Networking can have a bit of a bad rep, especially amongst small business owners. Most of us will have attended those networking events where everyone wore suits, and it would appear to be a competition as to who achieved the most in their line of work. I still remember the ones I attended in the corporate work, where people talked about how they sealed a contract at 3am for a huge sum of money, whilst others got horrendously drunk. I remember thinking on more than one occasion “what AM I doing here?!, these aren’t my people at all!”.
The Reality of Running Small Business
Whether you have just set up your own business, or you have been running it for a little while, when running your own business, it is a completely different world to the corporate world.
You can’t just call IT when your computer plays off because now, you are IT!
If anything goes wrong, you and only you can sort it out.
Even when something good happens, you don’t have any colleagues nearby to share your excitement with and celebrate.
You don’t have a colleague sat opposite or next to you to brainstorm ideas, or even just talk through an issue you’re faced with.
The reality of running a small business is that as the owner, you wear so many different hats, in your area of expertise, yes, but also in lots of other areas that you may not be so familiar with. As a results, this can lead to being overwhelmed, questioning yourself, and well it’s simply exhausting if anything else!
So why should you network as a Small Business?
So how can networking help you as a small business?
While attending a networking event may not be answer to all of your problems as a small business owner, there is no doubt that it can greatly help you nevertheless. Here are some of my favourite reasons as to why :
Meeting fellow business owners
Meeting other people who get what it’s like to run their own business can have an incredible effect on your business and you. No matter how supportive your family and friends may be, becoming part of the self employed world is completely different to the corporate world. The corporate world tends to be very linear. Whereas being self employed can feel and look a little more like this…
No matter how you plan your business when you are self employed, you may not end up where you expected, taking many different paths along the way and potentially ending up somewhere completely different than where you expected to land!
You Never Know What Might Happen
I found this when attending networking events in Bristol as a self employed florist. To me, it was a little like wedding fairs. I may get some clients out of them, but mostly, you never know who you’re going to meet at these events.
It can be someone in your line of work, someone who can complement your work and help your business, or simply a new friend!
Also, you don’t know who knows who. Every individual has their own connections. Even if there is no one present at the time to directly become your client, once people know what you do and they get to meet you personally, they’re more likely to keep you in mind the next time someone tells them they’re looking for someone just like you.
It’s good practice to get you talking about your business
If anything else, attending networking events is a great way to practice talking about your business. You may not be pitching to clients directly, but the more you talk about your business, the clearer and more confident you will become. This means that when you next pitch your services to potential client, you will sound confident and will come across stronger.
How to get the most out of Networking
Show up & Be Yourself
What’s important, is to show up and talk about your business. Just be yourself.
It helps to come prepared. Take some time beforehand to write down the key points you would like to tell people about your business. Writing it down will help you be clear and be more confident when explaining to others what it is that you do.
When asked questions, given an opportunity to speak up, allowed time to mingle with the other attendees… , make sure you get involved and make the most of this time.
You can be friendly all while staying professional. Remember this is a work event, don’t overshare too much on your personal life, people are here to help promote and improve their businesses, just like you.
After the Event
It doesn’t stop as soon as you leave.
Make sure you follow the other attendees on social media, drop them an email if you enjoyed meeting them and have other things you would like to discuss with them, keep in touch with the organisers. If a Facebook group has been set up, make sure you comment on the posts and connect with the other members.
There are so many ways to make sure you get the most of session, you don’t have to follow through all of them, but the more you do, the more new opportunities are likely to come your way as a result.
Where to Find a Networking Event?
- Ask people around you
- Check with your local Chambre de Commerce or Chambre des Métiers
- Your local Tourist Office may know of a local networking group
- Have a look on Facebook to see if there are any nearby
- Linkedin is great for businesses too so may mention some there
What if there isn’t a Local Networking Event?
Create your own! If you’ve been thinking how great it would be to have such an event near you but you can’t find one, create your own! Set them up in local cafés to help promote local business. Get talking and make it happen.
If you’re local to 16700 and 86400…
Come and join us in our monthly Business Meet Ups. Alll details can be found here, and tickets can be bought in the shop. To be added to our mailing list, either drop us an email or sign up via our Facebook page : facebook.com/FionaLafonBusiness. I look forward to seeing you at the next one!
Do you attend Networking events? If not, have I convinced you to give it a go?
What do you love most about networking events? What has benefitted you the most by attending some?
I’d love to hear from you so do get in touch in the comments below!