The simple way to get started with business networking

Networking is crucial in the business world but it isn’t something that every business owner enjoys. Here’s an easy way to get started.

Networking is a non-negotiable skill for business owners. Even if it doesn’t come naturally, you’ll still have to put the time and effort into getting it underway. Here, we’ll look at why networking is an important part of building a referral strategy, how to map the networks you already have, the obstacles you might face along the way – and how the people you know are more helpful than you might think.

We build networks throughout our lives

I arrived in Australia in 2012 at the age of 42. The only people I knew were my wife and her family. I’d left everything behind in Europe including my network. It wasn’t until I arrived here that I realised how important and valuable that network was.

We’re consciously and unconsciously building networks throughout our life. Most of our networks are established and are tighter than we think. Our first networks are those we make at primary school and high school, where we meet our first friends and teachers. Then comes university, trade school or our first job where we continue expanding our network.

By the time we’re in our early 20s, our networks are wide and keep growing through new friends, friends of friends, sporting clubs, hobbies, social media and so on. Then we extend them further through the people we work with and meet in our professional life.

The fact is, all of us already possess solid networks. We just don’t realise it and therefore don’t know how to tap into it. So let’s start mapping that out.

Getting rid of ‘head trash’

At this point, it’s probably a good idea to mention ‘head trash’. I’m talking about that negative internal chatter we experience when doubts start creeping in such as:

  • “I’m not much of a people person”
  • “This doesn’t apply to me”
  • “I don’t want to be one of ‘those’ networkers”
  • “This is overwhelming just thinking about it!”
  • “It’s too hard”

Just know that ‘head trash’ is normal. Most of us experience it. What’s important is to recognise when and why it’s happening. This is what will help you push forward in spite of it to leverage your network and build an effective business referral strategy.

The mapping process

Now it’s time to map out your network and take stock of what you already have. This is called a circle of influence – one that you have probably been building all your life.

To start off, write a list of 10 people you know in the following categories:

  1. Primary School
  2. Secondary School
  3. Tertiary Education (University/Trade School/Other)
  4. Sports
  5. Hobbies
  6. Family Friends (Parents/Kids)
  7. Work (Boss/Colleagues)
  8. Industry
  9. Other

Don’t think about if they’ll help you or not. Just write down the names that spring to mind. Give yourself at least 30 minutes to do this. Have your address book handy, and your LinkedIn and Facebook account open. Dig into your past and present and don’t stop until you’ve got 90 names on that list.

People love to help

Before ‘head trash’ stops you writing down as many names as you possibly can, I’d like to point out the most basic and encouraging of human traits: we’re all hardwired to help.

Think about it. When was the last time someone you know got in touch to ask for some help and you refused? In fact, think about how you felt when they asked you for help. Warm? Flattered? Pretty good about yourself? I’d hedge a bet to say you felt at least one of those emotions.

The point is that people will want to help you. And when it comes to growing your business, there are fewer assets more powerful than the people around you.

So, now you’re beginning to realise how big (and helpful) your natural network is. In my next article, I’ll take you through how to network in a way that’s right for you, your business and your growth targets.

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