It’s like going to the dentist- you know you’ve got to do it, but nobody actually enjoys it. By nobody, I mean about 82.6 percent of people would rather watch Kathy Griffin’s new talk show (spoiler alert: it’s really happening).
But, like it or not, networking is an essential component of growing any business, and, more importantly, developing your own personal brand. For some, it means getting outside of your comfort zone. For others, well, selling yourself to strangers is your wheelhouse. Regardless, it must be done.
I am of the belief that positive working relationships are the foundation of all successful business practices, especially for entrepreneurs. And networking allows you to expand your reach and meet people that actually leave you thinking, “Hmmm…not only do I not want him/her to [insert something very bad], I may even want to have frozen yogurt with him/her.” See, that’s the spirit! Why not give it a shot? Imagine a world where you work with people you actually like? It’s a beautiful thing.
For small business owners, and often for those in the corporate world, there are many important reasons for doing the deed, including:
- Increasing your chances for referrals: the more folks that know you and your business exist, the more likely you are to receive referrals from people other than your parents.
- Picking up “how to” tips: while you may be awesome at what you do and how you do it, someone else is probably doing it better, faster and at a lower cost. The cool thing is that those people love to brag about such topics. Those are the brains you want to pick…and take notes.
- Giving yourself a new perspective: it never hurts to see what’s new in your industry and learn about emerging trends. You can fight the trend kicking and screaming (this is me, the proverbial pot, calling the kettle black), but eventually you will have to adapt or your biz will face extinction.
- Building strategic alliances: the yin and yang approach is a powerful tool. You’ve mastered the sales pitch; your new networking cohort prefers the deskwork. A match made in heaven.
- Finding new products or services that can better your business: for example, when I attended the New York XPO For Business this past fall, I learned a ton about all of the companies out there working to bolster your social media practices. It’s good information to keep in your back pocket.
- Practicing grassroots, word of mouth methods: according to author Malcolm Gladwell, Hush Puppies saw an unexpected resurgence in the 90s as a result of word-of-mouth marketing. Apparently Starbucks’ success story is similar (except we’re talking coffee, not business-casual, suede footwear). It’s amazing what can happen when people spread information – positive or negative – throughout their network. It’s time consuming, but worth the effort.
- Making friends with people who share your interests: if you are at a particular networking event, chances are that there’s another person in attendance who shares your interests, etc. Whether that means finding a new BFF or your soul mate, it can happen. Maybe.
- Landing a new gig: as far as I’m concerned, this is key. You never know when you will be seeking a new job opportunity – the time can come sooner than you think. Networking leads you to people who can offer job leads, advice/info about a particular company or industry, and connect you to others.
If none of the above reasons appeal to you, networking is always a good excuse to get out of the house and out of washing the dishes.
And you are almost always guaranteed a decent skewer or two of chicken satay.