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Orangeville SBEC: Grow your network, grow your business

February 13, 2020   ·   0 Comments

Successful entrepreneurs know that a strong network of contacts plays a big role in expanding the company’s reach. A healthy network can help owners find new customers, partners, advisors, suppliers, and more. This network can generate new business for the company and, in turn, the entrepreneur can share his or her expertise to help other companies succeed. Each contact brings his/her own network of contacts, further expanding and enriching the entrepreneurial community.

A good business network includes everyone from work colleagues, business connections, social networks, and members of groups to which the entrepreneur belongs. Networking involves getting to know people and discovering how to help one another. It provides an opportunity to exchange best practices, learn how peers are addressing issues, and stay abreast of industry developments. Networking also provides a good opportunity to give back to the business community by offering expertise and advice. 

Entrepreneurs should view networking as a benefit to their businesses and not a demand on time. “You need to understand it as an investment, not a cost,” states Bonnie Elliot, Manager of the Business Development Bank of Canada’s (BDC) Calgary Entrepreneurship Centre. “Building a mutually beneficial business network should be a priority for every business owner. It shouldn’t be an accident that you are attending a networking event. You’ve planned to be there and you have a specific goal—for example, to schedule three follow-up meetings,” Ms. Elliot explains. Insert a networking strategy in the company’s business plan and find answers to such questions as “who do I want to meet on a regular basis? Who do I want to do business with this year? How have networking relationships helped my business?” (www.bdc.ca/en/articles)

Tips for successful networking

The BDC suggests first identifying the purpose of your networking activity. Are you looking for more customers or more contracts? Do you want to find fresh ideas, are you seeking a mentor, or do you have another objective in mind? Deciding on your networking goals will help you to focus your efforts. 

Exploring online business networks is a good place to start and helps the entrepreneur to develop his or her networking skills. Business-related social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are dynamic and engaging, offering a wide range of topics and opinions. Networking groups such as the Dufferin Board of Trade, and  Dufferin Women in Business provide avenues for face to face networking. Information about these groups can be found at www.dufferinbot.ca. Workshops, seminars, trade shows and conferences are also good venues to meet fellow entrepreneurs, share ideas and grow networks. 

Networking is about making personal connections for mutual benefit. “Put time and effort into building relationships of trust with connectors and influencers in your industry and cultivate these connections,” Bonnie Elliot states. It is also useful to meet people from outside your industry because that can bring a fresh perspective to your business.

When attending a networking event, be sure to bring business cards and come prepared with a brief “elevator speech” to quickly explain your business to a new contact. Try to step out of your comfort zone and speak to new people. Be curious, ask questions and focus on what you can do for others, not what they can do for you. To ensure the networking activity is fruitful, ask for permission to follow up with your new contact and suggest a goal for the meeting.

The Orangeville & Area Small Business Enterprise Centre has a number of business-focused events throughout the year. These sessions provide excellent opportunities to meet and expand your network while developing your entrepreneurial skills. For more information visit www.orangevillebusiness.ca/events. 

Ellen Sinclair is the Co-ordinator of the Orangeville & Area Small Business Enterprise Centre. She can be reached at esinclair@orangeville.ca or 519-941-0440 Ext. 2270. To sign up for notifications of SBEC programs and events visit www.orangevillebusiness.ca/subscribe.



         

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