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Eight ways to improve your connections

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From taking the time to know who you are, to how to effectively juggle your priorities, Rachel Lim, Founder of Love, Bonito, offers her top tips.

Tip 1: Know thy self

I wish I had taken the time at the start of my journey to truly get to know myself – inside out and back to front. Who am I and what I’m not; what drains me, and what my key core values are; what my abilities are, and what I’m really not good at. Because one of the things I’ve learnt is that I need to surround myself with people who are better than me and doing this requires being very honest with yourself.

Tip 2: Don’t imitate

I spent a lot of my early days posturing and trying to be someone I’m not. I wanted to be that glamorous leader that you see in the media, and I thought that in order to do this, I had to look and act a certain way. I felt there was something wrong with me, so I decided to try to be who I wasn't. And it became a vicious cycle of really unhealthy habits. It wasn’t until I decided to own who I was and also work on myself a bit more that I became more confident – and with that I started to see the impact that I could and was meant to make. What I wish I’d known earlier was that all of us are created so differently. We are gifted so uniquely, and we're meant to shine in very different ways.

Tip 3: Kill with kindness

Walking into a room where you don’t know anyone – whether it’s for pitching or networking purposes – can be terrifying. My favourite tip is simply to smile and to keep smiling. It disarms people, but also – I’ve never seen anyone who doesn’t look good smiling. And that inevitably helps you relax a bit more. It’s completely natural to feel nervous, tense and uptight, but what I came to realise is that when I smile, something within me loosens up slightly. And that loosening up helps me speak a little clearer. And it also allows the room to see a lighter side of me.

Tip 4: Own your nerves

I’m quite often honest with people I’m meeting about how I’m feeling. I will literally say to them, while smiling, “I’m a little nervous right now because this is so important to me.” Then I take a big deep breath and go forth. It truly helps me.

Tip 5: Ask for help

For me, one of the best ways to learn about how to be an entrepreneur is to try to absorb knowledge from those who have gone before you. I believe that all leaders should reach out to potential mentors to get to know them, speak to them, and learn from them. Ask them about the key factors that helped them succeed and what made them stumble.

Tip 6: Keep requests short and sweet

One of the things that I personally learned from one of my mentors was when you’re trying to connect to people, don’t start with a lengthy email because it can be intimidating. Also, the person you’re trying to connect with might not have time to read everything.

Instead, try to be very succinct. State who you are, why you’re getting in touch and what it is that you’re looking for from that person. Also include one of two lines about what you can offer them in return. My mentor gave me this advice herself – and to be honest I was shocked at first. I didn’t understand how I could help anyone older and more experienced than me. But my mentor explained the concept and benefits of reverse mentoring; that I could teach other leaders about the likes of social media. For example, why do Gen Z find Tik Tok so interesting but Instagram so boring? I can provide them with insight like this that they might not get elsewhere.

Tip 7: Give them an out

Something else that I was taught and have found incredibly useful is the importance of giving people a way to say ‘no’ at the end of your email. It must be some kind of reverse psychology but when I’ve said, ‘If right now doesn’t work, please don’t be afraid to let me know and I’ll happily follow up with you when the time is right.’ I found, strangely, that I tend to get a positive response when I end a communication this way.

Tip 8: Know your rubber from your glass

One of the best analogies that I've heard was from the author John Maxwell. He said that in life, we juggle so many different responsibilities – so many different balls. Some of them are made of glass and some of them are made of rubber. So, you have to identify which aspects of your life are made of glass and which ones are made of rubber. If you drop the rubber ball, it will bounce back up. But if you drop a glass ball, it will shatter. When it shatters, things might never be the same again and you have to be okay with that. When I heard this, I had a huge awakening.

Find advice and support to guide you along every stage of your entrepreneurial journey here.

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