Is professional networking a practice only for the business elite? Is it something relegated to big cities where tech entrepreneurs, bankers, and others can rub elbows? Absolutely not. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a fortune 500 CEO or a single-location restaurateur, networking is a valuable practice that can help you learn, connect, and form valuable relationships.
Why Small Business Networking Works
Here are some of the top reasons small business networking is something you should be doing.
You Never Know Who You’ll Meet
The first and most obvious reason to network is that you never know who you’ll meet. In a world where nearly half of the population is active on social media, it’s easy to forget the value of face-to-face interactions. But when it comes to networking, nothing beats an in-person meeting.
You have the opportunity to make a lasting first impression, exchange business cards, and even grab lunch or coffee to further get to know one another. You never know who you’ll meet or how they could help you in your business endeavors, so it’s always worth taking the time to network.
Simply lots of the right people is especially important if you're networking for real estate and other relationship-dependent industries. Real estate networking is a great way for independent agents or small real estate brokers to plug themselves in to their local communities.
Help Others and They’ll Help You
One of the best things about networking is that it’s not a zero-sum game. In other words, when you help others, they’re more likely to want to help you in return.
If you’re ever in a position to offer advice, resources, or connections to someone you met through networking, don’t hesitate to do so. Not only will you be viewed as a valuable resource, but you’ll also build good will that could come in handy down the road.
Grow Your Business
Small business networking can directly help you grow your business in a number of ways. For starters, you’ll be able to meet potential customers and get your name out there. You might also meet other small business owners who could become valuable partners or collaborators. If you know the secrets of effective professional networking you can generate incredible value for your business.
And as mentioned before, networking can also help you make connections with industry experts who can offer advice and guidance as you grow your business.
Learn from Others in Your Field
No matter how successful your business is, there’s always room for growth and improvement. One of the best ways to learn and improve is to network with other small business owners in your field.
Even if you’re at the top of your industry, there’s always something new to learn. Use networking as an opportunity to pick the brains of other small business owners and learn from their successes (and failures).
Get Away from Your Computer
In today’s world, it’s easy to spend all day (and night) glued to your computer. But as a small business owner, it’s important to take some time away from your screens and interact with the outside world. Networking events provide the perfect opportunity to do just that.
Not only will you get out of the house (or office), but you’ll also have the chance to socialize and relax a bit. Just make sure you don’t spend the entire event glued to your phone or laptop!
This isn't to say that small business owners shouldn't also be thinking about online networking - certainly, they should. But the biggest benefits a small business owner will get are from in-person networking events - especially ones where they can connect with other local businesspeople.
Small Business Networking Improves Your Image
Networking can also help improve your image and reputation. If you’re seen as a small business owner who is active in your community and always looking to meet new people, it will reflect well on your business.
Access to "Hidden" Opportunities
Networking can give you access to hidden job and business opportunities. If you’re looking for a new job or trying to grow your business, it never hurts to let your network know what you’re up to.
When you're first learning how to network, you might be surprised by how many people are willing to help you achieve your goals. And worst case least have made some new connections in the process.
So there you have it, some of the best reasons small business owners should be networking. If you’re not already networking, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start meeting people! And if you are networking, keep up the good work!
Do you have any networking tips to share? Let us know in the comments below!