Here at Heelan Associates we love nothing more than helping small businesses grow and achieve their goals.
Getting your business known and making important connections with other businesses is a key part of this. As a result, we run a monthly networking meeting at our office (for free) to aid this process. The ‘HeelanHub’ runs on the last Wednesday of every month between 9:15 – 11:15.
What is Networking?
Google defines the terms as:
‘the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts’.
We think the term is better described simply as ‘meeting other business people’.
There are lots of formats for this, ranging from must-attend-structured-weekly-paid-for to informal-free-with-cake-and-a-coffee (as you’ll see at the #HeelanHub). There are networking groups everywhere and it is a good idea to test out a few.
Most of the paid formats will offer a few free taster sessions.
Many of them will typically be 1-2 hours and often have a 15-20 presentation by a member of the group, or a subject matter expert, with the aim being to provide value to the group (and for the speaker some exposure!).
Some networking groups will have an opportunity (or requirement) to spend 1-3 minutes ‘pitching’ your business to the group/part of the group.
This can make some people uneasy so if you do not like the sound of this, there are plenty of groups that don’t do this. This is a great way to build confidence and get your business known. However, so it’s worth pushing through the nerves to do this, even if infrequent.
On top of these considerations, you may just enjoy the type of people at one group over another.
The Point of Networking?
Well…. this is up for debate. We believe that it is about getting known, meeting new people and making connections, but for some people, it’s a very strategic affair, where the aim is to meet certain people or types of people. In general, everyone attending these groups would of course love to do more business with the other people in the group, but there are various ways to go about this.
In our experience, the best networkers are the ones that take the time to chat and get to know the people, rather than hand out a business card and move onto the next person!
Regular attendance at groups also really pays dividends with this. For any business to flourish you will need relationships with complementary businesses (or suppliers) and networking really fits this area well. It is very difficult to build relationships if your only interest is to hand out a business card and move onto the next group!
So this sounds great, what next?
If you are local you could attend our event. Its free and great for first timers as we have a team of people to chat with, so even if you don’t know anyone we can help you get over the initial nerves and introduce you to others. It’s also ‘no pitch’ and informal.
If you are not local, we would suggest looking for a group like this as your first taster. The First Friday network has groups across the UK, many of them in this style of format.
If you really do like the more structured affairs, there are plenty of those around including organisations such as ‘BNI’ who do paid weekly meetings.
There are a lot of books and resources available on networking, so if you feel you are very introvert and could do with some help, pick up some of these. You will find many results via a quick Google, but to get you started one of our favourites that applies in many situations is ‘The Fine Art of Small Talk by Debra Fine’.
If you would like to attend our event, you can look it up each month on Eventbrite or check out our Facebook page.