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James Jensen-Grace, Founder + CEO, Branding4Pride

James Jensen-Grace is the Founder and CEO of Branding4Pride

Can you share a little about what makes you an authority on building a great network?

Creating a network isn't about how many people you meet in a room; it's about meeting the right ones and getting the right mentors.

I've found that one of the most important things you can do is truly connect with each new individual you meet. As you communicate ideas with others, they will see what you have to offer and will understand how to better connect with you and align you with your work. You can collaborate, offer assistance, and share your expertise. By maintaining and fostering these relationships, they will continue to grow and blossom.

Growing together has always been the key to and foundation of building my network.

They say your net worth is your network, and I have been finding this to be true.

Seeking mentorship was another important stage in my networking success. By connecting with mentors, it has increased my mental focus and personal values about personal growth and accomplishments. Mentors and coaches are there to encourage you to be the best version of yourself, and I've discovered that many people ignore this, but it's one of the most important components of building your network.

How important is networking for professional success, and why?

It is critical for both career and personal success!

Networking allows you to not only grow your network, but also helps you realize your worth. As you connect with others, you will gradually stop feeling like an imposter. You gain confidence in what you do, yourself, and your accomplishments. By developing a network you may even feel supported on your entrepreneurial journey.

What's your usual ice-breaker question when meeting someone for the first time?

Genuinely, I like getting to know people and telling them how much I value and respect what they do. I've discovered that throughout my path, I have enjoyed interacting with others through their work, mission, and goals. I'm the kind of person who enjoys supporting others, and I have found that giving them the floor to share has been the best icebreaker in getting to know someone new.

How do you approach networking differently when you're meeting someone in person versus virtually?

I frequently look over the audience while I'm in person to get an idea of who's there. I discover that I can most closely identify with the one person who always seems happy and outgoing with everyone. They are the ones who are most ready to get to know you and introduce you to your network because they value connecting with people who share their interests.

Virtually, I like the two-cent rule and conversation marketing. By adding my two cents to a post or messaging someone directly to start a dialogue I have found that it is easy to meet and connect with like minds. You can also arrange a time to meet for a virtual cup of coffee to further that new connection. 

If you approach these new conversations with confidence, both in person and online, you should find yourself with a new network!

What are some common mistakes people make when trying to build their professional network, and how can they avoid them?

Stop always trying to sell, and stop getting too personal with your network.

These are the two frequent errors that I have observed and witnessed over the years. Everyone has a desire to sell and make money. A lot of individuals are burned out from the constant flow of conversations that end in a sales pitch. They merely want to interact with similar people and build connections within the industry. So take a moment and get to know one another. 

Be personable, not personal.

We can remain friendly without being intrusive. Being sociable and connecting is acceptable, but burdening your network with your problems, etc., can be detrimental.

Have you noticed any differences in the types of relationships you build through in-person versus virtual networking? If so, can you describe those differences?

Only in person can I feel the chemistry of a room. I prefer people who are warm, thoughtful, wise, and charismatic. As a result, I'm attracted to other people like a moth to a flame.

Making relationships across time zones is, in my opinion, the most difficult thing, but thanks to technology, we can still do so and meet like-minded people. I've discovered that connecting with other founders through online masterminds has really allowed me to tap into my higher potential and feel seen. As I've developed my network, I've discovered that most people I've met online match my ideals and develop into close friends. 

It has honestly been great to network with the right individuals through the online space.

What are some strategies you've found effective for building rapport and establishing trust with someone you've only just met?

Start with a virtual coffee and chat on Zoom or Google Meets.

This is a fantastic way to get to know someone!

You can ask about someone's work, support their efforts, and exchange success stories if you can take a moment to interact in a casual situation.

Relationship-building doesn't have to be difficult. I frequently break it down into three steps.

1. Connect with them and get to know them; find out their motivations and ambitions.

2. Then I share some of my story, my mission, and more about what I do.

3. Lastly, I offer some ideas that could assist them in taking the next step in their business. I love adding value to someone who deserves credibility and support with their mission.

How can someone use social media and online networking to expand their professional network?

The number of options to expand your network online is vast. I advise sticking with social media and conversational marketing.

Choose three key themes to talk about, be personal by mentioning what you're working on, offer advice and information, and be prepared to pitch yourself and your services! It is A-OKAY to sell your services! That's what this is meant for!

This will introduce people to you and your work. They can then decide for themselves whether or not they want to interact with the content or spread the word about it. Building credibility in this way is quite effective.

What advice would you give to someone who is new to networking and trying to make connections in their industry?

It's acceptable to move slowly when connecting with new individuals. It's normal for your network to constantly evolve.

So there's no need to rush.

For instance, when I first started, I believed that attending any event would help me attract clients and make some new contacts in the business world. It truly didn't, since I didn't fit in there and the event wasn't appropriate for me and my business. I kept trying out different things until one day I was connected with the right individual. By meeting this one person, my life changed drastically.

One person can introduce you to more individuals who need to be in your network, these people seemingly appear out of nowhere, it seems.

Be okay with going with the flow, you'll never know who you might meet.

  • Connect with like-minded individuals and support their mission and goals.

  • Share your story, your mission and more about what you do.

  • Nuture your relationships.

Where should people follow you to find out more about your work?


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