One of the joys of running a business is you regularly have an inbox full of invites to breakfast talks, workshops, business seminars and events. I could attend at least a couple of business related events every week if I wanted to, each one promising to be a ‘great opportunity’ or a ‘not to be missed’ event.
Aside from not having to make breakfast or the free drinks what other perks are there to regular networking and why is it important for your career?
The answer is simple; networking is an essential part of your job, whether you know it (or even like it) or not.
Work your network
Whether it’s formal business groups that meet monthly through to ad-hoc drinks with like-minded people in similar industries, networking can be incredibly rewarding. As well as the obvious benefits of increasing the size of your contacts book and enjoying talks from experts in their field, it can also help you gain confidence and learn new skills.
Sharing experiences, good and bad, can have a really positive effect. Especially when you run your own business, which can often be quite a solitary existence. Talking about the practicalities of staff development, terms of business and the all-important cashflow with others in similar roles can help you build up a network of contacts that become firm friends.
The majority of our work comes from our clients recommending us to others but we also meet many of our new clients through networking. Whether it’s another business giving us praise when mentioned or just knowing of someone through attending the same monthly business events. I love running a business like ours as we get to meet new people all the time and you just never know when that friendly exchange, which began over coffee at 7.30am each month, can turn into a long-term working relationship.
Join your local business forum
If you would like to meet others in business, share ideas and best practice I would definitely encourage you to join your local business forum. I’ve been a member of the Diss Business Forum for the last past five years and Chair during this time I would thoroughly recommend it. It presents a good opportunity to get to know others doing business locally and as a group we have a stronger voice when communicating concerns on behalf of our members. www.dbf.org.uk
Harleston also has an excellent business forum and hold monthly meetings on the first Wednesday of each month at various locations in and around the town. www.hdbf.org.uk
The Norfolk Chamber of Commerce has a whole host of different events every month to suit its members’ busy schedules. They also run quarterly South Norfolk business breakfasts. www.norfolkchamber.co.uk
Do something different
If formal networking really isn’t for you, why not try a rather innovative way to get to make new contacts by rolling up your sleeves and undertaking a task for charity? I got talking to someone recently who said how rewarding it was to be actually doing something useful for charity and chat to people at the same time. To find out how you can net-work locally visit www.irums.org
Give it a go
When we set up our business I felt rather intimidated by the thought of networking. I was worried I would step into a room and not know anyone or feel like I was an outsider. Yes, that first event may feel a little strange but I promise you it will be enjoyable and you’ll meet lots of new people, many of whom will go on to become good friends, clients and useful contacts for the future.