I first had the idea of working for myself sometime during 2011, after ranting to my partner how unhappy I was in the job I was doing at the time. He actually planted the first seed, and yes, I laughed! As I thought about it, the idea grew on me and a battle plan was slowly drawn up.
In August 2011, whilst still working part-time in the unhappy job, I attended my first ever networking meeting – a breakfast event, in Cannock town centre. I was so nervous I hardly slept a wink the night before. Entering a room full of established business people at 7.30 in the morning was one of the hardest challenges I’d ever faced – the mixed emotions of not wanting to be left alone, but not really wanting anyone to ask me anything either! I don’t think I ate anything, and I didn’t even have any business cards.
A total newbie novice.
A rabbit in the headlights.
Gradually, things started to change and for the first two years of Tao Business Solutions, I tried so many different networking groups and at times, found I was spending more time networking than actually doing any work. However, my connections were slowly growing, along with my confidence. And my business cards were getting some great feedback …….
Now in my third year of business, I’ve settled on three regular networking groups.
I’ve been a member of WiRE (Women In Rural Enterprise) since 2011 and attend the monthly meetings of the Cannock group. WiRE is a networking group for women and as such, we have a wide range of professions within the group, crossing the divide between creative and service/professional businesses with ease.
I also attend Business For Breakfast (BforB) in Rugeley. We meet on alternate Thursdays at the gorgeous Hawkesyard Estate on the outskirts of Rugeley. I’ve taken on the role of Host for the group, which means that our members and any visiting guests are guaranteed a warm welcome in a professional environment.
Most recently, I’ve joined BriteStart, another referral networking group based in Lichfield. It’s early days yet but so far, so good. I’ve met a great new bunch of people and am looking forward to getting to know them better as 2015 unfolds.
All 3 groups are very different in their dynamics, but the underlying principles are very similar: networking is all about getting to know people, learning more about their business and gaining trust.
If networking isn’t working for you, are your expectations misaligned? Do you enter a room and immediately ask yourself “who can I do business with in this room?” Do you leave a networking event demotivated because you can’t see anyone in the room giving you any business?
It’s time to stop and think!
Whilst we’d all like to gain business from everyone we meet, the truth is, it’s not going to happen. What could happen though is work coming your way through your growing network of connections – the people you have got to know, the people who have grown to like you, and most importantly, those who have learned to trust you.
To put it another way, would you recommend a business or service to someone if you didn’t have complete faith in that business or service yourself?
No. I thought not!
Just remember these Top 5 Tips and watch your business grow.
- We’ve all been “The Newbie”. If you see someone standing on their own looking lost at a networking meeting, make the effort to introduce yourself and involve them in the group.
- Ask questions. Nobody wants to be stuck with a “me me me” networker. Two ears. One mouth. Think about it!
- Most networking groups call for a 60 second “elevator” pitch. Don’t wing it. Plan it. Work on it. Be concise, but be specific as to what you’re looking for and how you can help others in the room.
- If you’re attending the same networking group on a regular basis, change your 60 seconds, otherwise your colleagues in the room will know it better than you before too long!
- It’s not all about you. Think about how you can help fellow members, either through a referral, a testimonial or a natural synergy between your businesses.
Networking success won’t fall into your lap overnight but keep going and you’ll get there.
Feel free to share any networking success tips so that others can enjoy them too ….. and don’t forget to take your business cards the next time you’re out an about!