Networking for Small Business Owners

Why Network?

Networking is vital to most small businesses. It allows you to develop an in-person connection to potential clients and find strategic partners. Strategic partners have similar clients, but don’t directly compete for your service. For example, if you're a florist, it’s good to know caterers in your area so they can refer their clients to you and you can help them out in return.

Everyone likes to do business with those they know, like and trust. There is nothing that promotes trust like speaking to someone face-to-face. It gives you an opportunity to develop a personal connection to the other person as well as explore potential areas of collaboration or to identify a need that your business can fill.  

Networking isn’t as hard as it seems. Some simple tips are below.

How to Network:

  • Listen.
  • Don’t look for a sale that day.
  • Go with an open mind—you never know who you will meet.    
  • Find a personal as well as a business connection.
  • Keep going—if you find a good group, become active in it!
  • Follow up!
    • One conversation isn’t enough.
    • Email or reach out to set up your next meeting to keep chatting about your mutual interests. 

Where to Network?

  • Look online for groups that fit your business. Some good places to look are:
  • Online community calendars
  • Your local chamber of commerce
  • Not interested in joining business networking groups? Try joining local community groups such as the Lions Club or Rotary Club

When you’re at an event or meetup group, how do you find the right people to talk to? While you should be open-minded, these tips can help you narrow down getting that first conversation started.

Finding a Good Fit:

  • Who is in the room?
    • Do you see potential customers?
    • Do you see potential collaborators?
  • Are you learning about important industry and/or business trends?
  • Are you comfortable? If shy:
    • Start in a small or more structured groups, such as women or industry-specific event groups.
  • Does it make sense for your budget?
    • Give networking some time to show results, but be mindful of your ROI for your money and time.