Starting a new business can feel overwhelming at times. As the owner, there is a lot you have to take care of – from creating an idea, to developing a business plan, to securing funding – among other things. It can feel like you are on your own in the middle of the ocean, left to sink or swim. Well it doesn’t have to – if you unlock the power of networking.
Networking is all about making connections, and then building those connections into relationships. It’s a skill that is crucial to the success of all business owners— in particular to those who are just starting out. There are several benefits to networking, including:
Giving your business more visibility: People often say that they invest in a person, not a brand. Getting out there and building rapport while networking can also help build your brand and reputation, and ultimately grow your customer base.
Building connections with other entrepreneurs: You may meet someone who has experienced some of the same challenges you are facing. You may even find a great mentor to help provide some emotional support during tough times, which over time can help you gain confidence.
Developing relationships with industry professionals: Exposure to others in your industry can introduce you to new ideas and ways of thinking, which can greatly reduce your learning curve. They can also introduce you to new industry specific connections, including future partners like suppliers and distributors.
Increase your happiness: You may be focusing on the professional benefits of networking, but there are benefits from an emotional standpoint as well. Since networking is all about building relationships, it’s no surprise many friendships have started at professional functions.
At this point, you may be asking yourself “where do I begin?” Here are some places to start building your professional network:
Local business organizations: Organizations like your local chamber of commerce are designed to promote and protect the interests of its members. Their meetings are a great opportunity to network as they are full of other business people like yourself.
Industry events: Workshops, conferences, and other industry gatherings are a great way to meet connections and exchange ideas.
Online communities: Places like LinkedIn groups allow you to connect with others and share information.
Professional associations: Industry specific associations can offer great resources and offer insights into any upcoming changes like legislation that could impact your field.
Social media: Platforms like Twitter (X), TikTok, and Instagram can increase your reach by sharing updates on your company and product, and allowing you to engage with others in your industry.
Take some time this week and find a future networking event to attend. Set a goal with how many quality connections you want to meet during that event, and come prepared to attend with business cards, your story, and your genuine self. Finally, nurture those connections over time by following up and build on the relationship you started during that event. Even though you may own your business, you don’t have to be alone - and it starts by unlocking the power of networking!