When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Networking

This has become my new mantra and quite honestly, I wish I would have seen the light a little earlier.  However, as a small business owner swamped with trying to make sales, market the business, oversee the day-to-day operations, and oh yeah- create the product, I just never saw where “having lunch” had a worthy place in my hectic day.  How could mingling be a priority when I still had bills to pay?  This year I finally became a little more open-minded.  With sales slowed and a little free time, I finally decided to join in on a couple happy hours and group dinners.  After my first happy hour with a couple of other entrepreneurs, I had found a new CPA, brainstormed with an ex-Neiman Marcus buyer on ideas for fine tuning my line, and found a new favorite wine.  Not bad, plus I actually had a good time!  Letting off some steam with fellow entrepreneurs who understood my situation was exactly what I needed to help me re-focus and re-energize.  Needless to say, I got the “networking” bug and have tried to incorporate some type of business mingling at least twice a month ever since.  With the likelihood of continued tough times ahead of us, we all need a little help.  Instead of spending money on a business coach or consultant, why not try to reach out to a couple colleagues first?  Here are some ideas and tips to get you started networking like a pro:

Get social…

  •  Visit networking sites like www.meetup.com for groups in your area that might be of interest. 
  • Volunteer to help with organizations you believe in
  • Join local trade groups, the chamber of commerce, or even Toastmasters
  • Host a brunch/happy hour for parents in your child’s class
  • Coordinate a block party for your neighborhood or business park

Know the etiquette…

  •  Listen twice as much as you talk… you’re not there to convert followers, you’re there to connect with others…
  • Leave the “hard sell” at home… the possibility of making a sale is an added bonus- not a necessity…
  • Have a plan… do you want advice on hiring a lawyer, feedback on your new tagline, or tips on negotiating a commercial lease?  You’re more likely to accomplish your goals if you define them from the start
  • Remember the golden rule… help others make introductions when you see a good fit and they will happily do the same for you
  • Follow-up with referrals quickly and send thank you notes to the person who made the referral
  • Be consistent… showing up once every six months is not going to help you become the “go to” guy/gal

Does anyone else have tips or suggestions for getting started networking?  I’d love to hear them!  Email me at [email protected] or leave a comment below…

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