And what you can do for them…
Since my partner and I decided to start Nuance, we have taken on work far beyond our expectations. We have blurred the line between what we set out to do and what is realistic to do in our business. We have tested ourselves and our abilities way beyond the scope of our expectations. Mostly, we have traversed unknown territory at least 70% of the time. Often, we reflect on a hard day’s work, placing inevitable new challenges on ice for the next day and being overcome by the lull of exhaustion that makes everything seem a thousand times harder. During this reflection, I always conclude with, “how are we even getting this done?”. The usual response is, “we have an excellent support system”. Here’s to our professional network!
Since the start of our business, we have received all forms of support, always tirelessly from our personal communities, businesses who are keen to collaborate and partner up on projects, and also from a network of previous colleagues, mentors and mentees in our industry. As soon as the online unveiling of Nuance took place, we were in awe of the number of supporters cheering us on from the sideline. It made us feel empowered and invincible – superhuman-like – we were capable of doing anything!
Following this and a year of partnerships, teamwork, collaboration and relationship-building, we realise the power that lies in a trusted professional network that can come together to form a killer team to deliver optimal results guaranteed.
What your powerful professional network can do for you
1. First to cheer you on
When starting out as an entrepreneur, no amount of determination and self-affirmation can make you feel like you know what you’re doing. Obviously you believe in your business idea, but there’s a constant feeling of anxiety that comes with building a business from the ground up. Whether it dissipates or you just become used to living with this is an idea for another day. However, amidst all the uncertainty and insecurity, a trusted network will be the first to motivate you and share in your excitement, even if they are fully aware of the challenges ahead.
2. Key advisors
It is crucial to listen to advice, but it’s even more important to know who to listen to. A solid network can be the voice of reason, if you’re willing to heed their advice. We often dream big, as it should be, but we also love to discard the realities of the situation in favour of the perfect picture. Often, your network has experienced this phase and has survived to tell the tale. It makes them all the more valuable. Since the beginning of Nuance, we realised that we will need guidance, and we knew our network well enough to identify our advisors. All we had to do then was listen.
3. Always available
This may be idealistic, but truthfully this has been our experience from the start. When you need them, they’re there. A solid network will invest time in your as well as their best interests. This doesn’t mean that it’s okay to strongarm them into giving away their time for free. As a business with strong work ethic and integrity, these relationships should be mutually beneficial. We were willing to invest in our network by offering our support and assistance, bartering our way through work when financial investments were out of the question and being as invested in the work as the one who sourced it. Being willing to be a go-to player in someone else’s network, makes them willing to do the same for you.
4. Top of the line
There is a deep sense of trust among the members of our network. You never doubt professional integrity, ability, dedication or intent. It is easy for Nuance to recommend those in our network, knowing that they are the best in the business. There may be other better known options out there, but our network has the complete package. Besides the obvious skills and capabilities needed to execute the job with a ‘wow’ result, our network is a trusted group of people and businesses with the best of intentions, stellar work ethic and a deep sense of accountability towards the client. It is a relief to look clients square in the eyes and say a person or business’ name with confidence, knowing full well that the client will be 100% satisfied with the result.
5. A helping hand
Most young businesses and freelancers experience moments of sheer dread, questioning their decisions at every turn. There are moments of extreme high’s but intense low’s as well. It is here where a little reassurance goes a long way. Your network celebrates your strengths and reassures you of your capabilities in times when you are utterly depleted of optimism. It has been our experience that our network very readily would extend a helping hand, whether that be in the form of sending a lead your way or recommending you to a potential client or perhaps just taking the time to listen while you rant on about your latest challenge. Support at this level is invaluable – and getting an unexpected call from a potential client who was recommended to you is always a huge confidence boost.
6. They make you look good
In all honesty, as a business, you want to be well-represented and respected. You want a professional image that will set you on a path to reach greater heights. By actively promoting your skills and offering, as well as that of your network, your business becomes more credible, and instantly more established. Despite being a young business, Nuance has a powerful network that we are extremely proud of. It speaks to years of relationship-building, good team work and cultivating trust between the internal team and the external one. Our network is a result of our career successes, and those who have been involved in and witness to it along the way.
What you can do for your professional network
It all comes down to a good ol’ fashioned give-and-take. It is often challenging to invest in your network when your sole focus is to build your business. But, your initial investment in your professional circle will cement your business sooner than you going at it alone. So, it’s time to give back.
1. Recommend your network
Don’t forget your network when you find yourself in a good position. Standing in front of clients, and identifying their needs long before they are familiar with those needs will make you realise that your network is your solution. With your extended team, you can easily offer your client solutions to potential needs by tapping into your their, and by extension your, service offering. This places you in good standing with your client, and provides your network with referrals.
2. Acknowledge your network
When you take on a job with your network, it is crucial that you attribute the work to whoever actually did it. Yes, you were smart enough to identify your client’s need and recommend a solution, but someone else got the job done. Acknowledge that and don’t keep it a secret… the one hand washes the other every time, in this case.
3. Celebrate your network
As everyone’s hard work wraps up, remember that everyone benefits from a pat on the back. ‘Thank you’ never goes out of style, and open and public acknowledgement of someone’s work performance or amazing results goes a long way to build credibility for your network and to solidify their reputation as excellent go-to’s – a fact that you already know and are willing to promote.
4. Market your network
Marketing is powerful, but it is more powerful if it’s a double whammy. Think about it this way: you market your offering, as well as your network’s offering, while your network markets their offering as well as yours. Immediately, you drastically enhance your exposure to a potential client base that is well-aligned to your business’ offering. Do it for your network, and they’re likely to do it for you.
5. Remember your network
We have journeyed a long way with most of the members in our professional circle. We have worked with them in teams, learnt from them and advised them. Throughout your career maze you will come across a handful of fellow professionals whose path aligns with yours, some for a brief moment, but some are life-long companions. When you identify those that you can journey with, don’t forget them when your paths diverge. Upon starting Nuance, we came into contact with past colleagues that were invested in our new venture, and who still form a crucial part of our professional circle. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with previous colleagues, old team mates or past mentors. You may have much to offer one another.
In conclusion, to build a sound professional network takes time and effort. For the most part, simply connecting with them on online professional platforms is a start. In some rare cases, that’s all that’s needed to cement a happy work relationship. Nuance has bumped into amazing collaborators, mentors and fellow business owners on LinkedIn, who have worked actively by our side. Usually, venturing into the working world allows you to build deep and trusty work relationships, ones that you can nurture and turn into your professional circle. Networking goes a long way in extending your business’ reach, establishing its credibility and launching you on a path to success.
Read more reflections on Nuance’s first year in business.