Mohammed Karim is a passionate believer in the power of networking. Currently juggling his duties as Diplomatic Protocol Manager at Expo 2020 Dubai, due to take place in October, with a masters qualification in Government & Diplomacy at Harvard University, Mohammed is increasingly well-known in the United Arab Emirates as a network builder. Alongside the day job, he spends his time making connections – introducing the likes of boxer Anthony Joshua to UAE royalty.
Indeed, Mohammed’s Instagram story is littered with pictures of the rich and famous, including figures from sport, entertainment and politics with whom he has worked to build relationships and make connections.
However, this isn’t about the lure of celebrity, Mohammed insists. Channelling the spirt of Dale Carnegie’s famous work, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he points to the value of connecting and engaging with people for anyone seeking to build a brand or a business. “Networking is a fundamental pillar of entrepreneurship,” Mohammed says. “The simple truth is you can’t do everything yourself.”
How, though, to emulate Mohammed’s success in connecting people? He believes that anyone can do it, through a combination of the right interpersonal skills, professionalism and commitment, with new technology playing its part too. Here are Mohammed’s five top tips for entrepreneurs determined to build their own networks of influence:
Invest in maintaining your network
“Never lose touch with contacts – make sure you’re interacting often to keep your strongest relationships and to manage your valuable social hubs,” Mohammed says.
“Networking is the act of meeting and cultivating relationships with people, organizations and nations. Networking connects people to others who can help them achieve goals: through networking you may gain access to opportunities that you wouldn’t have individually. Now more than ever, networking is a fundamental pillar of business and politics that glues many deals and opportunities together.”
Make your network your net worth
“Entrepreneurs must use network connections to generate valuable opportunities,” says Mohammed. “Connecting with a celebrity or a popular diplomat may be fun but they are unlikely to become an asset. Instead, selectively cultivate the network connections that present you with the greatest opportunities.
“Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Law of the Few’ says that successfully networking and spreading ideas requires leveraging only a few network connections. Identify those network connections who are ‘connectors’ or ‘hubs’ – extraordinary people with a special talent for making friends. These are the people who span many different worlds and can connect nearly anyone to anyone else.”
Play chess, not checkers
“Be diplomatic and strategic when dealing with a powerful network connection,” adds Mohammed. “To maintain strong network connections, benchmark off social currency. Good networkers invest effort and time into improving their network relationships. Internet users who support others tend to receive a great deal of reciprocal support from those same people. Just like an investment, this effort pays off by the reciprocal boosting of one’s own network.
“Diplomacy is the paramount skill that entrepreneurs must acquire and practice in order to foster relationships and open doors. Show respect, be patient, and speak eloquently, while also negotiating effectively and giving your opinion openly. Keep up with the latest news on what people are doing. To interact diplomatically, it is critical to prepare by fully understanding the individual ahead of time.”
Treat high-worth individuals as people, not celebrities
“Never ask for a selfie,” warns Mohammed. “Show a desire to become a network connection rather than becoming another member of their audience.
“When people prioritise their network connections to focus on their social hubs, they maximise their network’s net worth. In a way, a person’s social network is their net worth – each connection provides business opportunities, so it is very important to gain more connections and to improve them.”
Embrace the digital world
“Create a unique online personal identity and social persona,” Mohammed advises. “Before the internet, to accomplish goals, you would need to know someone who knew someone who could help accomplish your goal – a certain number of degrees of separation away. When the internet created virtual networks, social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Telegram helped online users gain millions of new connections. In many ways, the internet’s ability to connect more network connections more quickly has reduced the number of degrees of separation between people and their goals.”