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Posted on 20 August 2018

As you’ve probably heard by this point our team at YXU has two goals summer: become exceptional storytellers and mature our manufacturing and go to market process. In addition we personally identified our own unique goals that would help us grow as individuals and ultimately into better partners for YXU. My goal, put simply, was to network my a** off. I wanted to get as close as possible to the people who are doing what I want to do. And not just the people doing it, but the people doing it at the highest level. Below are the three biggest takeaways I’ve had from my summer of building a network in the Columbus start-up and social enterprise communities. Hopefully you’ll find something in here to help you build a community to support your pursuit of your passions!

1. Go to gemba

This is the nerd in me coming out. Gemba is a term made famous in the lean manufacturing world that translates to “the actual place.” Basically what it boils down to is in order to get better at what you’re doing, or what you want to do, you have to go to where that thing is done. In the world of networking this means the following: be seen in the places that the people you want to be seen with, are seen. For me this has turned into many a mornings at the Roosevelt Coffeehouse in Columbus. The owner of the Roosevelt, Kenny Sipes, has cultivated an environment that attracts leaders from Columbus’ startup, government, social enterprise, and general business community. A vital part of my personal growth this summer and the growth of my network has been the conscious decision to insert myself into environments where the best in my field hang out.

2. Add value

A huge part of networking, especially outside of your immediate social circle, is taking note of what value you can bring to the interaction. And don’t confuse value with $$$. In today’s world the most valuable asset is attention, so something as simple as being present in the moment, doing your homework so that you can explain why it is important for you to connect with someone based on what you know of their experiences, or respondingly positively to a “no” can get you a seat at the table. But if you do offer up connection, resources, etc. and the response is no thanks, that’s okay. Maybe what you’re offering up isn’t appropriate for the person across the table from you, but showing that you’ve at least thought about how you can help them builds your bank of trust in the relationship.

3. Time and Score

I’m a Clevelander at heart, so I’m allowed to go here, but you’re not. Last June J.R Smith showed us all the importance of knowing time and score at all times. In the world of sports failure to do so can be heartbreaking, but in the world of networking it can be just as impactful. By time and score I mean know the time that you or the person across from you have available, as well as keying in to the emotional score you’re both bringing to the table. Is the person across the table in a hurry, distracted, having a bad day? Equally as important is making sure you have enough time for the conversation you want to have, are in the right mindset for the conversation, etc. I’ve heard people way smarter than me say things such as “We only have 30 minutes together, so if you don’t mind let’s discuss…” or “Sorry, today has been rough, let me center myself really quick.” And you know what? It works. I don’t know why, but I’ve seen it in action and as a result I bring speech patterns like this to my conversations. Think about giving it a try next time.


-Matt Pekarek



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