Having owned and run a business for close to 33 years, I always find it difficult when people come to a networking event and they tell me it’s the first time they have been – especially if they are an older business owner. I almost want to ask then if they have been hiding under a rock.
I firmly believe that networking – if done right – is a vital piece of the working ON side of a business that every small business owner should do.
What do I mean if done right? – If you have never been networking before, or struggle to talk to people when you go, just understand that the main aim is to build relationships. It is not to sell or to collect as many business cards as you can, so please do not work the room. It’s the fastest way to alienate people. To build relationships takes time. People need to get to know you and you need to get to know them. It is not an overnight thing. Don’t expect to understand what someone does based on their 60 second pitch. You need to arrange a one-hour meeting with them so you have 30 minute to explain to them what you do and they have 30 minutes to explain what they do. What happens outside the networking event is what counts. This is where relationships are built and where you really start to understand what your networking colleagues do.
Why is networking important to small businesses? – most small businesses are started by people who have never run a business before. They don’t know how to run a business. They need help running a business and attending networking events is the best place to meet these people. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you don’t know who you don’t know. You need external support to help you with the areas that are not your strengths. It is vital that every business owner understands what they are good at and what they are not good at.
What I would say to anyone new to networking is don’t join the first networking group you go to. Don’t be pressurised. Go to as many networking events as you can on a pay as you go basis. Get a feel for the groups and get a feel for the other attendees. There are a lot of networking groups in most areas so take your time before you make a decision. It will be worth it. You need to feel comfortable. If you have never done a 60 second pitch, make sure you prepare it, learn it, time it and put over what you do clearly so other attendees understand. Don’t expect to get business from day one. It will take time. Don’t get frustrated. People need to get to know you and know what you do. Relationships is what networking is all about, and that will take time. It is worth it.
BE CAREFUL WHO YOU OUTSOURCE TO. CHECK THEIR CREDENTIALS OR INSTEAD OF YOUR KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOUR, YOU COULD END UP WITH AN IMPOSTER WRAPPED IN TIN FOIL.
This article was first published on LinkedIn by Richard Knight on 03/02/2020