Friday, 26 March 2010

Networking Or Not Working?

People are funny, well some are anyway.  Small Business folk are not exempt from this observation. To the outsider the self made businessman/woman is self possessed, confidant and intent on their next million as they move purposefully from meeting to meeting.
In most cases the truth is very different. I am struck by several things from recent networking events I have attended. I do this for several reasons not all of which are shared by other attendees. My primary motivation is to gather some business. You would think that applied to everyone but not so. My secondary reason is why. If I did not attend these events I would very soon be ‘out of the loop’ as the expression goes.
By listening at least as much as I am asked to speak I pick up news and tips, I gather who is doing what and I get to know and trust people I can use at some point to supplement my own business offerings to my clients. On a simple basis it gives me a boost to hobnob with business colleagues and become known to their contacts as we go. Under this heading also is the simple human pleasure in conversing with other people and that I have discovered is more appreciated than I had realised.
In training presentations I do about setting up in Business successfully I have a slide entitled ‘loneliness’. That is a surprise to many but under that heading I cover the need for social interaction as well as talking about the responsibility of being the boss of a small business. The buck stops very much here and that covers making the tea as much as doing the background reading, as much as turning up when and where you say you will as well as presenting your business well and actually producing whatever you say you will.
For anyone wanting to Start up in business who has been an employee for years the change comes as a dawning surprise that there is no boss to ask, no books of instruction to obey and no pay if you go on holiday.
There are so many networking clubs, events, sessions and things to attend that it no longer matters if you don’t. At one time it was a benefit to be seen at a number of events. It showed you were out and about, that you were aware and hungry for business. Nowadays it is the case like some bus routes where it doesn’t matter if you miss one, another will be along in a minute.
In the last week there are some people I have seen at every event. I have been there as well, of course so I can’t criticise them for that.  However it is clear there are other people there who have no idea what they can get from  it. These days the word had got around and you don’t get many hard sellers grabbing you by the lapels and doing a number on you with their carefully rehearsed elevator speech.  Intent on their own message they give the impression they are not interested in you or yours. At the other extreme there are still some who attend a couple of events and seem to converse only with the colleague who brought them. Others seem to want to be able to measure the ‘outcomes’ and only attend where they can score some business.
Some are content to have their business facade. Bankers, Solicitors and Accountants are often poor networkers who have a Brass Plate mentality and wouldn’t see an opportunity if it hit them. They might be affable and convivial but it never goes anywhere, unless they receive a direct request for assistance.    
There are the micro mini businesses, often interested in multi level marketed body products of some sort. They service a circle of friends for a year or two and realise it is costing them all their commissions and all their time and effort to deliver an overpriced substance to a punter some miles away. 
The solutions for all these observations depends on the form of the event, but all have some common aspects. The spark between businesses is a part of what they have on offer.  That funeral director should have the florist’s brochure with him when he sits down with the family. He should get the signage company to push his monumental masonry as an alternative to traditional signs. He should talk to the IFA  about his funeral plans.
The printer should have working association with the marketing and branding people, the business development people and the web site people as well as the graphic designer. Any marketing function should also be able to offer the services of the finance and grant associates.
The point is whatever the speciality, it is always part of something bigger. The new website is for growth, for promotion, for fitting in with the brochures and needs the funding in place. The secondary point is that networking needs to be understood in the context of your business and the sort of event it is.
If you are a new startup finding your way or an old established business who has wondered if there is anything in this networking lark, then get some help to rationalise your approach and get your skills in place. Bob Shepherd Associates gives businesses direction and saves you time and money. One of the topics we cover is networking as part of a presentational strategy.

1 comment:

  1. As a serial networker, this all rings so true. People assume that all they have to do is turn up and they’ll get business people queueing up to buy from them. Not so!! Networking is a skill that can be learnt. As a previous client of Bob’s I suggest that you get in touch with him, he could save you time and money.