Paul (that’s me!) has recently been appointed as one of the new hosts of the Market Harborough Business Network which, as the name suggests, is a business networking group based in (and around) Market Harborough.
So, what is business networking and why would you do it?
I would say that networking groups broadly fit into two categories.
There are those solely designed to drive as much new business to their members as possible. They can be quite intense and are generally very referral based, you are expected to try and refer as much work as possible to other members. They can also be quite costly, although in many cases they do work. So, if you’re looking for new customers as quickly as possible, they might be worth a try.
The second category, which the Market Harborough Business Network fits into, are the more relaxed groups. These are designed more as an opportunity for business people to meet each other without the pressure of being expected to refer work to other members.
If there’s no expectation to refer work to other members you may be thinking, what’s the point then?
Well, if you go to a business networking event with the sole purpose of generating new business then in my mind, you are missing whole aspects of the purpose of networking which includes building long term relationships with people and learning from them.
I have networked at various groups over many years and have learnt so much from talking to people which has benefited my own business. I’ve also built up some strong relationships with people I’ve met at networking.
Over time this have resulted in a lot of new clients. A perfect example of this was someone I knew through networking bumping into an old friend at the local tip. They were chatting and the friend happened to mention he was unhappy with his accountant. My name was put forward and that chance encounter at a tip, resulted in a new client for me who has now been with us for over 10 years!
Just because there is no expectation to refer work doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It’s just that it happens naturally over time, rather than by people being pressured into it.
I also want to make the point that networking isn’t necessarily lots of people walking around in suits with their copies of the Financial Times! You will normally find a whole range of professions such as accountants, solicitors, photographers, dog trainers, interior designers, charities etc. One of the most interesting people I met whilst networking, hired himself out to play jazz piano at events. I once heard him play and he was incredible.
So, if you’ve never tried networking before, why not give it a go. If you pick the right group, such as the Market Harborough Business Network, then everyone is really friendly and so long as you go along with the right frame of mind, that you are going to meet new people and enjoy yourself, then I’m sure you will.
Photo’s courtesy of Guy Walsh Photography https://www.guywalshphotography.co.uk/