What does it take to build genuine and meaningful business connections? We all know that success depends largely on the people who surround us, yet we aren’t always sure how to go about building a team that will inspire and support us along the way.

Here are five suggestions to help you build a better business network:

1. Know what you offer.

Don’t ask “what can I get out of this relationship?” Instead, focus on the value that you bring to others. Whether it’s a specific skill, a unique perspective, or an ability to motivate and energize the people around you—embrace it. Make sure that people know what you stand for and how you can help them be more successful.

2. Step outside of your comfort zone.

You can’t expand your potential if you don’t expand your network. This means doing things differently and talking to strangers. Identify the people who share your interests and passions and go where they are—conferences, workshops, TED talks, industry events. It could even be as simple as introducing yourself to people in the next department.

3. Reestablish meaningful past connections.

We all lead busy lives. Staying on top of social media has become one more “to do” and we spend too much time cultivating superficial relationships (Facebook “likes” and Twitter “follows”) at the expense of more meaningful ones. Take some time to reestablish connections with former colleagues, classmates, employers and friends. These relationships already have a solid foundation on which you can build upon.

4. Enlist others.

You can’t expand your potential if you don’t expand your network—and you can’t expand your network without a little help from your friends. Ask for referrals. Be specific with your requests. Respect people’s time and generosity by making it clear what type of connection you hope to make (“can you think of someone who might be interested in discussing so-and-so?”).

5. Be pleasantly persistent.

Don’t be offended if you reach out to someone and they don’t respond. Not all of your efforts to connect will be reciprocated, although it is more likely that the person in question didn’t see your email (it went to a junk folder), didn’t get your voice mail (she or he was on vacation), or was simply too busy at the time. Never give up after just one attempt. Polite persistence is almost always rewarded with the favor of a reply.

Good luck expanding your network and cultivating your connections!

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