How to launch a business with limited connections
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How to launch a business with limited connections

How to launch a business with limited connections

BNI National Middle East and East Africa director Bijay Rajnikantt Shah explains the importance of your business network


Building trusted relationships

Having a network of trusted relationships is key as they can provide information, support and even possibly business referrals. It is not necessary for one to have lots of connections to make this happen. It is more about
the quality of these connections and most importantly the depth of the relationships that matter.

It is all about farming. Sowing the seeds of relationship building very early on so that when you are ready to start the business, you can reap the rewards and harvest. This could take years and furthermore requires your network to value and believe in the concept of ‘giving’. Of course, it starts with the budding entrepreneur himself making the social capital deposits to begin with.

Fortunately, there are networks out there made up of people who have made ‘giving’ in business a part of their daily life.

The Last Millionaire

Imagine being dropped off in the middle of a metropolitan area of a foreign city with absolutely nothing
but a few hundred dollars. Then you are told you have to start a successful business that beats out your competition before you can go home. That is the premise of the BBC television show called The Last Millionaire.

In 2009, 12 of the United Kingdom’s most successful entrepreneurs competed on the series. Each of the contestants led very plush and successful lives. They all lived in mansions, drove luxury cars and dined at the finest restaurants. These lives of luxury were left behind to compete in the world’s toughest markets to build a business from scratch. They were stripped of all their home comforts. They lived in hostels and had to make more money than their rivals. The last contestant is named The Last Millionaire. It is a sort of flip side of The Apprentice. Here, nobody wants to be The Last Millionaire. And if you keep losing, you keep living in the hostels and you do not get to go home to your mansion.

The business plan

The show came down to the last two contenders, Natalie and Lucy. They were taken from the UK and dropped off in the middle of Hong Kong. There they were given the equivalent of a few hundred dollars and were told to create a product and sell it in five days. They could recruit student helpers from a list that they had both been given but otherwise they were alone. Natalie started calling the student contacts for help. Lucy, however, went to an internet café and Googled ‘business networking’.

A business network came up as one of the top names. She then called the president of the chapter in Hong Kong and asked if she could visit their next meeting. The show filmed Lucy in her element with Hong Kong’s top entrepreneurs. It cut away to scenes of her networking with members and getting referrals for contacts thatcould end up designing, producing, and selling her product. These were great contacts. Some of them were the top manufacturers. She decided to create a shirt and the referrals that she collected from the chapter led her to the largest merchandising agent in Asia. Contacts for a designer and one of the top manufacturers in Hong Kong came from members at the meeting.

When the contest was over just a few days later, she earned 16 times her start-up capital in five days and more than four times the amount of money that Natalie made.

This story illustrates that if we strive to build our business based on personal contacts, relationships, and support of our networks we can be very successful. It also shows how networking can truly work.

The importance of a successful referral network

I know of several other examples closer to home. Here in the United Arab Emirates, entrepreneurs have successfully launched their own businesses because of the power of their network. One such example is

of a gentleman who left employment and started his own business in the field of professional services. He was able to source his office, the fit-out for his office, the supplies, printing and various other services purely from his network. Furthermore, once his new business was launched, he got all his customers mainly through referrals from his trusted network.

This entrepreneur had invested at least three years in building his strong deep trusted network. But it paid off when he activated it to help him launch his new business.


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