Well, Who Do You Know?...
Isolation and introspection can be deadly failings for new business people. Involvement and inclusion are the antidotes, with networking the brand name of the cure.
With all the demands on your time made by your business, professional and personal life, it is tempting to give a low priority to meeting new people. After all, you will have so many commitments to your new business, and to your colleagues, family and friends, that it will be difficult to set aside extra time to bring even more people into your life.
This thinking would be wrong, however, on two levels. For one, you are constantly being introduced to new people anyway, every day, with no disruption to your schedules.
Secondly, by not consistently widening your circle of acquaintances and contacts, you will be severely curtailing your businesses chances of success.
Networking â meeting useful people - will provide your start-up and growing business with numerous benefits: you will not be working alone, but will benefit from the knowledge and experience of others who are also starting or growing their own business.
Knowledge really is power in business. You cannot acquire knowledge without connecting with other people and, from a business point of view; networking provides an organised, structured and powerful way of making those connections. The benefits of networking are numerous: network participants, typically, learn better practice from their peers and acquire sales and development opportunities; find a wider choice of suppliers, increase sales opportunities and learn how to cut costs.
Both you, and your business will benefit. The process leads to new contacts and new friendships. Through networking, you will no longer be isolated. Networking can be both a reality check for your business, and provide free market research.
Gaining from Networks
If you and your business are going to gain from being the members of a network it is most important that you approach it in the right frame of mind. Experience shows that people who are driven entirely by their own agendas usually get less than they expect. If you participate to give as much as to receive, you will find that your 'giving' is reflected back. It is, therefore, important to be open, to be a node for giving and taking. Not listening is bad networking!
Developing good formal networking skills will provide you with the key to keeping ahead of the competition. To make the most of your networking opportunities make sure you develop a three-minute informal presentation on your business, yourself, your products and services: -
- Be open - Openness generates trust;
- Listen: value your new contacts;
- Ask questions about your new contact's business and background: everyone carries an extensive network with them;
- Give if you wish to receive;
- Bring your business cards, brochures, or DVD's;
- Introduce yourself and others;
- Keep moving and meet as many people as possible;
- Plan to establish at least two new contacts;
- Give referrals;
- Don't be afraid to state what you are interested in and ask what the other person is looking for;
- Follow up within seven days by phone, email or letter.
There are networks and opportunities to network everywhere. Sports clubs - Rugby, GAA, Sailing, Golf or whatever - provide opportunities for you to meet people with similar interests. Members may be business people, like you, professionals or involved in key trades. The Internet provides great networking opportunities both at home and globally.
- Your Local Enterprise Office responds to the networking needs of businesses, and will provide you with the most up to date information on networking opportunities in your area.
- Local Enterprise Office also operates Enterprise Network for Women, a network that meets monthly to support and network women in business.
- Graduates establish a high percentage of new businesses, and Universities and other third level colleges provide excellent networks in their own right. Many of these are a study in best practice and should be investigated.
- BNI (Business Network International) is a business and professional networking organisation that offers members the opportunity to share ideas, contacts and referrals. There are currently 14 chapters, or groups, meeting in the Dublin area.
- PLATO Dublin is led by owner-managers from large companies. These 'parent' companies provide experienced executives to support you and your fellow owner-managers.
- The Small Firms Association (SFA) is the national organisation exclusively representing the needs of small enterprises in Ireland. The SFA provides economic, commercial, employee relations and social affairs advice and assistance as well as networking opportunities for its more than 8,000 members.
- ISME the small business representative organisation also host a number of events every year that are excellent places to carry out networking with other SME's.
- Dublin Chamber of Commerce, and North Dublin Chamber of Commerce both represent the interests of businesses, both large and small, and offers significant opportunities for you to promote your business, and to network with other members.
- Skillnets Limited is the enterprise-led support body that enhances the skills of people in employment to support competitiveness and employability. There are currently some 12 Skillnets Networks operating in Dublin, and details can be obtained from www.skillnets.com.
- Finuas facilitates international financial services companies to form enterprise-led learning networks to deliver training and professional development programmes that meet the specific needs of businesses. Eligible businesses must be directly involved in, or provide professional services to the international financial services sector. More information can be obtained from www.finuas.ie.