Let’s be honest, the thought of networking doesn’t appeal to everyone. In fact it might even be something you actively avoid, but if you run your own business, networking shouldn’t be viewed as an optional extra.
The good news is that if you live in Bexley there are so many networking opportunities right on your doorstep; some are free, some are over lunch or coffee and some even allow you to bring your kids along so there is something for everyone (and it’s hard to think of an excuse not to go).
The thought of it can be nerve wracking, especially if you are just starting out but there are many benefits that come from networking and it’s important for both personal and business growth. If you’re still on the fence ask yourself this; “If I don’t get out there and network, will my competitors be there”?
Let’s take a look at how networking could benefit your business:
Share knowledge and experiences
This can help you stay on top of trends or changes that could affect your business and find solutions to challenges you are facing.
Make new connections and collaborations
Make new connections and find services you may need or businesses you can partner or collaborate with to grow your own business.
Build your Confidence
Regularly talking about what you do can help give you confidence and sharing experiences with people in the same position as you can give you much needed support.
Develop your ideas
Talking to people may help you to develop your idea or services from their feedback.
Raise your profile
Hopefully by now you’ve warmed up to the idea so let’s take a look at some of the opportunities on offer:
Networking isn’t just face to face and a lot of valuable networking now takes place online via social media. Follow networking groups online, for example WIBN has a very active Twitter and holds regular #wibnhour Tweet Chats, or join FaceBook or LinkedIn groups which are relevant to your business, they can be a great place to connect with and learn from like-minded people. Be mindful that the rules are the same for online and offline networking, don’t be overly salesy and promotional, it takes time to build up relationships, give advice to others as well as asking for it yourself, by sharing experiences or knowledge you will help strengthen connections and position yourself as an expert in your field. One such group is Made In Thamesmead.There is more about finding FaceBook groups for businesses here.
It's also important to remember that networking doesn’t just happen at structured events. Be confident when talking about your business and forthcoming when people ask what you do, you could meet someone at the school gates, or there may be people already in your network of friends or friends of friends who will need your services at some point.
Networking may force you out of your comfort zone, but the benefits for yourself and your business will be worth it.