“You don’t build a business, you build people, then people build the business.” These are the immortal words of the late Zig Ziglar; a successful salesman who was highly conscious of the great power of networking.
There are many grave misconceptions surrounding the idea of networking. Many believe that it is all about what they can get from it. Others believe that it is about exchanging handshakes with other networkers in hopes for sales. As a small business attempting to create a strong brand presence, it is crucial to accept that these fallacies could not be further from the truth.
To find success in networking, these limiting myths need to be overturned. This article aims to facilitate your understanding on the concept of networking to help your small business seize the opportunities that lie in connecting with other professionals or like-minded individuals.
One of the many definitions of what networking is, is that it is a process involving the exchanging of information whilst establishing social or professional contacts. It involves meeting new people to bounce ideas and inspirations off.
Part of the essence of networking is forming and nurturing lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with other people. The Harvard Business Review has stated that networking can lead to increased knowledge, status and advancement in one’s path.
Networking can be facilitated in professional or informal settings. Whilst the importance of networking cannot be downplayed, it also does not have to be thought of as an elite exercise that only rich and well-established businesses get to participate in. As a matter of fact, as a small business trying to make a name for yourself, you are encouraged to attend as many networking opportunities as possible.
Benefits of Networking
As alluded to earlier, networking offers a great number of benefits that small businesses should not miss out on. Getting noticed and being exposed to a plethora of growth opportunities are but a couple of benefits that come attached to networking.
Your small business gets noticed
As a small business trying to establish yourself in the market, there is no harm in getting yourself noticed and raising your business’ profile. Doing simple things like reaching out to fellow business owners through email or social media, can help remove you and your small business form an unwanted invisibility status.
The more you network, the more you will find increased opportunities lining up for you. These could come from referrals or leads that your networking partners may offer you. For instance, if you are a product-based business, you could be referred to suppliers who work well with small businesses who happen to be on a tight budget. This then serves as a good opportunity for your business to cut down on such costs. The opportunities are endless — if networking is seized accordingly.
A big advantage to networking, when done properly, is that you will expose yourself and your small business to people who possess great insight and knowledge with regards to your industry. Above and beyond this, you will connect with people who will keep you motivated to continue running your business to success instead of giving up when things get tough. Running any type of business is difficult enough on its own. Thus, a network of individuals who are ready to offer emotional support is to be cherished.
How to Go About Networking
There is generally no one right way to network. Additionally, networking can happen anywhere. Many tips and tricks have been provided by industry experts on how to crack networking. From putting on a friendly face to simply just showing up, there exists a great number of ways to take advantage of the networking arena.
Use social media
Networking does not always mean attending lavish events where you will rub shoulders with the big names in the industry. Afterall, it is not everyone who has access to such events.
According to Hootsuite, Instagram has approximately 1.22 billion monthly users. Hootsuite predicted that Twitter’s user count will surpass 329 million by the time 2022 comes to an end. LinkedIn boasts a user count of 830 million members in more than 200 countries.
Social media is then undeniably a buffet for small business owners to establish mutually beneficial networks that span across borders. A simple DM can open doors for your small business in the market.
Attend networking events
In addition to using social media to your advantage, it is important to physically put yourself and the name of your small business out there. There are a number of platforms designed to make physical networking events more visible for you to find.
For instance, Meetup helps connect South Africans to a number of networking events in different areas of the country. It is fairly easy to navigate and allows you to filter the types of events you want based on your preferred location. Of course, it is also equally important to do extra research on the listed events to ensure your safety. The platform also allows you to create your own networking event that people can sign up for.
NSBC is a reputable organization that hosts multiple networking events for small businesses in South Africa. They regularly host a breakfast networking session to allow business owners like yourself to get acquainted with each other and to form long lasting relationships.
Do not be a leech
Before you embark on the quest of networking, it is important to understand that it is not all about you and what your business can gain out of the connections you establish. If you go into networking with such a mindset, you run the risk of losing out on mutually beneficial connections that can help catapult your small business into new levels of success.
Consider what you are bringing to the table and how you could be of value to your networking circle. This way, you ensure the establishment of a genuine circle that has the potential to be long-lasting. Therefore, in essence, do not just take; feed back into your network as well.
Check up on your network
Networking is about creating relationships that will survive the test of time. Communicating with your network only when you need something is as poor networking.
A phone call, an email or a coffee date here and there, with the purpose of conducting a wellness check sends the message that you genuinely care about your network. Additionally, letting those you connect with know that they can reach out to you should they need your help, is another way to keep such relationships going.
How Networking Saved Danny Jefferson’s Small Business
We wrote this article with one goal in mind: encouraging you as a small/medium business owner to realize the power of — in simple words — talking to people. Danny Jefferson, owner of Pierce-Jefferson Funeral & Cremation Service, is a perfect example of this.
When Jefferson founded his then small business, a funeral home, he expected to receive sale after sale. Initially, this was true for him as he saw his business thriving. However, in 2004, the heavy realities of operating a small business soon kicked in: sales don’t come always. The business went from thriving to struggling in the blink of an eye.
After time spent strategizing on how to fuel growth back into his business, he decided that the best thing to do was to go out and talk to as many people as he could. He made sure not to make the connections he made about himself.
Eventually, “Each new interaction led to more interactions and these relationships are the cornerstone of the success of Pierce-Jefferson Funeral Home.” Jefferson’s business managed to rake in a 35% yearly growth rate over the past years — a clear display of the power of networking.
This is Your Sign to Put Your Business Out There!
Networking is essential when it comes to building long-lasting professional relationships that will lead your business to a multitude of opportunities. In simple terms: networking plays a crucial role to the success of your business.
Putting your business out there by talking to people, both online and offline, brings your small business one step closer to fortune. It is thus important to accept that your business needs human capital for long-term survival.
As the popular saying goes, two minds are better than one. Therefore, as a small business owner, it is never a bad idea to learn about effective networking to ensure that your small business does not fall into oblivion.