This week I was lucky to speak to a group in Wexford Library. It was a great night. I spoke about my experiences in launching my business and how it important it is to meet your customer face to face. For both myself and the attendees, it was an ideal opportunity to network and make contacts. One of the attendees kindly gave me a contact, which could be an excellent opportunity for my business.
Interestingly, I was asked to speak through my Acorns network, one of the lead entrepreneurs put my name forward to the library as someone who may be willing to help others by sharing my story and knowledge with them.
During my talk, I told the story about how I went to a women’s networking event in Wexford town, when I just launched my business online. Only myself and one other lady showed up, after a lovely chat, this lady offered me a space to exhibit at the Kilkenny Arts Festival! This opportunity put me on the road of direct selling as well as online. It set me on a great road for sales, market research and has shaped my business in many ways. One coffee and I gained one contact (who is still a business confident of mine by the way) who opened me up this route to market.
Recalling this story, reminded me that networking is important for everyone but especially entrepreneurs. If I reflect on all the interesting things that have happened recently it’s because of my reinvigorated effort to go to events, meet peers for coffee and reconnect with others from my current network whom I haven’t been in contact with in a while.
I have realised lately, that over the past two years I haven’t made an effort with my current network or to go out and make new contacts. Why is this? Mainly because running a business and having two very young children, leaves me little or no extra time and I always choose exercise for my ‘spare’ time. Much to my horror, I read recently in Forbes magazine – networking for business is like exercise for health. This line hit home, this language I understood.
So it got me to thinking, when I was younger I didn’t make time for exercise. Then when I got engaged, I realised it was now or never and put in the work and got super fit. That was eight years ago and even though I have had ups and downs in terms of levels of fitness since then, in times when I am busy, pregnant or injured I will maintain some level of fitness by adapting the kind of exercise I do! For example, pregnancy yoga rather than boot camp in late pregnancy. Running when away travelling with work rather than boot camp and spin class. Twice a week rather than four times a week of working out during busy times. Bingo, I just need to apply some of these minimum and maximum tricks my schedule. Plus, if one form of exercise isn’t working or I got bored, I mix it up! Again, I have recognised I need a varied and open minded approach to networking.
So here are some ideas if you struggle to make time for networking:
- Facebook groups
Always a handy one. You can connect on the go. Through Women’s Inspire Network and Acorns, they have closed groups which are very supportive. Or create your own with past colleagues, class mates etc.
- Coffee/lunch with people within your network
Make a date once a week or month, with a current contact to catch up and help each other out.
- Be open to making connections everywhere
This is something I have only recently started to embrace! People don’t need to be in your industry, current network or a business person to be worth speaking too about your business. Casually mention what you are working on or what you do. Other people might open up to you too. Spread the word. Recently, I needed printing urgently done. I said to my neighbour when picking up my daughter from a playdate how stressed I was. She said her husband, who has a signage business could do the job within 24 hours! We lived right beside one another and didn’t realise how we could be doing mutually beneficial business! The lady’s mum also offered me a money plant for success in business! What a great playdate huh?!
- Reconnect with past contacts
After having my last baby, I admit I lived in the baby bubble (and I don’t regret it for a minute, that’s the most important thing in your life) for a few months. Then I threw myself into work. Now I realise it’s been well over a year since I emailed, spoke with or meet lots of valued past colleagues who I enjoy spending time with. They are great to bounce ideas off for my business. They understand and interested in the most part. I am interested in their careers. I light up when I meet them. If they are good contacts and they enjoy your time too, they will understand if you haven’t been in touch for a while. Just pick up the phone!
- Go to one industry event or talk a month
Check out your local library, Chamber of commerce or even some of the Image or Tatler magazine Women events or meet up events in your industry and promise yourself to attend one a month. Ideally go alone, it forces you to speak to people!
I hope this helps. Overall, just like my approach to fitness, in busy times it’s about maintenance. Remember network in small ways such as above and help others out when you can.