Q&A: There’s Nothing like Networking
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Q: I started my business a year ago, and at times I feel like I am in this all by myself. How do I keep from burning out by always dealing with my business on my own?
A: No man—or woman—is an island. Neither is your small business.
There’s a whole world of people ready to provide advice, sympathy, information, brainstorming help, and sales leads. Some become customers; others become colleagues, mentors, and lifelong friends. All you have to do is meet them.
It’s called networking—cultivating ongoing, informal relationships with an eye toward sharing information that can ultimately benefit you and your business. The best networks are those that include a diversity of opinions. Friends, neighbors, former teachers, friends from college, other business owners, customers—anyone!
Although Facebook, LinkedIn, and other online social networks have made networking tremendously convenient, don’t forsake the “traditional” methods of building these relationships.
Business and professional associations are great places for building your network. They range from simple meet-and-greets to themed programs and discussions on relevant issues. You can find opportunities through internet searches, or by asking current members of your network.
Don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself the most talkative person in the world, particularly around new people. Just prepare your own “elevator speech”—a 20- to 30-second description about yourself and what you do.
But remember that the key to networking is the interaction itself. Listen, ask questions, and chime in when you feel the time is right. The conversation may never touch specifically on your business, but the next one with these same people might. It’ll also show that you’re not there solely to sell your business. And make sure you always have plenty of business cards to share
Finally, remember that networking is a two-way street, one that requires give and take.
The foundation of every small business owner’s network is SCORE. You can get expert, objective advice and ideas from expert mentors in-person or online—and all for no charge. For more information, visit www.score.org.