Editors Note: This is a guest post written by Caroline Gilroy – Principal Consultant at Purple Lightbulb. Her opinions are her own.
Ever since I was a small child I have seen the benefits of networking.
My father worked in mass market retailing and he used his well-honed networking skills to engage with clients, suppliers and prospects to build his business. Some of my earliest memories of my father are being with him at corporate events when he was meeting new people and building trusted relationships with them. He was very successful in business because of it.
He was a great role model and through him I pursued an early career in corporate hospitality. My first jobs were at White Hart Lane, Tottenham Hotspur’s homeground and then at Twickenham Rugby Ground. Through these part-time roles I witnessed networking on a larger scale.
I have lived and breathed networking all my life and I highly value its importance for business people. Investing your time in building and developing long-term relationships won’t necessarily translate into immediate profits but it will build strong businesses in the medium- to long-term and provide many other additional benefits.
How powerful is the statement: “I know someone who can …” when someone says it to you?
If you want it to be you that everyone knows, thinks of and recommends, you have to be a good networker and be comfortable building relationships.
Here are the eight key reasons to network:
1. Driving Word-Of-Mouth Recommendations
This is the essential reason for networking. The more people you know who know what you do the more recommendations you will get. Successful businesses are built on referrals.
2. Encouraging Mentors
Networking helps you to find people with lots of business experience who are often very willing to share their knowledge with you. Successful business people are usually generous with advice particularly with people open to listening.
3. Finding Suppliers
Networking is a great way to find the best suppliers and to build value-for-money relationships. Whatever sort of supplier you are looking for, whether it is an accountant, copywriter, recruiter, web designer, or insurance broker you will come across them all in your networks. Finding suppliers that network often provides opportunities for two-way business.
4. Understanding Market Opportunities
Networking is a great way to broaden your thinking and to find new ideas to find potential clients or see different target markets that you hadn’t thought of. People you meet networking often can help you to identify new market opportunities you might not have thought of. Some people you meet may offer synergies with what you do.
5. Getting New Ideas and Innovations
Meeting other business people and talking about business is a fantastic way of learning new ways to do business. Every business is different and all business people have their own ideas. Finding out how people in other industries, other markets or with different products get business helps you to generate new ideas and perhaps adapt other people’s innovations to your own business.
6. Finding Inspiration
Entrepreneurs share a common energy. Mixing with people who have to rely on their own resources to survive and who have to think outside the square to get the edge on their competitors is always an inspiration. Meeting business people who have the same difficulties but are willing to share their solutions is a great encouragement.
7. Improving Your Communication
Getting out there and introducing yourself and your business to strangers soon teaches you the best way to get your message across. At first it can be very hard but practice and familiarity soon makes it second nature. I have seen some people transform from shy beginners to confident crowd-players as their experience builds.
8. Making Great New Friends
Although we focus on business, networking can also bring you wonderful new friends. It can’t fail to! You share your ideas, your goodwill and your enthusiasm for business with like-minded people. Strong friendships combined with strong business alliances are very powerful forces in building your network.
Purple Lightbulb is a business advisory firm working with small businesses and not for profits to support them in the areas of strategic development, marketing, business and client relationship development, and operations. Purple Lightbulb acts as an extension of a team on a short- or long-term basis to enable business owners to focus on what they do best, whilst also building their business smartly and confidently.