The Networking Game

It’s been a busy couple of weeks on the OMC front.  Even in the current economic times business is brisk and opportunities continue to be plentiful.  That seems to be the response from many of the people I have been speaking to lately.

The wonderful thing is the number of people determined to start their own businesses and to make the most of the opportunities that arise around them.

Networking has been all the rage in recent years within the business world, particularly for small and medium size businesses, who feel that they have to do a little more or go a little farther in order to get noticed.  Even government funded organisations have realised the benefits for enterprise of setting up and getting into networking. But networking in its truest sense has been around for quite some time.

Remember the term ‘the old boys network’? Well, I heard someone refer to that phrase recently, adding that men have been doing it longer and are better at it.  Well I don’t know if that is really correct, but I would agree that men have been finding ways of meeting together to talk about business; creating working partnerships; building businesses and working relationships away from the workplace for centuries.

Also true is the fact that men have made it a point to make time for this important part of their business and in some cases, their personal development.  And it has worked very successfully for them.

I can hear many people saying that these associations were opened to only a few and that women were in many cases not welcomed.  And all of these points are probably true in one regard or another.

However, the point I am making here is that networking works.  Whatever group, association or organisation you may choose to sign up to, to do your networking is entirely your choice.  The whole idea of getting together to create associations or synergies that work for all parties, particularly in these times of economic challenge, to help to grow businesses and the economy can only be a good thing.  Like all other endeavours, however, there is a good and bad way to do it.

Before I go further and before I get lots of emails and telephone calls from my female friends,  I would like to quickly add that I certainly believe that women have also been networking for years too.  However their focus of discussion has not been on building businesses, but building families, communities and homes.  Maybe we have just not looked at it in the same way.

But meeting up to share ideas, information, support, advice and help.  Introducing and welcoming new comers and working together to develop individual and joint  skills and aims is also  networking.  Men and woman have just done the same thing differently and with a slightly different focus in mind.  But achieving the development of something bigger ultimately.

Good networking, whatever its form can be the start of excellent businesses relationships and friendships.  Unfortunately far too many people go into it with the wrong idea and expectation.  As with everything else in life, you get out of it what you put in.  If you go into networking with the sole intention of selfishly getting only what you want, your gains will be short lived.  If you go into it with the openness that allows you to help others find what or who they are looking for, then you reap reward after reward.

If you are looking for a truer networking experience, I do hope you come across a group of individual business people who understand the importance of giving first before you receive.  It may take some time, but there are a few out there.  As has been said a number of times before – in networking we all know what we are out here to achieve, but I would also add that it’s the quality of the experience that makes the difference.  Learn how to network correctly and put your heart into it – be a quality networker and reap the rewards. Its worth it for your business.

I think for a newer style of networking to work, we have to combine the softer supportive approach that we women bring to the more business focussed approach of the men – and there we have it – a modern day form of networking that appeals to both sexes, but achieves its purpose of making connections, exchanges services, products and information and building businesses, not to forget friendships.

I have met some great men and women who have built network groups that offer this special experience. To mention two of my favorites, it could only be Richard Beldon’s Let’s Go Local Network and the CMI Women In Management Network (WiM) in Leicester.

Although WiM is not a business focussed networking group (it’s focus is on personal development) many a business and partnership has been started through people meeting at these events. And Richard Beldon has a passion for helping people and a skill in connecting people together that I have seen in very few others.  Richard runs an online website, but also hold networking events for his customers and friends. These are great events and I would recommend you visiting both if you have the chance.

The key to excellent networking is to look at the broader picture and to understand that through networking you can achieve some very quick, big hits (but these more likely fewer);  but in the main networking works on a longer term ‘slower burn’.  Its more about building relationships.  Another old saying ‘its not what you know, but who you know’ comes out of good networking.

Networking is about selling. A true salesperson will tell you that people buy people long before they buy the product or service on offer.  The purpose of networking is to sell you, so that your fellow networkers grow to trust you, the quality of your service or product and can then recommend you or refer your service.  This can only be done over time.  People very seldom say let me introduce you to this chair.  They will however say let me introduce to this person who sells and excellent chair.  People buy people first.

Personally, I would not recommend someone who I do not know or cannot trust.  In order to be to be able to do these two things I have to get to know a little about you and your product or service.  For me my recommendation is my word and my reputation.

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