Henehan: For start-up success, make friends

The most important thing in the startup of a new company is not the idea, it’s the people you know: Your business partner, your family, your contacts and most of all your friends. These are the people who will help you execute your business, giving you the resources, ideas and moral support to take your ideas to the next level.

If you want to start a company you need to find people who share the same goals as you, and you need to make friends. It’s not just about networking; it’s about finding friends with whom you enjoy spending time, who will help you accomplish what you want to do and who will provide insight into your ideas from a different perspective.

I once received some great advice: “Find people who think like-mindedly.”

At the time I was at a Yale Entrepreneurial Society speaking event. I did not have a business idea, but I saw an acquaintance in the back. I went out on a limb and sent him an e-mail asking him if he would like to meet and talk about business sometime. He knew business and he had an idea. He needed someone who could help him execute his idea. Luckily for him he and I quickly realized we shared the same interests and complementary skill sets.

As it turned out he was working on creating a new model for creating college apparel. He saw the generic “YALE” T-shirt and realized we could do better. He set out to establish a company that would see student-designed clothing. I had experience in the area, having created and successfully branded a series of T-shirts at my high school. With our combined efforts we were able to find a team of designers, marketers and managers within our larger networks of friends at Yale. My old FOOT friends, friends of friends and friends who had hidden artistic talents became our first designers. Friends and acquaintances who knew of our business became our first customers.

If you are looking to start a company, the key is to put yourself out there and share your ideas with people. You need to find individuals with whom you click. It can take time, but if you put yourself out there openly and tactfully, you will find someone.

It’s your network of people who support you and your venture — as your first customers, colleagues and dispensers of advice. Networking is not about finding business contacts, it’s about finding friends whom you want to support and who want to support you.

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