Talk to Strangers: Why You Can’t Afford Not to Network

Here’s one of my best pieces of advice for new business owners looking for a clear path to growth:

Talk to strangers — a LOT of strangers.

My partner Jay and I started Dolphin Micro around seven years ago. We’re a web and mobile development company that helps startups build their ideas. I sold my prior company and he quit his engineering job and we both walked away from good salaries. We knew it was do or die and we made a deal. We would each spend 2 hours per day “prospecting.” Prospecting, as the name implies, requires sifting through a lot of what you don’t want to find a bit of gold. In our case, we needed to talk to a lot of people in the hopes that we’d find one that needed software built.

You can talk to a lot of people in 10 hours a week, and with both of us doing it, our company exploded. We grew from 2 to 5, then to 8, and 12, and finally 22 people over the course of five years.

We got so busy that the amount of time we spent talking to strangers went way down. We had so many great people we already knew to talk to. As a result, our growth came to a halt, and it took us a while to figure out why.

Over the last six months, we’ve restarted our campaign to talk to strangers and enlisted the aid of the rest of our team to help. To no surprise, we’re bringing in new clients and reigniting our growth.

We’ve seen the same happen time and time again to other businesses we’ve worked with. They either fail to light the fire at the beginning and never take off, or become victims of their own success and curtail talking to strangers as their businesses grow.

Talking to strangers is uncomfortable, nebulous, and goes nowhere most of the time. It’s called “prospecting” for a reason. It’s also the only way to grow. People you don’t know have the keys to unlock new clients, new distribution channels, new strategic partnerships, new employees, new products, and new ideas. The only way you’ll earn the keys is by doing what you’re parents warned you against and talking to more strangers.

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