9 Ways Networking helps your business grow
Networking is seen as increasingly important for making business connections, and with a rapid growth in the number of small businesses it can substantially help the sense of isolation felt by many small business owners, who are often the sole management team for their company. No one can expect to be an expert on everything. Without colleagues to provide the latest business information or to discuss new ideas and concepts with it can be easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of managing your day to day business. There is no one to bounce ideas off or share experiences and knowledge with, all of which could help your business to grow.
One way to help with this is to find places to meet other likeminded people such as at the plethora of networking organisations for business owners, with opportunities to meet other owners and decision makers. The primary focus of these events is usually to share contacts, gain referrals and get advice. Meeting with people who can support you whilst in the start-up and growth phases of your business is particularly vital.
The format of networking events varies considerably from informal, social gatherings where relationships are developed over a meal and/or a drink to strongly referral led arrangements where participants are actively seeking leads for their co-attendees. As with many elements of business development (and life) there is no one size that fits all. It is important to find the networking event/s which suit your personality and fit with your business. It is worth noting that many networking events have a ‘one trade one seat policy’. So if you are a web designer you will find it hard to get into one of these groups, however if you have a more niche offer, office cleaning for example, you will no doubt find it easier to join.
Finding networking events can be relatively easy, online searching for local events is a good starting point and asking other people you meet about where they network can reap rewards. As you network more widely you will find opportunities to make new contacts.
The costs of networking can vary considerably from annual fees of up to £500 plus weekly fees for food and drink to a few pounds for a cup of coffee and a cake. This obviously isn’t the only expenditure to take into account, additional costs such as travel need to be added into the mix. However the most important and most easily forgotten cost of attending networking is your time. You will need to develop a method of measuring the Return on Investment. Do you generate more income as a result of attending the networking event than you ‘spend’? Sometimes networking can be a ‘slow burn’ and it can take a while before you see a return for the money and time you have invested. You may also have to invest a lot of upfront time trying out different networking models, what I like to call the ‘Kissing Frogs Stage’.
In recent years there has been a growth in the number of alternative networking events. These generally centre on either activities or sports or food and drink. So you may network whilst running a sports day, walking or volunteering; or you may attend a beer and blather session or a curry night. The thinking behind these events is that you are meeting likeminded people in a more relaxed environment and doing something which you all love.
This concept is what inspired Neil [link] from the Debt Recovery Bureau [link] teamed up with his friend Stuart Mosley [link] of SJ Financial Solutions [link] to create the Chain Gain, a monthly networking event which indulges their passion for cycling. Alternate rides are on or off road respectively. Meeting for breakfast first allows for people to have a catch up and meet new members. Then on to the main business of the ride with two rides of varying lengths and difficulty to suit all abilities. Finishing with a drink and lunch at a local hostelry and a chance to further discuss business opportunities. What’s more the event is FREE to attend and you only have to pay for your own drinks and food. If you like cycling and would like to meet other business owners in an informal, friendly environment, why not give it a go and join the Chain Gain’s next ride [link]?
On a final note here is our quick video outlining how networking can have a positive impact on your business. Helping your business to expand and stay ahead of the game.