networking, and his advice for others aspiring to improve their own experience. His best advice is below.
Don’t Lose Your Sense of Self in the Process
Young entrepreneurs just getting started building their network should be humble, learn and absorb, without changing who they are. Building a network is not just about who you can connect with. It’s about reciprocation. Losing yourself in the process is the quickest way to diminish your value to your peers.
Never squander an opportunity. A casual, informal bar conversation led me to a passionate investor relationship with an individual who was originally disinterested in my industry as a whole. Staying engaged with them, talking to them in simple terms and communicating honest ideas was the key to turning a random meeting into a lucrative endeavor for both parties.
Be wary. All networkers need to possess the ability to see falsehoods for what they are, and weed through those falsehoods for real opportunities. Networking is like treasure hunting — where there are often more empty chests than full ones.
Keep It Simple
When choosing a venue to make new connections, go local. You’d be surprised what’s waiting for you just down the road. Even the most remote of places in the most mundane of towns has a group of local entrepreneurs who are waiting to connect with you and who are driven to succeed.
When following up with new contacts, I keep it simple and use the phone. Don’t overcomplicate: once you make a contact, label them properly, make notes, and commit to staying connected.
Do More Listening Than Talking
Don’t oversell yourself and always make sure to listen. It’s important to become a sponge and take in information, filing it away for future use, and genuinely learn about the individual you’re communicating with. Listening is the key to success. Your ears are just as powerful as your voice. It’s often the most important person in the room who wants to talk to someone who is just willing to give them the time to be heard, without feeding them line after line of self-salesmanship.
Don’t overstep. Find your niche and stay as close within it as possible. There are too many opportunities out there. Don’t make the mistake of stretching yourself too thin and missing the opportunities that are relevant to you.