Wendy Merrill ’94

Scared of networking? That’s okay—you’re not alone. Most people, regardless of age or career path, are nervous when it comes to putting themselves out there. But, there are some steps you can take to get the most out of networking—and maybe even enjoy it.

We sat down with Wendy Merrill ’94, president of the new Terp Entrepreneur Network and founder of StrategyHorse Consulting Group. Her firm provides strategic business development and leadership coaching to a wide range of clients. She focuses on helping rising leaders develop the confidence, networking skills and executive presence they need to lead their organizations into the future.

Here is our Q&A with Merrill about networking, entrepreneurship and what exactly a “Strategy Horse” is.
 

AA: How can alumni overcome a fear of networking?

WM: Everybody struggles with self-confidence. For a long time in the business world, it was expected of you to put on a “mask” or a “costume” and not let any of your insecurities come through. That idea is long gone. Now it’s about authenticity and relatability. Take a step back and be more human!
 

AA: What are some strategies for getting the most out of networking?

WM: Most people go to networking events and hate them because of the pressure people put on themselves. They think networking is all about prospecting and selling themselves. It’s not. It’s more about how we connect and exchange value. Value comes from so many places—maybe I need a doctor, a dog-walker, an idea, a new job or advice. It’s about how we can be a resource to one another.
 

AA: Where does the name “StrategyHorse” come from?

WM: It’s based on the proverb about leading a horse to water, but not being able to make it drink. In my business, I strive to work with the “thirsty horses” who want to find their own water source. I teach clients how to do this. Plus, I’ve always been a horse person. I’m like a little girl when I see a horse. I just get the warm fuzzies.
 

AA: What are your goals when you work with clients?

WM: My mission is to help rising leaders do well and be impactful. Most of the people I talk to want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They say, “I want to do great things but I realize that I am in my own way. How can I be more successful?” Everyone is different; what’s going to work for you is not going to work for me. I tailor my approach to each person to help them define their own individual value proposition instead of trying to conform to what other people think they should be doing.
 

AA: What do you plan to accomplish in launching the Terp Entrepreneur Network?

WM: We want to provide entrepreneurs with the resources to make them more successful. This includes professional development programs, mentorship, strategic networking and access to all of the valuable resources the University of Maryland has to offer. I’m excited to meet like-minded people within the worldwide Terp network.
 

AA: What advice do you have for Terps who aspire to be entrepreneurs?

WM: There are three things that no one tells you when you start a business. One is that it can be incredibly lonely working for yourself. The second is that it can actually be lonelier if you have a partner because if it goes poorly, it can be like a bad marriage and that sucks. The third is that you have to sell for a living. People think that if they have the greatest widget ever, that’s enough to get people to want to buy it and unfortunately, that’s not the case. Someone who wants to start as a consultant has to be able to passionately present their value and properly convey this to their prospective clients.

The Terp Entrepreneur Network launched this fall to provide interested alumni with professional development and networking opportunities. To learn more about the network, visit https://alumni.umd.edu/prof-dev/professional-networking or contact Aubrey McLaughlin, director of alumni professional networks, at amclaugh@umd.edu.