I was inspired to write this post after catching up with some friends the other evening. You see, the women who I met are not old school friends, or colleagues or sports team mates. They are women who I came to know through business networking several years ago. It got me thinking about how cool it was to have found the support and friendship of a bunch of people from completely different backgrounds that reaches well beyond just giving and receiving business referrals.
Here are 8 awesome benefits that you may not realise you can experience through joining a business networking community:
1. Business tips
You’re great at what you do - but that doesn’t make you a marketing guru, or a wordsmith, or that you know how to best handle the recruitment process or reduce your insurance costs. The great thing about networking groups is that there are a bunch of experts who are willing to share their advice and keep you up to date on best practice methodologies for a whole range of things that can be applied in your own business. Use your networking meetings as an opportunity to get schooled! Even seasoned business owners will be amazed at what they can learn.
2. Public speaking skills
Well-run networking groups will generally offer each member the opportunity to briefly talk about their business at each meeting, as well as a longer, more in-depth presentation from time-to-time to explain more about your services. Speaking in front of a group may feel well outside of your comfort zone, and you might start off fearing your 1-minute in the limelight. But after a few meetings, and realising that you’re in a room full of supportive people, your confidence will grow, your presentation will become more natural, and you’ll feel more at ease with speaking without notes in front of you. New Zealand-based women’s networking group, Venus, even offers speaking and presentation workshops for its members to up-skill.
Is work getting you down? Lost a bit of direction? Your regular networking meetings could be the shot of motivation and inspiration you need to get back on track with your business goals. By being forced to spend an hour or two thinking about a particular aspect of your business, it can help you re-focus and re-align your goals with your actions. Being surrounded by other motivated people who are living out their dream on their terms is also a helpful reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing!
4. A sounding board
It can be lonely being a business owner - particularly if you’re in business by yourself. Who do you have to ask, consult or consider when a tricky situation comes up? Pitch it to your networking pals; it’s likely someone may have already experienced something similar to what you’re going through and can give you tips on how they dealt with the situation. Networking groups are usually made up of people from a whole range of stages in their business, so leverage the knowledge and support of more experienced or knowledgeable members to help you make smarter business decisions.
You might already have a great bunch of supportive friends, but the reality is that not everyone knows what it’s like to work for yourself. While your mates clock-out at 5pm and enjoy work-free weekends, your mind is on your business 24/7. Your networking buddies are going to understand the stresses and successes of working for yourself and will be able to relate to a lot of what you’re going through when starting, growing and managing a business or staff.
Building relationships on a personal level is also important for growing your business - after all, if someone likes you, and trusts you, they will be more inclined to refer work to you over someone else.
Stuck on the wording of your tagline? Need help with ideas for your next marketing campaign? Wondering which logo colour to go with? When you’re so heavily involved in every aspect of your business, it can be hard to think outside the box. Use your networking contacts as brainstorming collaborators. Ask your group for their advice and feedback - often an outsider’s perspective can help us gain a little clarity, and they’ll likely have a whole lot of new ideas that you haven’t thought of yet. It will also encourage you to look at things from the view of a range of different potential customers.
I remember when I started my business, I felt like a bit of a fraud. I didn’t feel like ‘a business owner’. Would anyone take me seriously? Standing up in front of a group of people and talking about your services helps to validate within yourself the importance and value of what you provide your customers. Spending time with successful people who believe in what you do and freely recommend you to their peers can be a valuable boost to your confidence and will encourage you to keep working towards your business goals.
8. New skills
Networking can offer you the opportunity for professional development in different ways. When you feel ready, offer to be a part of your local group leadership team or the wider organisation’s committee. Embrace opportunities to push yourself out of your comfort zone and develop new skills while contributing your expertise and giving back to the group.
Like with anything, you get out what you put into networking. If you make an effort to get to know people, embrace added opportunities, and really make your meetings a priority, then networking can offer so many benefits to your business!