Networking Advice From Andrey Kudievskiy, Founder and CEO at Distillery

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Andrey Kudievskiy is an IT executive, serial entrepreneur, and CEO at Distillery. He was named one of the 25 Inspiring Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2017 by Inc. Magazine. Follow him @akudievskiy

Recently, YEC spoke with Kudievskiy about his experiences networking and his advice for others aspiring to improve their own experience. His best advice is below.

What is one practical tip you’d give a young entrepreneur who is just setting out to build a professional network?

Don’t hesitate to ask for help and seek out mentors, especially among the entrepreneurial community. It may start as a professional relationship or it may simply start as a conversation over a cup of coffee. Even though you won’t always get a response, over time, you’re likely to find people who are genuinely interested in helping you. Most entrepreneurs – including me – wouldn’t have gotten where they are today without the help and sound counsel of other professionals. Many of us consider it our honest duty to support the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Describe one situation in which a casual networking connection ended up later having a big impact on your business. What was the key to making this connection a lasting one?

I think nearly everyone has a story about how they met their best or biggest client through networking. I don’t have a story like that. What I do have is a casual conversation that happened during a visit to St. Petersburg. The conversation was with someone who ultimately turned out to be the best hire I’ve ever made – the first COO for our delivery team.

What is the No. 1 quality a successful networker/connector needs to have, and why?

Authenticity – because a lack of authenticity is the No. 1 thing that will make the people you meet question your motives. Just be your authentic self and share your authentic story. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.

Which venues or events do you recommend other entrepreneurs use to make solid business connections?

I recommend the Entrepreneurs’ Organization because it has events all over the world and I’m a proud member of it. You’ll be surrounded by a group of like-minded people, and you’ll also find friends and good connections.

What systems, practices, or even apps/tools do you use to simplify networking and follow-ups?

While it’s a bit clunky, I still think that Salesforce is the best tool to keep all your contacts in one place and never forget about a follow-up. That’s not to diminish the value of Apple Notes, however, which I use for quick scribbles and reminders when I’m on the go and short on time.

How can entrepreneurs introduce themselves memorably to a potentially important contact? What should they avoid?

Humor is a great tool for creating an effective and memorable introduction. I simply start with this introduction: “My company name is Distillery, and we have nothing to do with alcohol. We design and develop software.” As far as what to avoid, I strongly believe that you should avoid talking too much about yourself and using your intro as a five-minute sales pitch.

What was your biggest networking faux pas?

I forgot a person’s name after he had just introduced himself to me. So I led with, “I’m embarrassed, but did you say your name is Brian?” His response was, “No, it’s John,” and then he immediately walked away. I guess he didn’t like the name Brian much.