Networking is one of the most important factors to consider for anyone's business. The reason for this is simple - you need to meet people in order to get customers!
Networking for business can be alot of fun but you do need to be careful you don't come across as the "hard sell". Always be interested in other people at networking events and what they have to offer too. It's not all about you!
Networking is like a skill. Going to an event, talking to people and then ultimately having the chance to tell them what you do and even getting a customer out of it can be very satisfying. There might even be a qualification in networking one day!
Here's an example of how brilliant networking can be. A couple of weeks ago I went to former Dragons' Den star Rachel Elnaugh's Christmas party in London. I did not know one person when I arrived out of the hundred or so people that were there but by the time I left I had eight business cards in my bag and spoke to about fifteen people.
Before the party I was really nervous not knowing anyone and a bit scared too but I took a deep breath, held my head up high and walked in with a smile on my face. Who was the first person that spoke to me? Brad Burton! The founder of 4Networking, the biggest breakfast network in the country.
I don't know if it was my smile that made him speak to me or whether he felt sorry for me because I was alone but whatever it was, got talking straight away. He took me over to the group of people he was with: Shaa Waasmund, the founder of Smarta who I had not met yet was among the group. It was brilliant to finally meet her.
I was so pleased to be sitting there and being able to talk to Brad because he has done what I want to do. Another tip there - speak to people who have already done what you want to do and find out how they did it!
Brad has built up a network with thousands of members and that's what I want to do - only for young entrepreneurs. I told him about our launch in April in London and he and Shaa agreed to speak at it. Rachel Elnaugh is also on the cards to speak! Look at how much I got from that one networking event! If I had thought to myself, 'I won't go because I don't know anyone' then none of those relationships would have happened.
I also got loads of other contacts that could be fantastic for the business just by being there and talking to people.
My advice is to go to as many events as you can because at the end of the day you haven't got much to lose but you have got lots to gain.
Have a lovely Christmas and I wish you all the best for the New Year 2011. It's going to be a great year - I can feel it!
To the Future!