3 April 2023
For small business owners, running day-to-day operations can feel like a one-person show. They may even take pride in being able to juggle everything and do nonstop problem-solving without help. It’s easy to overlook the value of building relationships with fellow entrepreneurs and business owners.
Building a network of fellow small business owners and entrepreneurs has the potential to pay off in dividends. That is, if you play your cards right. Let’s dive into the benefits of networking and some tips for how to put your best foot forward.
Networking for small business means more than just being social. It can be beneficial not just for you, but for your small business as well. Read on to learn how networking can help you grow your business.
Connecting with a fellow business owner is a great way to get advice. Running a small business comes with a lot of questions. You may find yourself facing conundrums and wishing you could ask for advice from someone who’s been in the same position.
Whatever you’re facing, it’s likely that a fellow small business owner will be able to commiserate. There’s a good chance they’ve faced a similar challenge and could just have the exact advice you need.
You know what they say: A rising tide lifts all boats. This is one potential benefit of networking with your peers. A key part of networking is supporting those you’re networking with. When small businesses support each other — whether it’s through referrals, business advice, or resource-sharing — everyone’s profile is elevated.
Maybe you have a great accountant and you find yourself networking with a business owner who’s looking for tax and payroll advice. And maybe they have solid marketing skills, and you’re looking to improve your own marketing plan. Swapping those resources makes the relationship mutually beneficial.
When you lift up one of your peers, that support is likely to be reciprocated. While there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, mutual support between small businesses can be just as beneficial.
When pitching your small business to potential clients, it’s important to be able to quickly and easily summarize exactly what you can offer and what sets you apart from the competition. And since practice makes perfect, the more you share your elevator pitch, the better it will become.
Small business networking events allow many opportunities for pitching your small business, as well as hearing pitches from your peers. Sharing with fellow small business owners means having a receptive and helpful audience. You can take advantage by asking your peers for feedback, or take inspiration from how they pitch their businesses. Check out our guide to building the perfect elevator pitch to learn more about refining how you present your business to others.
So you think you need to network more. Now what? Here are our small business networking tips for making the most of any opportunity.
Making connections with other business owners is a great starting point for networking. But it’s important to recognize that you have a lot more to offer than just your presence. Your experience is valuable and important to share.
Have a new point-of-sale system that’s making your transactions easier? Maybe you read an article that could help other small business owners. You might even have services or connections to professionals — accountants, lawyers, even cleaners! — who you can recommend emphatically.
You can gain a lot from networking with others, but if you have your own insights and tips, it makes the connection more valuable for everyone. Having something at the ready that you can offer when meeting fellow business owners can help you stand out and forge strong relationships.
When you love your work, it can be easy to talk about it endlessly. It’s understandable — your experience is information you likely feel the most confident sharing! However, it’s important to bring the conversation back to the business owner or entrepreneur you’re networking with.
Ask about their business, the challenges they’re facing, and their victories. You can even ask about hobbies. It’s important to not be nosy, but curiosity shows that you’re friendly, engaging, and interested in their input. These are all traits that will help put you in a strong position to make great professional connections.
As an extension of asking questions, it’s also crucial that you make a strong impression in the conversation. How you comport yourself matters. When someone is speaking, it can be tempting to jump in with your two cents’ worth. Maybe your peer is saying something funny, or is speaking about something you have experience with.
Fight the urge to interrupt. Even if your intention is good — for example, eagerness, excitement, feeling engaged with the topic — cutting someone off in conversation or speaking over them can add unnecessary tension to the interaction. Be careful to not jump in before your associate has finished speaking, and wait for a natural opening in the conversation.
Connecting with someone at a networking event is great, but it runs the risk of fading after the event ends. That’s why following up with your new small business acquaintances is so important.
Make sure you exchange contact information. This way you can send an email, a LinkedIn message, or a quick text to thank them for their time. Let them know you’d love to provide assistance in the future, or open the door for future meet-ups. Continuing the conversation can help you build networking relationships that last.
Being a small business owner can be lonely at times. But it’s important to remember there are networking options for small business and that many others are in the same boat. There may be entrepreneurs in your community who run organizations, host events, or even conduct mentoring programs to help small business owners network.
There are four primary types of in-person networking organizations:
In addition to these offline options, social media also provides networking opportunities. Facebook groups and LinkedIn could be just the ticket for finding fellow entrepreneurs to forge connections with.
If you don’t see many small business networking events happening in your community, it might be your sign to host one yourself. Think outside the box. It could be a small business owner happy hour, a cookout, or even a more formal event with an inspirational speaker. By hosting, you will stand out as someone with initiative and creativity. There’s great networking potential in bringing entrepreneurs together.
You want what’s best for your business. That’s why networking is crucial. Cultivating strong professional relationships can have a snowball effect. The bigger your small business network, the more you can promote your work, receive informed advice, and even generate leads for new customers. When you put the effort in, your business might just flourish.
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The goal in networking with other business owners is to make a good impression and follow up with your new contacts. If you can do this and also seize the initiative and host your own networking events you’ll be well on your way to having a more built-out professional network. Finding people to network with is, of course, an essential prerequisite.
It can, however, be difficult to find groups and programs for small business networking. You’re in luck! We’ve compiled some of our favorite small business networking groups and platforms to get you started.
If you’re just starting out, a mentor can be invaluable. SCORE is an organization that connects its members with professional mentors.
Trying to find connections beyond the local level? This may be for you. EO is an international peer-to-peer network of business owners, founders, and entrepreneurs that will help you think globally.
With chapters in 70+ countries, there’s a good chance there’s a BNI chapter near you. They’re a referral network that meets both in-person and online.
YEC is geared toward young entrepreneurs looking to grow their network and build meaningful professional connections. Their mission is to help budding entrepreneurs better themselves and the world around them.
Putting yourself — and your small business — out there can be tricky. Between finding meet-and-greets and trying to forge connections, networking is not without its challenges. Once you start meeting the right people, you may just find that the rest of it falls naturally into place. One of the biggest benefits of networking for small businesses can be the strong relationships you build that may lead to more connections. With a little networking know-how, you might find your professional network growing in leaps and bounds.
So be strategic. It’s not always about quantity. The quality of the connections you make may help you meet more peers and build an extensive professional network. You’ve lived the day-to-day life of a small business owner. You have experience and likely some wisdom you learned the hard way. Bring what you have to offer to the table — it may be the stepping stone to a robust and successful professional network.
After several years of working in insurance while also freelance writing, I've finally found where the two interests intersect. I'm a writer with Simply Business with an insurance processing background and a love of research.
Kristin writes on a number of topics such as small business trends, license reciprocity, and BOP insurance.
This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer
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