Networking - Amazing fun or a necessary evil?
So as you know, I do a lot less networking than I used to.
My networking these days really does focus on my Fore Business golf networking and a little bit from Mint Business Club and Social+ Network+ when I can make it. So realistically, I have to know that it justifies my time. Playing a lot of golf, building up the connections, to build up my presence across the UK network for that, has worked fantastically well.
Paired with Mint Business Club, it’s a fantastic opportunity to chat with a different demographic of businesses working in the North East.
Again, this week I’ve had at least five invites to various networking opportunities across the North East, whether that be BNI Next Generation Networking, the Network B2B and AWE. These are all great networks and bring together a diverse range of people. Did I go along to all of them?
I took a decision a while ago to really focus my networking on golf/MINT. It’s very easy to get sucked into networking as a job. You know, if I was a BDM for a larger company then it makes sense to be at everything, but as a sole trader, doing lots of jobs within the business for myself, I need to maximise my time and make sure it’s efficient. So going to numerous networking things on a weekly basis that I can’t necessarily straight away see the direct benefit of… it’s always going to be a difficult balance.
So the decision was tough to cut back on networking, I mean yes, I miss the early mornings and the coffee here and there around the North East, but has it impacted on my income? That’s a difficult one to figure out. We all need to be seen and pull in new clients but it has to be justified spending time finding those contacts, as we always say, time is money too.
I know that I get really good numbers out of the networking that I do currently, so that’s got to be a positive, but how much would I get if I did some of this other networking? Have you done the maths on how much each of your networking routes brings in over a 12 month period?
Yeah, it’s a bit chicken and egg in that sense, that you can’t know until you do more stuff. So it’s a little bit difficult on that one. But I’m certainly happy that the networking that I do, the decisions I made to do that were right for me and my business, certainly at the time and certainly for the moment.
Would I advise people to be doing more networking or less networking in the current climate? I think it’s about finding your tribe; you see people talking about tribes a lot and it’s finding the network that works best for you, there’s no right answers in this game. I’ve often said I’ve stood in a room with a lot of good photographers before and you can ask every one of them and they all get their work in different ways and from different sources, so – certainly for me as a commercial photographer, my network needs to be strong, I need advocates across all sectors, but they need to be the right ones.
So my advice is very much that you find your tribe and you find your group of people that you really, really fit in well with and never feel as though you’re at networking because you need to be there. You have to be at your networking to want to be there and to justify the numbers that you get out of it. So you need to really figure out all of your income sources and which ones justify it.
If you’ve been to networking every week for a year, how much money have you made out of it? How much money have you passed on to other people? Are you actually just acting as a conduit for everybody else’s business? That’s lovely, but then no work’s coming back to you. You need to justify your time in a way that fully stacks up for you and your business, not to be just a BDM for everybody else in the room.
So, would I advise going to lots of different networking? I would, I’d say go and try everything that you get invited to, go and try, go and look, go and see what in your local area is a good fit for you. Who in the room can you get work from? Who can you really partner with? Who can you do different and new projects with that really make it justify its time? If it is a weekly meeting, just think about the time and impact on your family, which is why I don’t do a lot of the weekly networking.
My stuff’s very much around a monthly basis, just so I can have the flexibility with the family and time in my business to be able to deliver. So it’s very much a balancing act between you and how your business is sat, but there are so many opportunities out there and networking. Everybody should be out there, talking to everybody. Working in isolation, even with the best website in the world, there’s going to be a ceiling on that.
So yeah, I’d say, get out there, have a look, go and try all of them. You can get free trials at most of the networks. Go and see where you feel comfortable and where you feel some work can come from and some friendships and business connections can really come from and what they could lead to.
I mentioned two of mine; they are Fore Business, which is a national golf-related networking and golf business. We meet monthly and it’s been a real game-changer for my business. if you are a golfer, please drop me a line as its a great way to build relationships.
The other one is Mint Business Club, which is my friend Nicola’s business club, which is helping small businesses in the North East to really iron out some of those things on a weekly basis that every business goes through. But it’s a place for me to be able to ask questions and really make sure that I’m hitting all the buttons that I need to both for me personally and for the business. Go and check them both out, they’re both really great and they’ll love me for giving them a shout-out on here.