South Africa
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Grow your business

3 Ways (and reasons) why you should be networking for business growth

Open the door to meeting people who can help you and your business. Whether you are looking for advice, introductions or influence, networking offers you a great source of connections.

Strong partnerships build even stronger businesses. This is why networking is an important part of most growth strategies. Generating mutual interest with professional contacts is vital because even the most extensive contact list won’t benefit you without some sort of relationship.

“Networking has long been recognised as an effective platform for professionals and business people,” says Marie Yossava of local PR agency Grapevine Communications.

“Despite the tools now at our disposal, helping to forge new relationships, the value of long-standing partnerships cannot be underestimated.”

Take note

“By regularly networking and pushing yourself to talk to people you don’t know, you will achieve increased self-confidence,” says strategy consultant Kim Baird.

“This is really important as a business owner because your business growth is very dependent on talking to people and making connections.” New ways to network are emerging all the time, and they’re not all based on technology.

Here are some business network tips that industry leaders have learnt on their journey to success:

1. Make use of social media

Search for the social media profiles of everyone you’ve gathered information on and follow them. If you aren’t ready for a formal introduction or are currently unable to meet the connection in person, social media is a great tool to stay in touch.

“With the advent of the internet and social media, new ways of networking have overtaken personal interaction,” says Yossava. “Take LinkedIn, for example, a site designed specifically to connect members of the business community by allowing registered users to make contact and share information with trusted industry peers. It has equally become an effective platform for acquiring new business.”

You shouldn’t let your networking only happen online though. It is a way to initiate contact, not a long-term solution to relationship building in business.

2. Attend major industry events

Once you’ve made contact and you’re prepared to meet in person, take note of functions that could facilitate a fruitful connection.

“Make an initiative to attend events that you wouldn't normally. If you only go to things you like, you will never expand your horizons. Attending a variety of events allows you to meet people who can help you in different ways,” says CEO of the LaSalle Network Tom Gimbel.

The annual Small Business Expo, for example, hosts a range of in-depth workshops across a broad range of strategic and practical business topics. More importantly, it also facilitates networking between entrepreneurs, business support services and investors. You can attend an event like this and find mentors, business partners and future employees.

3. Don’t limit your network

Not everyone you meet at events will be of immediate interest, but that doesn’t make the encounter pointless. Take these words from Tom Farley, president of the New York Stock Exchange, into consideration:

“Sometimes it’s individuals completely outside your immediate sphere that end up being a connector or offering the savvy advice that propels you forward at a crucial junction. The most successful people that I’ve met at the NYSE—including chairmen, CEOs and heads of state—have the broadest and most interesting range of networks spanning industries, occupations, geographies and ideologies.”

Networking isn’t just for start-ups looking for investors to buy into their business ideas. It’s a vital tool for business growth, even at a later stage in your business’s life. You never know who you’ll meet online, at an industry event or even someplace where you weren’t even looking. Be social, be bold and don’t limit your pool of connections, and you’ll soar.

Do this

  • Social media is a great place to identify specific people from particular organisations; make use of it (there are specific sites for this purpose).
  • Make a special effort to attend events you wouldn’t normally go to: expand your horizons (and contact list).
  • Everyone at every level could be a valuable contact one day: don’t disqualify people based on either of your industries or level of expertise.