So, February is the month of LOVE and I thought it was ok to work it into any or all of my content this month!
What do many people dislike when running their own business? Accounts is obvious; book keeping has a rubbish reputation; using Social media is a stress for many and let’s not mention the tax return! However an area of business that many business owners I meet mention networking. I am often told that networking is something that, at best, feels like a waste of time with no real returns and, at worst, a scary social prospect to be avoided at all costs. Networking strikes fear into the hearts of many a business owner.
You may have guessed from my blog that I am not a shrinking violet and I do love to meet people and chat about business, life, the universe and everything. However, when I started out, the thought of entering a room of strangers to talk about the precious baby of a business that one had created was something that overwhelmed me with fear. What if I look idiotic? What if no one understands my business? What if everyone else has a proper business? Will anyone speak to me?
As time has gone on though, I have found my tribe and I have grown to love networking – not all networking but the networking that I like. I have met some amazing businesses and people and yes, I have done real business! I think that networking of some sort is vital to the wellbeing of any business and business owner. Here are my top tips for loving networking:
- Find your Tribe. Not all networking is alike and it is vital that you find networking where you feel comfortable and yourself. This is a human thing. There is little point forcing yourself into networking meetings that make you feel like a fish out of water or where you feel stressed – it will simply never work. So look for networking events that resonate with you – go with your gut and go where you think you will have common ground and be relaxed.
- Don’t Lose Heart. You won’t find your tribe at the first try. If you have tried networking and vowed never to return because it was expensive or you didn’t like the people or you felt you got no business, then simply try again. Like with any club, you won’t get on with them all.
- Prepare for the Long Game. I my view, networking is not about instant results or forced recommendations. For me, it is about building relationships. I have done business with people I have meet years ago. Nothing happened in the mid term but something key was remembered and business was done down the line. I would approach all networking as something to stick at because you never know when someone might recommend you or need your products and services.
- Invest Time. I am as guilty as the next business owner – I put off networking because something ‘more important’ has come up. Before you know it, it might be months since you networked! Networking is important and can lead to quality new relationships that could be the cornerstone of your business in months or years to come. Once you have found your tribe and the networking you like and that fits into your business (breakfast meetings for a B&B owner will never work), diary in the dates and prioritise your attendance. It will be worth it!
- Be Yourself. Ok, so this sounds blooming obvious. However, I have been to many a networking meeting where I observe people are fitting themselves into the wrong tribe instead of being themselves in their own. If you are a B2B business and need to get amongst some serious breakfast meeting folks then great. If you are an artisan who needs support and a break in the middle of the day – brilliant. Just be where you fit and the conversation will flow, you will smile and you will attract like minded business owners to build relationships with.
I hope this has helped some of you and you can, of course Simply HQ for our monthly Coffee Break networking. Our vibe is relaxed inspiration with a brew and cake. We meet mid morning to suit tourism businesses as well as small and micro businesses.