Being a business owner can feel a bit lonely at times. The people around us may not be in a similar career-space and therefore not always understand what we’re going through. This is why it’s important to find your business community – your network.
qualities of a good network
When I was starting my business back in 2013, my network consisted of friends, family, and former colleagues in the financial services industry. None of them were entrepreneurs. Understanding that my work-life needed people who had similar experience to me encouraged me to create a new network.
I didn’t just want a network for the sake of it. I wanted to be part of a community with business owners who I shared things in common with and who I could learn from and support – and vice verca. So I was intentional about curating or being part of a good network.
A good network includes people who:
- have similar values (and business values) to yours.
- are supportive.
- can inspire and encourage you.
- hold you accountable to what you say you’re going to do.
- understand what you’re going through.
the power of a good network
To build a network means going out and being social. This may not come easy to all business owners and so networking can seem burdensome. But it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t need to feel artificial. And it certainly can have a positive impact on both you and your business.
Here’s how a good network can be of benefit to you.
1. You find a safe space for the support you need
Surrounding yourself with other entrepreneurs can provide you with the support you need.
These are people who are walking the same path as you. They understand the challenges you are facing and the uncertainty of what’s to come next.
The good news is that there are different ways to network. It doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking and uncomfortable.
2. You find opportunities to learn
It’s likely that you started your business based on something you’re passionate about. But passion alone won’t keep your business afloat.
There are going to be so many things you’ll need to learn, things that are outside of your comfort zone and areas of expertise.
Business networks offer you with opportunities to learn from the pool of experience other entrepreneurs offer.
When you build a network containing different types of businesses and different backgrounds, you’ll learn from variety of experiences, perspectives, and techniques for dealing with challenges.
Plus, you’ll learn faster from the collective wisdom of a group and perhaps even avoid some of the mistakes that others have made.
3. You gain access to who other people know
One frustrating part of networking is that feeling that your ideal client is never attending the same events you are. Or if they are, you never have a chance to interact. The trick to networking is that, the people you meet can be a link to clients elsewhere. You never know who people know!
However, getting links to your ideal client through a network is unlikely to happen after just a single interaction. You have to develop personal relationships and give people a chance to know, like and trust you.
Follow up with the people and give yourself the time and opportunity for meaningful relationships to form and deepen. This is when referrals and collaborations start to occur naturally.
4. You tap into new markets
The connections that you make through networking can open up unexpected opportunities for you.
I found one of my highest-paying clients at a conference I attended during my first year in business.
Planning the trip financially was a slight hustle and I literally knew NO ONE there, but I decided to go anyway. I ended up sitting next to a woman during lunch. She said her organisation was in need of businesses coaches and to share my CV with her.
A couple months later, I ended up landing on of my best clients who, I still work with now, 5 years later.
Networking enables you to meet and establish relationships with people you might never otherwise have met. And great opportunities can come from that!
5. You get the chance to forge partnerships
Networking isn’t just about finding customers but also forging collaborations. You may find that you share a passion that you can transform into a business idea.
My former business partner and I were part of the same networking club in London in 2014, and that’s where we discovered they shared a passion for business and for supporting female entrepreneurs.
Fast forward 3 years. Once we were both in Nairobi, we knew that we wanted to do something with these shared passions. And that’s how the Afri-love Connection Club was born. (Sadly we closed in 2020 due to COVID, but it was a great ride!)
You never know where life may take you and what opportunities may arise along the way!
Your next best idea may start as a casual conversation and develop into something real over time. By being part of a network, you may just find that perfect someone with a skill or contribution that’s necessary to get your business going.
over to you
How has your network changed since you’ve become a business owner? What connections have you made? Let us know in the comments below.