Networking can be time-consuming, awkward on occasion, and — depending on your personality — incredibly draining. However, there’s no denying the power a strong professional network can have over your business success.
Vumile Msweli, career coach, CEO of Hesed Consulting and JA South Africa alumni, shares insights on the role networking plays within her business, what it’s like networking as a black female entrepreneur and how to embrace the process.
1. Tell us about your company/ organisation and your role in it.
My company Hesed was established in 2012 with a footprint in Southern and Western Africa. We work with corporates and individuals to achieve their learning and personal development needs through the medium of coaching.
2.Why do you think networking is important?
Networking is critical for growing your business. People do business with people so connecting is critical. Networking allows you to connect with others in order to establish relationships. Relationships are platforms for doing business, leapfrogging your learning, sharing best practices, allows for customer interaction and drives growth. Networking widens your relational circle, therefore, it is invaluable.
3. How often do you do networking?
I make a conscious effort to invest in my relationships, I network on a weekly basis by striking up conversation with a stranger at the airport lounge or chatting to the person sitting next to me at an industry event. I always look for opportunities to connect.
4. What spaces/ places do you do networking and where do you prefer networking?
Everywhere is an opportunity to build relationships and create connections. From the supermarket to conferences. I have found because of my gruelling travel schedule that the most fruitful networking for me is at airport lounges.
5. Is there a difference in your experience to do networking as a black entrepreneur?
Not necessarily so, most people have the same anxiety about having a conversation with a complete of strangers across racial lines. I have found striking conversations and being interested in the other party is more beneficial than marketing my business and has served me well. I try to be present and authentic in my encounters and allow for synergies to organically come up in conversation.
6. following up on the question above, what are the challenges you have networking as a black entrepreneur and how do you overcome it
I listen without the intention to sell. Instead to see how I can serve the interests of the person I am engaging. Networking is relationship building and isn’t always about the short-term benefits of a quick sale, so patience is key.
7. Are there certain mannerisms one should adhere to when you speak to different people/ do you address each person differently, especially according to culture?
Yes, tailor making your approach for different audiences is critical. Picking up cultural nuances and etiquette is critical whilst maintaining an authentic and respectful connection. This allows for your message to land without distractions of cultural faux pas.