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A company director offers his advice on how to use networking to your advantage

Matt Hopkins

This article has been sponsored by Western Sydney University, getting your networking skills up to scratch.  »

While having a strong network is important, particularly in the corporate world, actually utilising it effectively can be a challenge.

Aaron Warburton is the director of The Sponsorship Department, a multi-service management business that connects brands with sponsors. He told Business Insider Australia that he built the entire company around his own network.

"I worked hard at surrounding myself with like-minded people that I enjoyed working with," he said. "Networking has allowed me to meet new people that are now clients, or have referred me to new business opportunities."

In terms of how Warburton leverages his particular network, he says it comes down to the industry The Sponsorship Department operates in, coupled with great execution.

"My current business works closely with brands to maximise their investment in sports sponsorships. Most industries are tight-knit, however, sports in Australia takes that to another level," he said.

"Reputation and a strong network are invaluable in sport. If you nail a brief, deliver on objectives and people like working with you, they’re likely to refer you to a someone in their network. That’s how my business continues to grow."

Warburton has held a strong career in the business side of the sports industry for about 15 years. He was a corporate sales and marketing executive for the Parramatta Eels for more than 7 years before spending a year as a trade marketing executive at Coca-Cola Amatil. From there, he held a number of positions at the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs for another 7 years.

This broad spectrum of experience, plus an Executive Master of Business Administration with Western Sydney University's Sydney Graduate School of Management, left him with a strong network and well-placed to establish The Sponsorship Department in 2017.

The biggest piece of networking advice he has for those looking to strengthen their own is to focus on the other person's needs rather than your own.

"When you meet someone for the first time, try to identify what problem you can help them solve, not what you can sell to them. No one likes to be sold to," Warburton said. "Business owners are all about improving their business."

"Whether that’s trying to fix the inefficiencies in their processes, they want a more profitable business, they want to engage new audiences, the list goes on. Find out what you can help with."

On top of properly engaging with a contact, you should also try to make it to as many networking events as you can. As Warburton says, "If you aren’t out there meeting new people, your network is capped."

"Opportunities are out there, and if you don’t take them, someone else will!"