Something Ventured, Something Gained: The Art Of Networking

In the past, I was never one to get out of the office. Over the years I would work late into the night building my business, but did so in seclusion.

Then in 2011, as I founded my current endeavor, it was obvious to me that this was going to be a much more multifaceted company. I came to the realization quickly that I would need to do things differently with this one.

After inventing a medical device, I worked hard to determine what I needed to do to move it to market. I knew the product I had invented, a medical infusion device I called RxFusion, was a great product but hardly a company –the market has a need for but it is still a one-off device.

Although I invented RxFusion from a need, I wanted to do something that would have a larger impact and be more than a one-off product. To make this larger impact it would require a discovery that was much grander.

So, I went on a hunt.

As I started looking for a breakthrough idea around which I could devote my efforts, I talked to a lot of people.

How did I know with whom to talk? I didn’t, but I found them through networking.

Networking took me many places

Because of a conversation I had with a friend, who was an attorney in Washington DC, I left my home in Arizona and I headed to the nation’s capital. I was introduced to the technical transfer people at Johns Hopkins University. I spent some time learning about the great work they were doing, and met a lot of people with ideas that I might be able to work with.

Not feeling that what they had to offer was what I was looking for, I continued my search and headed north.

I found myself in Rochester, NY – not by mistake, but because the company I owned at the time had an office in the area. In preceding years I had joined a small local professionals group, and attended their meetings while visiting the area. I did so whenever my travels and schedule permitted (I also do this in other cities as opportunities arise).

During one of the networking meetings I was introduced to a person who would become my networking “patient zero” of sorts. This person set off a chain of events for me that resulted in formation of the company now known as Efferent Labs. This nice lady listened to my story and said she had someone I need to talk with, resulting in the first lesson in networking:

The first lesson in Networking – get out of the office

Why did this work for me?

Networking is both an art and a science. The art is in listening to the people you meet, and relating to them in a way to gain mutual understanding and a connection.

It is very important that you have an objective when attending any networking event. The objective does not have to be anything more than simply meeting one person.

The science is in the execution: how you identify your objective and take discrete steps to obtain your goal.

The second lesson – have a plan and a goal

It is equally important to have something to give to the contact you meet at an event. This might be as simple as sharing a story, like I did. No matter what – remember this at a networking event: Always have something to give.

I meet a lot of people at networking events. This is what happens when you have a well thought out story, and share it.

When talking to people be genuine; your story will have more meaning and will capture the interest of those you are sharing it with. One of the most important things you can do while at networking events, is to ask these like-minded people for referrals. No ask, no results.

The third lesson – be yourself

Follow-up is as important as attending

Just as important than participating in a networking event is the follow up. Why spend your time in one of these events if you are not going to follow up? You will never reap any rewards from networking if you do not follow up!

With my “patient zero”, I followed up with her the next day. I sent her an email recounting our conversation, and she immediately sent an email introduction to the person she had told me about at the event.

Had I not done a follow-up, the whole cycle would have been a waste of my time. The follow up started the ball rolling for me, and led to the next person, who in turn introduced me to the next, and ultimately to my goal.

The fourth lesson – always follow-up

Results are the reward

My quest led me to a lot of people, many of whom I now count as friends.

For me, one person led to the next, and before I knew it I had found what I was looking for.

I was introduced to Spencer Rosero, who would become my co-founder at Efferent Labs. His idea (the insertable biosensor known as CytoComm) had all the earmarks of a company that was worth building. It is a device that can be used in a variety of applications, so it lends itself as the core technology to build a company around.

I knew building this company was not going to be easy, but Spencer and I both believe that the potential benefits to society are large, and the rewards to investors and our team, equally sizeable.

I have been introduced to a lot of great people through networking contacts and they in turn have introduced me to others. Through a string of conversations I ended up meeting my co-founder and started what is poised to be my most meaningful achievement.

The moral of this story – there is power in networking.

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