Created by potrace 1.14, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Making Connections: Networking for a Small Business

  • Starting a small business is a complicated and exhausting task. But it is also one of the most rewarding things you could ever do. The freedom that comes with running your own company and building something from the ground up is filled with rewards. But as said before, it is a challenge. And this challenge goes beyond the simple logistics of running a business.

    When starting a small business you will be faced with a lot of logistical problems that you have to overcome. You have to get staff and stock. You need a building and a website. You need bank accounts and start-up capital. All of this is done long before you start the business.

    One of the most important aspects of running a small business is often overlooked. Networking. It is a powerful tool that does more good for a business than perhaps anything else. But what is networking and how can you, as a small business owner, utilize it to your advantage? Below we are going to take a look at all these questions.

    What is it?

    A business needs customers. This is the fundamental basis that any small business owner will know. And a lot of times customers will come to you, providing you have put in the leg work on your marketing. But a small business cannot rely on their marketing alone. You need friends and support from people around your community and other businesses. This is where networking comes in.

    For example, let us look at a company like Royalty Windows. This small business has a very clear and singular purpose. They install windows. And they have done their marketing and have an online presence. But is that going to be enough? What if some new residents move into town and, rather than googling a good company to use, they ask about at local real estate agencies and the like. This is where networking comes into play.

    Networking is connecting with other businesses, people, professionals with the idea to build a professional relationship with them that isn’t based on the customer dynamic. It is about letting people know what you are all about and getting them to work with you and you for them.,

    How it Works

    Once you have begun networking, you will have a few different businesses and people who are aware of you and your company. They will, hopefully, see you in a positive light and are more likely to recommend you to people. In the case of a window company, a real estate agency that has been networked would happily recommend them to potential customers.

    It is expected that networking will work both ways, all the people involved will work together to increase awareness of their individual companies. But going a step further, networking is also about meeting people who can provide you with better deals when it comes to buying inventory. For a lot of companies you will be purchasing equipment or stock from somewhere else and networking is a great opportunity to meet other businesses that could offer you cheaper prices and better deals.

    How to do it

    It’s great knowing what networking is and how it can work for you. But you might be asking how you even begin to go about networking successfully. And yes, it is possible to network wrong. And doing this could cause harm to your business. So it is important to know what to do and what not to do.

    First, you need to know who you want to network with. Finding random people on the street won’t help at all. Like advertising, you need to be target specific people or companies that could most help you. The first step in that is looking at what your business does. Do you sell windows? Are you a landscaping company? Perhaps you teach baseball. Whatever it is, you need to network with people who are near enough to your line of work that they can help.

    Second, you need to be positive and kind, but not overstep any boundaries. Networking is a social activity above all else but is a business social activity. To that end, you need to remember it is good to be friendly and kind to the people you are networking with, but stay polite and don’t cross any boundaries. If you exchange numbers and information with someone in a professional networking capacity, don’t then start emailing them about your day or making general chit chat. Information is valuable and these people are trusting you to not abuse their good favor.

    Thirdly, you need to be ready to give as much as you take. A company that networks simply to boost themselves without offering anything else up is quickly going to earn a bad reputation. Remember, as people network they talk about their respective fields and businesses, but they also discuss other businesses. If you abuse someone’s good favor you can expect them not to recommend you but to actively warn people aginst helping your company. This could even lead to the potential loss of customers.

    The world of business is difficult to navigate. Knowing how to act and what to say can be daunting but there are many tools out there to help you expand your skillset. Be positive. Stay alert. And above all else, work hard. It will all pay off in the end.