5 Networking Tips for Small Business Owners

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Here at Veitengruber Law, we give our clients who are small business owners the same advice we would give ourselves when it comes to networking. Although we are attorneys and not business advisors, we pride ourselves on helping many people and businesses get on track financially.

A huge part of running a successful business is generating a customer base large enough to ensure that your company will succeed. Oftentimes, we meet clients when their business is in danger of going under. Many times our clients ask us to help them repair and rebuild their finances so that their company can succeed. As we work to help clients amend important aspects of the financial side of their business, we also offer some basic entrepreneurial advice.

Before your business can begin networking, you must spend time creating an innovative and well thought out brand that is easily marketable. It’s also important to be doing what you love as an entrepreneur.

Networking, or connecting with other professionals in your field or similar fields, is a component of self-marketing your business. If you are like others who sometimes find networking difficult or uncomfortable, there are several things that you can try to lessen your discomfort as you do your part to expand your business.

  1. Be honest and be yourself . Don’t attempt to make your efforts to network look like anything other than they are, but don’t overdo it, either. Other business owners will appreciate your candidness and will be much more likely to share information with you once they like you. Honesty is a very likable quality.
  2. Step outside of your industry. Many times, startup company owners think that they should be networking with companies similar to theirs. However, you’ll realize that networking outside of your industry can be just as helpful, if not more so. A business is a business regardless of the industry, and you’d be surprised what you can learn from someone whose business complements yours, rather than competes against it.
  3. Give before you get. Nobody likes a Needy Ned, right? Don’t be that person always asking for a phone number or leads without giving anything in return. As a matter of fact, it will do you good to offer up valuable tips and referrals to those people who you can benefit from in the future. They will be quite likely to return the favor.
  4. Stay neutral. It’s a good idea to pick a neutral meeting place if you plan on networking one on one. Taking a potential partner out to lunch is a fantastic way to avoid the distractions of his office (or yours), and it’s a good way to capture their attention. Since the average business lunch usually lasts at least an hour, you’ve got a good amount of time to connect on a business level and a social level. You’ll probably walk away from the lunch as friends, barring anything disastrous.
  5. Keep it light. Diving in with a sales pitch or business opportunity is not a good idea when networking, especially at first. Make it your goal to have a friendly encounter. Once people see you as a friend, they will be much more inclined to do business with you. People surround themselves with people they like, even in business.  Seal the relationship with a follow up call, email, or ideally, get them on your calendar for another meet-up in the near future.

Networking, although it can seem daunting at first, actually get a lot easier with some practice. Also, the size of your network will grow exponentially with each contact you make, because you’ll then have access to that contact’s network. It’s just one component of making your business a success, but it leads to referrals, which we’ll talk about next week.

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