If you are an entrepreneur, small business or planning to set up a new business it's worth joining a local business networking group. In simple terms this is a group of people who run their own companies (or represent a company or franchise) and work to help each other out through their connections. In order to get the most out of it helps to know what networking is and what it can do for you (and what you can do for other members).
The Right Networking Group
The first thing to consider is the kind of networking group you want to join. Some are very loose and informal while others will have a more rigid structure. Some people prefer the rigid structure because they know the rules and people have to follow certain procedures and guidelines. For example some are very strict with regard to who can be members with only one member allowed to represent one type of company.
The theory with this is that people are more likely to use each other's connections if they are not in competition. Other organisations believe competition is healthy and indeed in some cases similar companies can work together in order to get more work and to benefit each other in a positive way.
There is no right or wrong as such. Most networking groups allow you at least one free trial visit so you can gauge whether or not the group feels comfortable and works for your particular needs.
In order to network effectively you need to approach it in the right way. It is about developing relationships and making connections. While you may get some sales on a first go what is more likely is that it will take a bit of time to get to know them and how they can help you and you can help them.
The latter is a crucial consideration. You need to think how your experience or service can benefit another member of the group and if not whether or not you know somebody who can benefit them as well. The benefit of this is that people will then encourage other members to use your services because you are prepared to work hard for them.
Over time it will then become easier for people to know you and vice versa. As new members come in equally you can do the same and help them.
One of the problems of setting up your own company is that you are often alone. To start with you are unlikely to have employees as such. This can limit the amount of time you spend with other people and it can make you feel more isolated, something that often leads people to quit working for themselves in order to go back to paid for work.
Business networking can fill this social hole. You have an event you can go to on a regular basis and there are people you can talk to who are in the same situation. There is the chance to relax and discuss work in a way that would be more difficult otherwise.
The Main Benefits
The main benefits of business networking for a new business are:
Increased range of potential clients
Get to know people in the local area
Develop your self confidence
Learn from experienced business professionals
In short, if you are setting up a business for yourself then it helps to get support and this is the best way to get the connections you need to develop. Look online to see what is available in your local area and find the best groups for you.