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Debi & Juliet

To Network or Not To Network? That is the question!

By Honeypot Marketing, Jun 4 2014 12:42PM

One of the difficulties about working for yourself or running a small business, is that you no longer have the teams behind you that you find in a larger organisation, so you become your own HR team, your own IT team and of course, your own sales team! As you build your business, there is a challenge to be tackled about how to find new leads which will bring in new work, thus securing future viability.

One way to do this, particularly when you are the owner of a micro business (at the end of 2013 there were an estimated 4.9 million SMEs in the UK with a turnover of £3,000 billion), nowadays is to attend local networking events. The thought of walking into a room full of people all hell bent on selling themselves and their business to you, whilst all the while assuming a position of extreme interest about you and your business, can seem a little daunting!

The way to do it, we are told, is to attend regularly so you build up a relationship with the members or regulars of your chosen group (and there are many, many out there, in all shapes and sizes!), and then the work leads come flooding in! Well, ok, not perhaps flooding in, but there is a well-documented notion that says that the people you meet may be able to push some business your way, but more powerfully, they also know people that may be in need of your services and therefore would be best placed to advocate you to their friends, thus increasing the potential to find out about new business by a huge amount.

The challenge for the ‘newbies’ in the networking arena is that you have to get across in a very short space of time, what it is that you do, that you’re good, honest and trustworthy, and that you’re a good person to do business with. And that’s all fine – it really just concentrates and condenses what you need to do in any public arena to get new business anyway.

The ‘but’ here is that it can seem so very engineered. The chance meeting with someone that you end up working with is no longer chance; it’s fine tuned and tailored to the nth degree. It’s like a work-based singles club - you all know what you’re there for and you know that you have just two hours. You could walk away with your ‘dream date’, or you could end up having your ear bent for two hours by the one person in the room with which you know you have nothing in common!

The whole thing is held together by the common theme of food, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, canapés and nibbles, but being able to talk about who you are, what you do, find out about who others are with a mouth full of food is a challenge within itself. There are seasoned pros at these networking events who have it down to a fine art but for myself, even a cup of coffee gets breathed in instead of drinking it so that my cool, professional persona is destroyed by a choking fit or two, with coffee streaming elegantly from my nose - and when they have free wine……

In truth, networking events are the lifeline of many small businesses and their owners, and many a business deal is done over breakfast, and I wouldn’t set out to imply anything else, but the health warning is that sometimes you have to get past that kind of ‘cult’ feeling, that you’re being sucked into something quite strange and mysterious, before you can really feel entirely comfortable with this way of doing business, and just bite the bullet and go for it!

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