Why You Need Business Networking to Succeed as an Entrepreneur
I'm sure at one point or the other you've come across people who have been able to skip unpleasant steps or be favoured for a position because of someone they know.
You know when you attend a function where your mother is part of those who prepared the food and you get an extra plate without struggling? Or that Alhaji who after making a call is let into the bank, by-passing the long queue at the gate?
These are perfect examples of the benefits of what knowing the right people can do in our day to day lives.
There's this popular Nigerian saying that goes "no be by wetin you Sabi, na by who you sabi". Meaning it's not always what you know but who you know that counts. This is in no way saying that your knowledge has no value, it is simply attributing to the fact that having powerful connections is invaluable.
Now, having connections is not only beneficial for getting a job, getting admission into the university or getting a hot plate of owambe rice first (lol).
The same logic can also be applied to the business sector as a strategy called Business Networking.
Networking is a socioeconomic activity where business owners connect or relate with competition, other business owners and potential clients. In a bid to share knowledge, grow affiliations, get new clients and so many more.
You can grow your network by attending functions in your industry, joining associations with related business owners, participating in seminars and through online business communities like Money Africa.
Bianca Miller, a contributor to ForbesWomen wrote, "Networking is not only about trading information, but also serves as an avenue to create long-term relationships with mutual benefits".
Think of networking as symbiosis; for effective networking, you as a business owner have to be able to give something of value to others, it may be your knowledge, services or products. For it to be a network, every unit has to recieve from the other and give something of value in turn.
Nigerian Career Strategist, Ucha Unimke-Ulayi told a story on the importance of having a powerful network; where a Retired Bank Executive was able to make revenues in billions offering premium services and bespoke consultancy with zero publicity and advertising. His mentorship programmes and executive classes are always oversubscribed with others in his waiting list.
How was he able to do this? He had quality social capital.
How do you develop social capital? Networking!
A Retired Bank Executive would have already made connections through the course of his career thereby developing a powerful network that he is cashing on now.
This is among the many, numerous success stories made possible by a powerful business network.
In a few points, we would be discussing why you need to Priotize networking as a strategy for growing your business.
Networking creates awareness for your business. When you run in social circles with like minded people, people who may need your services, join associations for business, attend activities like seminars and other events in your industry, you inevitably create awareness for your business.
Endeavor to speak about your business to people you consider valuable to you as a business owner, hand them a business card if you have one and ask for one in return if you can.
Building a network that consists of your competition and other businesses related to your field, you keep a hand on the pulse of your industry. Any new trends or update that concerns your business would get to you on time.
Business mentors are a necessity for a business that wants to break tides. What better way to meet someone who you admire and would want to learn first-hand from than through networking.
It is usually difficult if not impossible to get access to big wigs in your industry (Dangote for instance) through their offices on a regular day. But a semi-formal environment like a business dinner, would give the perfect opportunity to talk to them and maybe get a mentor.
Most often than not, the biggest business deals are not gotten from advertisement rather from people you know or referrals from people you know. Anyone in your network who hears of a deal or opportunity your business can handle, they'd be sure to inform you or refer your business.
Networking provides you with opportunities to meet investors and partners for your business.
The saying when we teach others we learn also, rings true for this point. Networking offers you the platform and opportunity to share the knowledge you've gathered from your experience as a business owner.
Networking doesn't only have to be business. When you meet people who share your interests and are like minded growing a bond of friendship is not far fetched. Look at networking as an opportunity to also make new friends.
The benefits of networking are still numerous, there are still others worthy of mention like networking enables you build your social capital. People who you might not need at the moment but would definitely be of value in the future.
This doesn't mean you should ignore them totally and only include them when they are needed. Call them from time to time and maintain a steady relationship with them.
Another important thing to note is that you shouldn't go around pestering people on your network for business deals during dinners and business events, some people might be put off by that.
Rather, speak to them about shared interests and then bring up the topic of your business, what products or services you offer.
Networking might come very easy for some, those who find it easy to talk to new people and make friends at first contact. Don't be deterred if you aren't like that; it can be learned especially with practice.
So, what are you waiting for, go on and get networking.
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