Chances are, if your small business is still in the early stages of its development, you’re still hungry to reach out and make new connections that will help you grow and thrive. Perhaps you’re looking for the next talented person who can come along and help you with product development, or marketing, or sales. The possibilities are endless.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this, don’t be alarmed. It’s common for early-stage startup leaders to struggle at first. In the beginning, you don’t know anyone, and you’ve got to forge your own connections.
“You never know where your next big networking breakthrough might await.”
For this reason, you should keep in mind three of the most important words any small business owner can hear – “never stop networking.” All around you, there are countless people who can help you with managing your small business. They might be across the street, or they might be halfway around the world from you, but either way, you can find them.
Your small business is only as valuable as the connections that you make. Fortunately, there are many potential ways to make them.
The value of persistent networking
As an entrepreneur, you need to take advantage of every opportunity you can find to make connections and grow your business. Fortunately, such opportunities are everywhere, according to Small Biz Trends.
Tom Force, owner of ICE Keytags, told the news source that he’s always looking for new chances to meet people that can help push his business forward.
“Never stop networking,” Force recommended. “Never stop pushing. It’s easy to give up when everybody around you, your influencers, is telling you you can’t do it. But you have to be around positive people, people who have been where you want to go. Just push on, because you never know when one thing is going to lead to a big breakthrough for your business.”
Force described how he went about finding one of his key business partners, way back in the day. They found each other via Craigslist, then met up at a trade show. They were able to work together even though he lives in Texas and she’s in Maine. This lesson goes to show – you never know where your next big networking breakthrough might await.
Help is right around the corner
Often, the help you need to advance your business isn’t far away. According to the American Express OPEN Forum, you can make a lot of key business connections simply by networking with the people in your immediate area. Pamela Springer, CEO of online small business community Manta, says that staying in touch with your local community is a key strategy for becoming a better networker.
“You might be surprised to learn how many other small business owners live in your area,” Springer noted. “Stop by their stores and introduce yourself. Does their business’ value proposition fit yours? If so, strike up a conversation about doing a ‘Shop Local’ partnership during the holidays this year.”
A lot of entrepreneurs steer themselves astray because they think of other small business owners in the area as competitors, rather than potential allies. Chances are, you each have something to offer each other. Maybe you can help them with marketing, and they can help you with accounting. Whatever the case may be, you have a lot to gain by looking for valuable partners rather than enemies.
Taking the show on the road
However, if you think you’ve exhausted all the networking possibilities in your immediate area, you might decide that it’s time to hit the road, traveling to trade shows and other industry events where you can meet people who live far away but still might have something to contribute.
According to the Huffington Post, this can be done, but you need to have a strategy first. Melinda Emerson, CEO of small business consultancy Quintessence Multimedia, says that it’s best to attend a networking event with a plan drawn up in advance.
“When you buy a ticket to an event, you should immediately pick out key targets in advance to build your network,” Emerson recommends. “Look at the invitation, the host committee or board list to figure out who you might want to meet. Take a friend and split up so you can work both sides of the room.”
Traveling to faraway events can be expensive, not to mention a major time commitment. You don’t want to make that investment unless you’re sure it will pay off. So before you bite the bullet and buy those plane tickets, figure out how you can make that trip worth your while.
A wide world of possible connections
Of course, the other way to make connections in today’s startup world is to seek them out online. Thanks to the wealth of networking options on the Internet today – LinkedIn and Twitter come to mind in particular – meeting new people is easier than ever. Your next connection might be across town or around the world.
“Networking is the lifeblood of a growing small business.”
Springer told the American Express OPEN Forum that the key to networking online is to stay active at all times. If your online presence goes dormant, people will forget you’re there and you’ll lose relevance.
“By joining a small business forum online, you’ll be able to gain insights from other entrepreneurs, engage in the group’s interactions, post comments and also share what you know,” Springer explained.
What you can do today – 4 Takeaways
Networking is the lifeblood of a growing small business. Your operation might start small, but the more people you meet, the greater potential you have to expand and improve. Here are a few key takeaways:
- Be persistent. Opportunities to make key business connections everywhere, and you won’t be able to cash in fully unless you take some risks.
- Explore the networking options available in your local business community. You’d be surprised how often you find exactly what you need, right under your nose.
- If you’ve exhausted your local options, consider traveling to trade shows and other industry events where you can make worthwhile connections with others.
- There are many, many networking resources available online. Do what you can to make the most of them.
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