Ah networking, some of us are naturals, whereas it can be a little anxiety inducing for the rest of us.
However, in my experience, there can be a tonne of benefits associated with taking the plunge, and getting out and about connecting with like minded people.
But first, is there something holding you back?
Avoiding networking is not uncommon, and in the small business world, this can be for a number of reasons. How many of these resonate with you?
A lack of time
It can be incredibly difficult for small business owners to find the time to step away from their biz. This is because chances are, coming to terms with handing some responsibility over to your employees, and changing your mindset from working ‘in’ to ‘on’ the business can be a little daunting. However, this shift can work wonders for both you and your biz, trust me.
The potential costs involved
You might feel that you simply don’t have the cash in the business to commit to networking programs right now. The organisers of networking groups, events and initiatives understand this, though, and you’ll find there are now not only many options out there, they are designed to be affordable and accessible for business owners of all types and sizes.
Your business is on track
If your business is performing positively, you might feel you have all the skills, expertise and knowledge you need to continue on this trajectory. While this is an amazing place to be in, embracing the concept of the continuous learning cycle can benefit any and every biz.
A disinterest in the networking concept
Some of us simply don’t enjoy getting out and meeting new people from a business perspective, and the days of working from home during the pandemic have only amplified this further, as we’ve become so accustomed to working in our own virtual bubbles.
However, you’ll often find that the people you meet don’t enjoy this, either! These environments are designed to enable organic conversations, all in warm and welcoming environments.
Choosing the right networking program: three questions to ask
What am I looking to achieve?
Take a step back and consider your long and short-term goals for the business. This could be related to your financials and business growth (which is something we can help you to identify), human resources and employee management, developing a new skill, or perhaps you’re simply looking to share your challenges with those who are on the same journey as you.
Because, if you’re like me, you’ve found that while loved ones are a great support, they aren’t living and breathing the entrepreneur life like you.
Where should they be based?
This will depend on your product or service offering, and your target audience. If you’re a bookkeeping practice like us, chances are you’ll be focused on growing the business locally, due to the unique nuances of our reporting and tax systems, so aim for Australian-based programs
If you need to visit and meet with clients face-to-face, aim for those that are located in close proximity to you, so that you can get there easily, and often, as this also ensures you’ll be making connections with those most relevant to you.
Is in-person or virtual best for me?
Virtual networking can be more convenient, so it might be best if you’re time poor or based in a remote location, and the positive here is that 96% of the Australian population use the Internet, so you’re bound to find the right programs and people to connect with online.
I definitely advocate for in-person where possible too. In fact, studies show that 95% of professionals find face-to-face connections are key for successful long-term business relationships, so it may be worth adding this format to your list of options.
Benefits of networking: a snapshot
Importantly, the rewards you reap from networking will depend on how much you put in. However, by getting actively involved in small business networking you may:
- Secure new clients and customers that you know are on the same page as you.
- Develop mutually beneficial partnerships with other small business owners, which can help you grow, such as via referrals.
- Raise awareness of your business and your offering.
- Enhance your communication and public speaking skills.
- Find an inner circle of trust who you can go to when you face a challenge, seek a brainstorm buddy, or simply need to vent. In my experience, this can benefit both your business and personal life.
The MicroChilli musts…
While the best networking program for you will vary depending on factors such as your goals and business, we wrap up some of our top picks here.
On a personal note
As someone who dreaded the thought of networking and presenting in front of people, I’ve really doubled down on both of these facets of the business this year
I let go of the things holding me back (many of which are listed above) and have reaped the rewards in more ways than one. So, if you’re looking for some more pointers, or need some support with identifying your goals and getting those finances in order so that you can achieve them, drop me a line here!