JOHANNESBURG – When it comes to building and growing your company's client base, turnover, geographical reach and reputation, your professional network is your most essential asset.
In the world of business, it is not just about what but who you know.
This is where networking comes in.
Strategically expanding your contact network by attending the right events at the right venue at the right time may take time and effort, but it is worth it. You should see networking as a part of a long-term investment in your business.
This is why:
- Better visibility: Attending networking lunches and other events improves your visibility as a business owner, your brand, and service offering. Potential investors, business partners, clients and associates won't knock on your door if they don't know about you and what you do, so get out there and make yourself known. Attend at least two physical networking events every month or more if you can.
- New opportunities: Making and maintaining the right connections by attending the right networking events may help open the doors to opportunities that can propel your venture to the next level. Keep an eye out for events organised by organisations relevant to your industry and company, think-tanks, and other players including your co-working space. At The Business Exchange, we organise regular gatherings that bring our tenants together, not just to create a sense of community, but also to allow them to share, seize, identify and create new opportunities.
- Exchange of fresh ideas: Networking events are fantastic sources of real-time information. Most entrepreneurs choose to stay abreast of the latest trends, news and developments by following the news, signing up for a course, and reading relevant books and business guides. However, the easiest and most effective way to get new insights and fresh ideas is to talk with like-minded individuals on a face-to-face basis. It is more fun, too.
- Fostering mutually beneficial collaboration: Fostering strong professional relationships with fellow entrepreneurs can benefit you if you plan to bid for large projects that you can't tackle alone. Preparing a proposal as a consortium made up of complementary companies increases your chances of securing a bid.
- Boosting your reputation: Attending networking events like the ones we organise doesn't just help you when you are looking for information and advice. You can also use these gatherings as platforms to share your knowledge, give advice, offer assistance to others, and punt your business as a solution provider.This helps you build your reputation as a supportive, reliable and knowledgeable business person who is on top of things. Increased respect improves your chances of being someone's professional referral. It is true what they say: givers get the most, particularly in the world of business.
- Nothing beats the human factor: In the current digital era, it is easy to hide behind a screen and do everything from the comfort of your office. Fostering face-to-face connections is, however, much more powerful than connecting to people via the digital highway. People remember faces and face-to-face conversations better than LinkedIn requests and unsolicited emails.
That is not to say that platforms like LinkedIn are useless, as they allow you to connect with individuals you wouldn't have connected with otherwise.
David Seinker is the chief executive of the Business Exchange.