Business Networking…What’s the Point?
So you’ve decided to bring your ideas to life, you’ve started a business and taken that first step in to a whole new world, so now what…business networking?
What is all this talk about business networking and what use is it to you. You’ve been researching a few events online, none of them seem to make much sense. Plus you have this niggling voice in the back of your head: “What exactly is the point?” “What am I going to get out of it?” “I could be doing something way more productive than chatting to a load of random people”
Well here’s where you might be wrong!
We’ve had a chat with a few successful young entrepreneurs from across Kent and how they have used business networking as a tool on their road to business success:
Alex Auger – Think Press
I started my business THINK Press from the kitchen at home by myself, I had little to no idea about what networking entailed. Being only 23 my knowledge and access to the right contacts was extremely limited. With no friends or family working in the industry I was starting up in, taking the first steps towards getting the business going was quite daunting.
I decided to look locally for some support in starting up, and came across the Kent Foundation ‘A Blast!’ business networking event. It looked like the perfect first step so I signed up. I remember the evening before the event suddenly having that sinking feeling. I had absolutely no idea what ‘networking’ events were like. I quickly printed some business cards onto some card I found at home (cut out by hand!) which made me feel a little more professional, and spent a bit of time Googling. Alas, this wasn’t overly helpful so the next morning I found myself standing outside the event feeling unbelievably nervous about what I was even going to say to people.
These nerves were completely unnecessary as the structure and atmosphere of the event was fantastic. I quickly found I had things in common with lots of the young entrepreneurs that I met. The more experienced business people were also more than willing to give me advice and point me in the direction. I met Paul and Liam who subsequently matched me with my business mentor Matt who has been instrumental to the development of the business, and made lots of other contacts who I have kept in touch with since. This also gave me the confidence to start networking, which was crucial to the start-up phase of the business.
Oliver Trailor, Runway Training
The age old adage of “it’s not what you know but who you know” is of key importance to all businesses and networking gives organisations opportunities to expand their connections, raise brand awareness and generate referrals; all leading to increased opportunities.
At Runway Training we enjoy business networking at traditional Breakfast events, B2B Exhibitions and after-hours clubs. In addition to this, other events can provide an opportunity to network, show off your products or services and expand knowledge on sector developments. Presence on social media can also help create new connections as well as provide an opportunity for offering advice and your professional opinion on matters, all helping to raise your company profile.
Runway Training utilise networking as an opportunity to reinforce the positives of apprenticeship recruitment and staff development. With many organisations expanding in both business and team members, Runway Training are keen to spread the message about this cost effective way of growing all areas of business.
Amy McManus, AM Marketing
Business networking is a great tool for any business, but particularly for startups. Budget is often an issue for a new business and networking is a very effective (and inexpensive) type of marketing that gets your brand out there. When I started AM Marketing two years ago, I went to every networking event in the area, and still do! It’s a fantastic way to meet other local business owners and introduce yourself, but most importantly LISTEN. There are so many different people and industries who have a wealth of experience and knowledge to learn from. They can give you a real insight into your own business and potential avenues or products you hadn’t considered.
The beauty of business networking is that it can happen at any point; it’s not always set to a specific time and place. If you talk to someone at a bus stop about your business? That’s networking. When you get into a conversation about your products at a dinner party? That’s networking. Always take business cards out with you; you never know who you’re going to meet!