Much like the annual FSB Conference in March, the Policy Conference is also a chance for those attending to meet and network with other businesses. Now, if, like me, you find the idea of awkward small talk while everyone is trying to sell you something a bit uncomfortable, bear with me.
These days we do make the assumption that networking is a bit pointless. Everyone is selling, no one is buying. Why bother? If you run a business by yourself, chances are you don’t really think it’s worth taking time out just to have a bacon sandwich and a lukewarm orange juice before 8 am while trying to make someone realize what you have to offer while listening half-heartedly to their pitch.
Thing is, like most everything else in life, you get out what you put in. Yes of course it would be lovely of you leave a networking meeting with a fist full of orders. It’s possible that you do, but it’s not always the case. What you need to remember is that networking has much less obvious benefits to offer.
Making contacts is invaluable. It might not be a straight up sale, but there is such a wide variety of products and services you could conceivably need in the day to day running of your business. Having a stack of business cards means that you can start by supporting a fellow small business, and it will be someone you’ve at least laid eyes on. You might even be able to negotiate a discount. And the same goes for your business. Just get your name out there and you never know when someone might pull out your business card from that breakfast meeting just when they are in need of your services.
It’s about making a name for yourself. And no, you do not need to enter some reality tv program and juggle plates while your pooch dances next to you. You just need to be available to be found. Attending networking meetings means you get to meet people you might not otherwise get to see in your regular sphere of business. These people will have their own networks, so, even if they don’t need your services themselves, a friend of a friend or one of their customers might. Put yourself out there, hand over business cards wherever you go, and you might be surprised by the six degrees of separation business it drums up.
This one might be unexpected: it could be fun. We get so very bogged down in the details and to-do lists of keeping a business going that we don’t often have a chance to talk to someone in the same boat. They might not be in the same industry as you, but small business owners, there is a common thread. You could have all the support in the world from family and friends, but sometimes it’s nice to talk to someone who faces the same battles and victories of running a small business that you do.
Ultimately, attending a networking meeting is a chance you take that could be potentially beneficial to your business, sometimes in less than obvious ways.
Network with other members and non members from across the UK through our National and Local networking framework