20 Years in Business Tip:  Join a Networking Group Early

Networking is a super important component of marketing for small businesses and definitely needs to form part of your marketing strategy.  It is one of the most effective ways to get the word out there about your business.  Networking can be done online or offline and provides so many benefits to your business as well as to you as a business owner.  Twenty years when I first started my consultancy (it was called Ailsa Page and Associates then) I knew I needed to network.  Back then social media wasn’t available so face to face networking was the main option.  I did network in Melbourne but I just didn’t join a group.

In hindsight, I wish I had joined a networking group earlier than I did – Ailsa Page

I went to networking events as I enjoyed meeting new people, I also keep up contact with colleagues from previous workplaces.  One of the main reasons I started my own business was because I wanted to be my own boss – I like to do things my way in my time.  I was also happy working in isolation.  So the thought of joining a networking group didn’t really cross my mind.  I’m not even sure they existed back then.  If you wanted a networking group you had to organise it on your own.  I did join Chambers of Commerce and other such bodies but they certainly don’t bring the same benefits as a networking group, particularly one that is focused on business referrals.

Luckily through some business colleagues of mine I discovered a local networking group that I am a member of to this day. Westgate Referral Network group.

Here are some of the benefits I have received from being in a networking group.

You don’t feel so alone

The biggest thing that a networking group can do is reduce the feelings of isolation which many business owners experience.  You get to hang out with people doing what you are doing.  They understand what it’s like to run your own business and that can be such a great relief, particularly if many of your friends or family have no idea what it’s like to run a business!  I’ve been amazed at how many people in my networking group have become my really great friends.

Access to tried and tested suppliers

This has been one of the most valuable things for my business.  Great suppliers help to make a great business.  By building strong relationships with people who you do business with there are distinct benefits. My suppliers will often go that extra mile and that helps my business.  I met many of my current suppliers through the networking group.  Even though many no longer belong to the networking group but they are still my suppliers.

I came to a networking group after being in business for 9 years so I was pretty established.  If you are just starting up a networking group can really help you navigate your way and learn from other experienced people.

Helps With Motivation

Being around people enthusiastic about business helps keep you motivated.  Many of the members of my networking group mention how going to a meeting helps with motivation.  Without a doubt I always leave in a better mood than when I arrived.  I think it’s more than just the great coffee!

Share the Load

There are good times and bad times in business and it’s nice to have others to share the journey with you.  Recently one of our members won a business award and his networking buddies were all there cheering him and celebrating his win with him.

Sounding Board

When you develop good business friendships you then have people to bounce your ideas off.  Sharing business challenges such as how to deal with difficult customers or discussing technology with other trusted business owners can be extremely helpful.

Introductions to New Customers

Of course one of the key reasons people join networking groups is to get more business and yes this definitely occurs.  It might be through forming joint ventures, getting work from members in the group or through their referrals. I think more than the sales a networking group gives you the opportunity to surround yourself with a team of people who take an interest in your business and that is invaluable.

If you would like to know more about how networking works come along to this Authentic Networking Event I’m presenting at.