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A few years ago a friend asked me to speak to the local Rotary Club about the auction business I had recently started. My schedule was clear that evening so I agreed. Despite bad weather a nice group of people were there representing various businesses in our community. I kept my presentation to about 20 minutes, but I was surprised by their questions that lasted about 30 more minutes. There was much about the auction business they did not know which led to some very good questions about the details that are involved in having an auction. It was a great opportunity to showcase my knowledge and my desire to operate a quality auction business that will treat people with respect. It was also a chance to build relationships with persons I had never met before. We ate together, we laughed and joked with one another, and by the end of the evening I think we all felt very comfortable with each other.
The day after that meeting I thought back to the fifteen years I owned a previous business. Not once did I ever speak to any group about our business nor did I ever join any of the organizations in our community. We sat back waiting for people to walk into our business, ran an occasional newspaper ad or radio spot, and depended on word-of-mouth advertising from satisfied customers. I have to wonder how much better could we have done if I had networked with other leaders in our community so they could get to know me on a personal level and get to know more about our company.
Given the option, people will do business with persons they know and trust. Networking allows others to get to know you on a more personal level. Networking is more than working a room and passing out business cards; it’s about getting to know people and letting them know you. It’s building personal relationships with other people. It’s about building top-of-mind-awareness through relationships.
Are you a member of any of the local service organizations in your community? Don’t misunderstand…you don’t join these groups just to get business for your company. You join to help make a difference in people’s lives. Many of these groups do some great work in their communities, and that is why you want to be a part of that. However, as you serve alongside others in the organization you are building relationships that may well result in increased business. Anyway you look at it, that is a win-win situation. You benefit from the increased business, and your community benefits by your involvement in the organization.
What would you do if someone asked you to present a talk to one of the groups in your community? For many people, their number one fear in life is to have to stand before a group of people and give a talk. I’ve been in ministry for over 35 years so that is not a fear of mine, but I have seen people freeze when they’ve been asked to speak to a group. As a business leader you need to conquer that fear because such opportunities are a great way to network with other people and present information about your business they may not have known. It puts a human face and story on your company that is more appealing than any logo or slogan.
Look for networking opportunities. I think you’ll find they will help grow your business.
To learn about other mistakes I made in my previous business be sure to read my e-book Mistakes: Avoiding the Wrong Decisions That Will Close Your Small Business.