‘The power of a network can be reduced to its simplest form in ‘I know someone who knows someone who knows someone’’. – Michele Jennae
March last year, a friend of mine, Chidinma launched her apparel business. Shortly after the business kicked off, she decided to quit. ‘There are no sales,’ she told me. I told her not to quit, calmed her down and gave her some advice. ‘Be patient and connect with other people in the clothing industry, I told her. Chidinma took my advice and felt it was worth another shot. Her first contact didn’t quite go well, but that didn’t discourage her.
Chidinma persevered until she finally met a woman who was well versed in the business. The woman brought in her apparels from outside the country to sell; then Chidinma bought from her at wholesale, to sell at retail prices. After trading with the woman for a few months, Chidinma gained her trust and she began introducing Chidinma to some of her other buyers. Today, Chidinma’s business has expanded and she will soon be traveling out of the country to purchase her apparels directly from the manufacturers.
This is the power of networking. Like Chidinma, you too can expand your business if you can follow the basic principles of networking described below:
What is Networking?
In business, networking is the art of establishing new business contacts. This can be achieved through attending events or meeting with other like-minded individuals, at formal or informal settings. Some benefits of networking include:
Shared knowledge: When you have a network of people who run a similar venture or have expert knowledge in your industry of interest, you can easily bounce off ideas, ask questions and continuously improve your business model.
Opportunities: The opportunities are boundless if your network consists of people in your business field or industry of interest. Your contacts may refer their clients to you, or ask you to partner with them.
It raises your profile: When you regularly attend social or business gatherings, people will begin to recognize you. Overtime, recognition will transform into authority in your industry.
How to Boost Your Business Network
Join an association: Almost every industry has a group or association that they connect with regularly. By enrolling as a member in an association, you will become familiar with many people in your industry. Additionally, if you become an active member in an association in your industry, you’ll be regarded as an expert. Chances are, people will acknowledge you with high esteem and if you are lucky, someone might just offer you a business deal!
Volunteer your expertise: Every serious business owner is a professional in his or her own niche. While an e-commerce business owner is an expert in social media marketing, a freelance writer may be an expert in framing words. If you want to play an important role in your association, volunteer your expertise. This will increase your credibility and will open many opportunities for you.
Communicate: Communication is essential, without which nothing is possible. Communicate what you do and your proficiency, to the people in your circle. Communication can take place formally or informally and whatever the situation maybe, get the message across. By doing this, people will become aware of who you are and the product or services you are offering. Who knows, you might be lucky enough to find a client, a partner or even an angel investor.
Follow up: After you interact with people at meetings, find someone suitable to communicate with about your business plans. Ensure that you follow-up from time to time, if you are convinced that they will add value to your business.
Like Chidinma, don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear from your contact or declined an offer. As an entrepreneur, courage, patience and persistence are your key strengths to keep moving forward. Don’t quit, because the doors of opportunities are immeasurable. Soon enough, you’ll expand your network and scale your business model up for greater heights.