I have never doubted the power of networking to help you build a better business, build relationships, work collaboratively with others, find quality outsourced suppliers and literally save or make you thousands of pounds. 

I network at least 5 times a week, and have used networking as part of my business strategy for over 30 years. I was networking when there was literally only one networking organisation in the UK and have always seen the value it adds to my business.

Over the years so many people have gone networking to “sell” their products or services and you could always spot those who did. They “worked” the room and just wanted to hand out business cards to everyone who was in attendance. That is NOT networking, so if this is what you are doing, STOP and stop now! Networking is about building strong relationships, looking for people who can add value to your business. Yes, we are all there to promote our own businesses but how much easier is it to get customers and clients if you build relationships first and care about others.

The follow up is the most important part of networking. If you went to one networking event every week – and a lot of people do this – and you heard everyone do their one minute pitch at every event, you will have heard each attendee speak for 52 minutes over the course of a year.  Most of the pitches would be a repeat of the previous pitch so really you heard them speak for 60 seconds, and you switched off for all the other 51 pitches. How can you possibly get to know someone like this. Take time to build relationships. Get to know people. You will be so surprised what will come out of a 60 minute follow up meeting – face to face or on zoom. You don’t know who you don’t know. They could personally know the MD of the company you have been trying to get into for years. Take the time to build strong relationships. Ask questions – it’s the only way you can get to know people and who they know

If you want to have a 121 with me, I will tell you about the 2 best contacts I made from networking and they were not clients. In fact they were better than clients.

I have had many conversations with some of my contacts over the last few years who have bought into franchises. Almost without exception every one of them has said if they knew about networking, and how many people can help them they would have gone out on their own and not invested in a franchise and therefore saved thousands. 

Pretty much every supplier I have used during the time of building my businesses has been someone I have met through networking. I have got to know them after a period of time, maybe met them socially over a beer, spoken to people who have used their services to a level I feel that I can trust them to look after me and my business. Don’t also forget that if you “employed” someone you met at a networking event and they did not supply you with a good service, they are really damaging their business as they have not just messed with you – they have messed with everyone in that networking group. Why would anyone do that? Having said that, check the credentials with anyone you do business with. 

We are looking for our Knight in shining armour and not some imposter wrapped in tin foil.

It would be great of those of us who do go networking share this article with those business owners who don’t and have never been networking. The FSB have put figures out that there are around 5.5 million businesses in the UK of which 4.5 million are classed as micro businesses – employ less than 10 people. I would estimate a maximum of 5% of all micro businesses – a massive part of the networking community – go networking. So those of us who do and understand the massive benefits of it have a responsibility to share with those who don’t – the other 95%.

If you know someone who has mentioned they are looking to buy a franchise, get them to attend a few networking events first. It will cost them a few pounds to attend but could save them thousands in a franchise fee and save them being locked into a long term contract for 5 years or more. 

Keep networking, keep building those relationships, keep having those 121’s. The networking community is very much alive and thriving.

This article was first published on LinkedIn by Richard Knight on 15/02/2021