I got introduced to business networking just over a year ago. I was working as a business manager and one element of my role was to identify and introduce new clients to the practice. I therefore searched online and came across various forums and networking organisations. The first one that took the eye for me was ecademy. I felt it had a relatively straightforward user interface as well as local meetings. Unfortunately, the local meetings rarely seemed to happen so I couldn’t go to any!
Someone then came into the office representing 4Networking, an online site that I had signed up to. Initially, I didn’t like their home page as it did not seem clear what events were happening where, hence why I hadn’t booked up to an event. Keith Holdsworth of Holdsworth IT was the representative and a member of the Tetbury team. I therefore went along to my first meeting and it has all taken off from there; thanks Keith! I was very nervous at that meeting about how to do a 40 second pitch, in fact often I still am!
Since attending that group, I have attended many groups in the local area as well as some from further away. This has improved my contact base no end. I also run the local Devizes 4Networking group. I also attend other networking groups such as Bizmeet for lunch meetings and BoBs Devizes for local contacts.
One of the main benefits of networking is the meeting of people. You get face to face contact with people who you may want to do business with. If you can’t do business with them, then they may have contacts in their own network. In particular one of my favourite things about 4Networking is the three 10 minute 1to1 appointments. This gives you the opportunity to speak to people in business.
Networking was the main catalyst towards me starting my own business. I found that I was increasing my contact list and gaining clients for my firm. As the firm I was working for would not give me a pay rise or pay a referral fee, I decided I could go it alone. It is the best decision of my life!
Remember, networking is not all about sales, its about building a support ‘network’ for your business. I am certainly nosalesman! The majority of my suppliers have come through networking contacts. I will buy from people I like, know and trust, whether this is online or offline. I will also refer work to people within the network, based on the know and trust ethos.
My one negative that I intensely dislike about networking groups is that some are restrictive. Therefore, if an accountant is already a member, I cannot join up. My problem with this is how can you refer to someone you don’t get on with; that doesn’t mean you won’t, just a lack of choice. I have found that people have referred me work rather than someone in their own individual group. When I asked why the clear answer was ‘Personality/ who you gel with’.
After being unable to join a couple of local groups, particularly based around evening networking I found my opportunities restricted. This gave me the inspiration to start my own business club. I set up a ning forum, invited a few of my contacts to sign up and the Wiltshire Business Club was born! This is an unrestricted evening event with no membership fees. The ethos being ‘Come along if you want to and enjoy a fun and friendly meeting’. The first event last week seemed to go down well and I met several new people, lets hope the second is just as good.
So, in summary, different types of networking will suit different types of people. Most people will know that I am a big advocate of 4Networking, as well as of course the Wiltshire Business Club now!
Why not give each type a try and find out what suits you?