In today’s increasingly connected world, it can be all too easy to think that every contact is only a click, direct message or phone call away. However, the true value of face-to-face networking is immeasurable when starting a business. In fact, recent research shows that nine out of ten people still prefer face-to-face meetings, as opposed to using a phone or computer. Meeting people in person helps to build stronger, more meaningful business relationships – and as the age-old saying goes, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’.
Setting up a new business is often an extremely busy and challenging task. There are a number of different tasks all demanding your attention from the very outset – from coming up with the business idea and securing funding, through to registering the company with Companies House and implementing a robust business plan. When starting a business from scratch, entrepreneurs need to possess a wide variety of skills – in effect, you need to be a ‘jack of all trades’ whilst continuously developing knowledge and understanding in a range of areas, such as accountancy, HR, business law, leadership, and sales. The list is endless.
But aside from your own skills, you also need to have additional resources behind you in order to support the growth of your business. These resources can fill the gaps in your own expertise and open you up to opportunities you may not have otherwise had access to, such as investment, contacts, expertise and business experience.
And this is where business networking plays an extremely vital role. Done properly, it will generate strong, valuable relationships within the business world, where networked leaders can share and gain valuable insight from each other, enabling businesses to grow and flourish.
One of the main points I’ve noticed when it comes to successful networking is the business owner’s ability to connect with other people and how well they can sell themselves. Relationships and networks are built between like-minded people who can all offer something in a mutually beneficial way – whether this is advice or simply just an ear to listen. The relationship is a two-way street, so when it comes to networking, you need to think about what you can offer and then be able to put this across confidently when connecting with new people.
Building rapport is also massively important, and I find that strong relationships are often built on trust and respect that has been earned on both sides. We thrive on relationships with other people and the simple benefits of having friends in the business world should not be overlooked. Having someone who has experienced similar problems or understands the specific challenges found in a certain sector means they can provide valuable insight and advice – perhaps they found a way to overcome the issue, or have the expertise to deal with a complicated situation. We can’t be an expert in everything, so if one person has skills and experiences that an acquaintance doesn’t, then why not share that expertise? It’s likely they’ll do the same in return.
Every new contact is worth their weight in gold because they may present an opportunity that opens up new doors, or they’ll become a trusted connection that can be relied on in a time of need.
Business networking is an extremely important process when it comes to building a successful business, and is something that all entrepreneurs can get considerable value from. Building strong relationships does take years and requires thought and effort to nurture and develop them. However, once these relationships have been established, they will provide valuable rewards. When it comes to the business world, the difference between what you know and who you know may very likely hold the key to significant success.
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