No, you don’t – there are other ways – give me a moment and I’ll think of some………eerrrrrr….
actually, networking is one of the best ways as a newbie in business or an established small business to make useful connections.
If you are running your own small business you may work alone, or with one or two other people. That can be quite lonely and can limit creativity and idea generation. It might be good to get out there and meet some new people who would be willing to support you with ideas and advice.
What is networking? It’s really very simple. Groups come together to share what they do and to see how they can help others. For me, the most important thing is that you help others – it may not be by selling them your product or service in the first instance. It may be that you can offer some advice, or a contact they need, or just offer some moral support. That builds relationships – you get to know people across time, it doesn’t happen quickly. But if you keep consistently turning up and talking with others you will build connections and people will come to trust you, and hopefully, eventually use your service or buy from you, and recommend you to others.
I hate being a stranger in the room. Yes, it’s hard to walk into a room when you don’t know anyone. Choose your group carefully. Some networking groups are quite formal or informal, industry specific, very structured etc. Pick a group that feels the most comfortable for you to start off with. Once you have gained confidence you may venture further into other types of group.
The one minute. Most groups have a method for everyone to introduce themselves. This is usually a one-minute time slot for you say what you do and/or what you need from the group. Have this prepared beforehand so that you feel more confident. Read from a crib sheet if that helps. Have business cards to hand round the room or place some on a table (some groups prefer this).
Follow up. Make a point of speaking to the people in the room whom you feel would be useful to you and follow that up after the meeting with an email or by connecting on social media.
Top tip. Remember if you are stuck and feel uncomfortable meeting new people just ask them questions about themselves and their business. That takes the spotlight off you – you are showing interest in them. They should be a good networker and then ask you questions about you and, hey presto, you are networking!
The Therapists’ Network is a very gentle way of networking. We are, obviously, industry specific; our groups are open to any type of therapist. Our meetings are informal, welcoming and friendly. You will be amongst like-minded people so chats often are around therapy, personal development, care and compassion. We have speakers who talk about their therapy, and also, business matters. Many connections are made, referrals made, and collaborations are born. Many also have previous lives in other specialisms, and use providers of other services themselves, so you can get recommendations from other industries too.
I have learnt so much since starting the network about other therapies (indeed, I have tried many!) and now know therapists across Kent to whom I can refer and ask advice of and receive referrals from. I no longer feel alone working from home and have made friends. What’s not to like?!?
Linda Bishopp Founder The Therapists’ Network