Networking Advice From Zachary Burkes, Co-Founder of Gatekeeper Innovation Inc.

3 min read · 7 years ago


Zachary Burkes is a co-founder of Gatekeeper Innovation. They are the makers of Safer Lock, a four-digit combination locking cap for prescription bottles designed to prevent prescription drug abuse among children and teens. His experience lies within government relations, lobbying and legislative language. However, due to his role with his company and this product, he has learned a great deal about retail marketing, sales processes with big box retailers, branding and consumer product launch.

Provide Value First

Treat it as your duty and responsibility to not only expand your network but to provide first. Nobody likes the guy who shows up at networking events just to collect cards and heads home without really connecting with anyone. Read “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi to get a feel for what it means to be a master connector.

Listen to Those Who’ve Been There Before

My first mentor and investor, Peter Harbage, was actually a regular at the restaurant I worked at while in college. Peter is an incredible human being and has helped mentor me through the process of building my company. I believe the key to making this connection a lasting one was not only Peter’s willingness to help, but my own willingness to listen. Often as young entrepreneurs we think we know what is best. But there are moments when you should take the backseat and learn from those who have done it before.

Look to Make a Positive Impact

Throughout life, you will meet many people who I would consider to be master connectors — they seem to know everyone! In my experience, these people are unique because they are constantly seeking ways to connect with people and help them with personal issues. They ask: “How can I help this guy with his livelihood or his family?” They are constantly looking to make a positive impact in people’s lives around them.

Start Small But Be Active

Start small with local free events such as those hosted on and go from there. Get your feet wet, find what you like and really connect with people at these events. Be an active participant and embrace the awkwardness. (Pro tip: Don’t resort to checking your phone when faced with the awkwardness of networking. That’s the ultimate faux pas.)

Offer a Personal Touch

A while back I went to a sales seminar and had the chance to listen to a Scott Sambucci of SalesQualia, who inspired me to take my network and clients more seriously. One thing he does that I have now implemented is sending hand-written notes to everyone I meet and do business with. It’s a personal touch and follow-up that sets me apart from others.

Say Your Message in 30 Seconds or Less

Say what you need to say with your value statement in 30 seconds or less. Keep it short and to the point. Today, people are constantly bogged down with emails, phone calls, meetings, etc. It’s a noisy world, so you have to be able to effectively say what you need to say in your first 30 seconds.

Don’t Just Be a “Card Pusher”

In my early years, I thought I could take the networking events by storm and be a card pusher. Boy I was wrong — it wasn’t genuine. People quickly picked up on this and I had to learn to do better. Don’t be that guy. Approach networking with good intentions and a desire to help others; your network will return the favor.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.