There are countless business networks available to business owners. Many are more social than business – and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you know what you are getting. Are you overpaying for a nice lunch or are you getting something more out of it? What’s important to you?
Most business networks are events companies and they make their money by charging for the catering services, possibly bringing in a speaker. Similar to investing your time, money and energy in exhibitions and trade shows, business network events should be giving you a return on your investment. The best ones focus on making sure you get what you are looking for out of the event.
What should I be looking for at a Business Network?
Entrepreneurs need support to thrive. Surrounding yourself with others who genuinely care about what you’re doing can be the support system you need. There is real value in getting different points of view from fellow entrepreneurs who understand what your business means to you and have walked in your shoes.
There are so many networking groups that selecting the right ones can be a challenge (and you may have to kiss a few frogs before finding the “handsome prince”). Many paid networks allow a single guest visit to an event before making the decision to invest in joining.
I always request a second visit before making a decision – if this is rejected then it’s likely it’s not the group for me as a single meeting is not always typical and can be very difficult to assess.
The main benefits of a business network are different to having a Mentor:
- Business development
- Meeting likeminded people
- Access to advice
- Opportunities to collaborate
- You learn!
- Testing the market
The opportunity to develop your business and find new ways of connecting is invaluable. This can include finding out latest developments in your industry, meeting new suppliers or partners and building relationships for future expansion of your core business.
Meeting Like-Minded People
Running a company can be isolating so the chance to mix with people who are in the same position, who offer support and encouragement, can be energising and reassuring.
Finding someone who is on the same journey means you can get a fresh viewpoint and not feel so alone.
Access to advice
Most networking groups have a varied mix of entrepreneurs, from different industries and backgrounds, which means you have access to a wide range of advice.
More importantly you will be able to tap into the stories of others successes and failures, learn from their mistakes and plan for the future.
You never know who you are going to meet – or who they know! Regular attendance at a network allows you to build valuable relationships that may lead to working with any number of partners including developing new products and sharing of services.
In the day to day running of your business you may feel like you are learning every day but you’ll expand your learning significantly by being part of a networking group. A shared knowledge base through contact with like-minded individuals is one of the more powerful ways to increase your business knowhow and improve your chance of success.
Test the Market
It is a great chance to bounce ideas off your contacts, friends and associates!
This allows you to explore new products, businesses or ventures and get informed, genuine feedback that helps you make the right business decisions.
Referrals from your group
Often a network actively encourages referrals that can significantly boost your business. Each member of the group can become a new sales person on your behalf. Allowing them to get to know, like and trust your company means they will be looking for opportunities with their own client base or other networks that they attend.
Exposes Your Company
Your primary job is to get your company noticed for the right reasons. Every time you meet a new person, you have the opportunity to introduce your company to a wider audience.
Remember it’s not just about who YOU know, it’s about WHO KNOWS YOU (and by extension, your company).