Wasting Time

Time Is Valuable

There are a lot of events to go to if you are interested in entrepreneurship, startups and/or technology. It seems like every week there are breakfast, lunch and dinner time outings about all kinds of stuff. Weekdays, weekends, hackathons, startup challenges, competitions, meetups, networking nights, launches, ignitions, sparks, clubs – you name it, there is probably someone, somewhere, planning an event for it. Which is awesome, right? Right! I love that there are so many events to choose from.

Some of my personal favorites are LaunchUp here in Utah and StartupWeekend (around the USA and coming to SLC next month). I also enjoy seeing friends from social networks at lunch. There are others that happen out of state that are really interesting (too many to list). There are still others that have industry specific focuses that are sometimes relevant to what I’m working on. I go to those with meetings set up in advance. Going to events with meetings before, during and after can be pretty efficient if it’s done to close deals and not just schmooze. It’s fun to say you are at this or that conference or meetup, but it’s even more fun if you get with 10 people while there and knock out 10 great meetings for your company, project or job.

While there are some great options to choose from, there are certainly plenty of events that are bad as well. I won’t name those but suffice it to say I’ve been to a few over the years. Overall you could make a full time job out of attending conferences and events if you’d like to. Some people seem like that is exactly what they are doing.

The position I’m in now is a bit unique in that I need to represent different groups at certain venues – so I’m at more events then ever before. It is a lot of fun. I enjoy meeting all kinds of people and really trying to get the most value out of these new interactions. Sometimes I find myself speaking or MC’ing at these types of events as well – so my attendance is definitely required in these cases. Anyhow, it’s easy for me to be at these events because it makes sense for what I do now.

I contrast that to when I was trying to build companies. I had little if any time to go to events at all. I made it to a few really big events to connect with peers, investors and customers when I could, but I had absolutely no room for anything beyond that. It wasn’t even a temptation; I didn’t want to spend the time or money to go to something when I was so head-down running a business. That was where the fun was for me. That was where the money was, too. Why would I want to be away from fun and money? My time is valuable. Again, I’d go to things where customers, investors and partners where once in awhile, but I always did so with a plan, something measurable, that I’d be getting from going. I had meetings set up in advance. When I travel now, I still have a plan and I still get something measurable out of any event I attend. When it’s a longer event, I cram stuff into my day morning, noon and night. It’s hectic but I am sure to get everything I can out of it.

So here’s the rub. Now that I’m attending more events, I see many of the same people attending as well. In fact, it seems as though I see some people every time – no matter what event I am at. While some of them are doing things like me, most of them are running startups or trying to start a business – yet they are at all of these events.

What is wrong with this picture?

I’m assuming it’s because they aren’t engaged enough in their own business or worse, they really don’t have much of a business at all. If they were, there simply would not be enough time (or interest) to go to so many different events. Let me emphasize, there are some events that you should be at to help grow your business – but there are very few that meet that criteria. What I’m talking about are the people I see at nearly all of these events, regardless of the topic, time or location. They are professional networkers. They don’t realize how valuable that time is. I wish they’d spend as much time/money trying to close deals instead. Bottom line – don’t be a professional networker.

Be a part of a community, go to things, meet your peers, partners, investors and customers. Just make it an occasional thing.

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About Alex Lawrence

Alex has been a successful entrepreneur for 20+ years. His current venture Lendio ranks #34 on the Inc. 500 list. Alex earned a BS degree at the University of Utah and his MBA at Weber State University, where he is Vice Provost and Director of the Entrepreneurship Program. If you want to talk with Alex about business and entrepreneurship (or other questions), email him (alex AT startupflavor DOT com), or you can find him on Twitter @_AlexLawrence.
  • Drew Gilliland

    So much of what we strive to do is based on balancing our competing interests.  Like you, my attendance at networking events goes down when I am engaged in a project,  My attendance goes up when I have free time or am working on balancing the immediate with the future goals.  When I came out of law school, I worked for a Las Vegas firm that had a department focused on gaming.  While the rest of the lawyers were required to l at least month, one lawyer in that department billed 12 hours one month because he was busy networking.  His networking did help though, because when he was asked to leave the firm, he did obtain another job at a smaller firm, for less pay, and working more hours. 

  • Crystalee Beck

    Hi Alex,

    You’re right about time being valuable – we’re each given the same salary in minutes and hours, and you really seem like someone who squeezes the productivity juice out of them. I’m quite impressed with everything you’re up to.

    From your recent tweets, hope last week in Vegas and St. George went well for you. How’d you like CES? I got to live it vicariously through my colleagues and our bright orange limo (sorry  it was busy when you tweeted me, by the way).

    • alex_lawrence

      Hey Crystalee – we need to meet in person!  I was at mStar last week, I should have found you there.  Come up to WSU sometime.  I appreciate your kind words – I’ve never been one to sit still much and I think that helps.  One of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, says that anyone can get good at almost anything if they practice for 10,000+ hours.  I’d agree with that.  If you are willing to make the sacrifices and put in the time, you can find what you are looking for.  

      CES and Southern Utah was a whirlwind.  I’ll be writing an article for Utah Business Magazine about the tech I saw/liked for business while there.  Hope you’ll like it.  Thanks for coming to the blog and taking the time to read/post.

  • Great spin on being a “Professional Networker”.  When I started reading this article I was hoping that it would touch on valuing your time in start up.  With clients that I currently work with I give a lot of freebies or go above what was contracted.  Finding that happy medium is where it is the most grey for me.

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