Networking for Business Owners. As a business owner, your time and energy is likely already a finite resource, so networking can seem like an afterthought — but it’s a proven way to become a better leader and help your organization grow and thrive. Nobody knows your business like you do; the best marketing tool you can leverage is word-of-mouth, and the best way to do that is by networking.
Beyond building a reputation, there are a handful of important benefits that networking can offer.
Connecting Within a Community
Creating a professional network sounds like an obvious advantage of networking, but it’s an imperative part of maintaining your success as a business owner. Consistently meeting with other owners or industry professionals allows you to learn about trends and local laws or regulations that directly impact your day-to-day operations. A professional community will also serve as a support group of people in the same boat as you. Stay open-minded to the advice and anecdotes of other entrepreneurs who have been in the same position.
Opportunities to Collaborate
One thing you’ll find as you build a network is that your strengths (and weaknesses) are much different from your colleagues. Networking offers a way to capitalize on both by collaborating on co-sponsoring an event or cross-promoting your businesses. Take it a step further by creating a referral program between organizations. All of these opportunities present themselves when you have cultivated a strong network.
Recruiting Clients and Employees
While you don’t want to enter into a networking conversation by selling your products or services, it’s important to have a quick pitch at the ready for anyone who may be interested in learning more. This goes for potential clients, but it’s also a smart way to garner interest for anyone looking for a career change. Recruiting clients and employees is much easier when the leads are warm and qualified, and vetted by the other industry pros in your network.
Sharpening your Skills
Something that all successful entrepreneurs have in common? Their growth mindset. Whether you’re looking to learn more about the future of your industry or you’d like to get better at networking, attending events with other professionals can help. Not everyone is “built” to network, but as the adage goes: Practice makes perfect.
Sure, you can send emails or give out business cards in passing, but face-to-face networking offers the best odds for return on investment for your time and energy. Consider these networking options:
Start with a goal: Get specific before you head into any networking event. Figure out if you want to make a new connection, find a volunteer opportunity, or just learn more about what’s trending in your industry. Use your networking conversations to reach that goal.
Plan ahead: If you’re naturally introverted or just new to the world of networking, head into the process with a plan. Think about great icebreakers, have a pitch memorized, and know how to answer questions about what differentiates you and your business.
Follow up: Making connections are great, but what happens next is the real magic of networking. Find a reason to reach out to the connections you make — whether it’s passing along relevant content, referring a client or employee, or simply asking them for coffee.
Be authentic: People you meet at networking events are professionals just like you and will notice right away if you’re putting on a show to sell to or impress them. Keep your mind open to learning more instead of trying to impress everyone right off the bat.
It can be hard and overwhelming to think about networking, but help from a coach can give you the skills you need to start the process with confidence. If you’re looking for guidance as you try to avoid pitfalls and work toward growth, you’ve already taken an important first step. The Alexander Group’s small business coaching can help with identifying what that vision is, and how best to transform the business to support it — get in touch, let’s start this important conversation.
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