How to network as a small business owner

As a small business owner, sometimes the hardest part of the job is finding new clients, staying connected with colleagues and networking within the community. These elements typically involve a lot of calling, talking and socializing, which may not be everyone's cup of tea. However, a financial plan could suffer if these crucial steps aren't emphasized within the organization.

With that said, there is plenty of good that can come about from a successful networking event, even if attending these meetings feels more like a trip to the dentist than a room full of opportunities. Small business owners make a number of mistakes when it comes time to reach out to other people, and that means lost connections and missed chances to grow. Instead of letting networking events pass by, here are a few business and financial tips to build a sound referral base within any industry. 

Don't wait until it is too late
The biggest problem many small business owners and entrepreneurs have with networking is waiting until it is too late to do anything. According to Inc. magazine, the process should be ongoing, especially if the venture is going strong.

This is because a mad scramble to network when contacts are needed, such as during a time of unemployment, can tend to backfire. Entrepreneurs should be building their referral base throughout the year, not waiting until these contacts must be called upon to take action. In order to address these issues, Inc. magazine recommended a few phone calls every couple of months to stay in touch, or perhaps a friendly lunch every once in awhile. What's more, small business owners can share some of their expertise by sending over links, articles or workshop invites to help colleagues stay informed with new developments.

During this time, it is important to remember to network with people who aren't similar, the news source noted. Many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of working only with those in the same field, but this could lead to missed opportunities at every corner. Instead, talk to people with different skills, expertise and responsibilities. It is surprising how quickly this could lead to meaningful connections.

Build a base in the community
When it comes to networking, few resources are as valuable as the community. A strong base here can be a serious boost to any financial plan, and entrepreneurs who stay connected in this way often find success a little easier to come by.

Pamela Springer, CEO and president of Manta, wrote in an article for the American Express OPENforum that there are a number of small business owners nearby in the local community. These people tend to live within the immediate vicinity, and stopping by their stores can be a quick and easy way to network. A simple conversation here can be just as effective as a large industry meeting, and a little goodwill – like a coupon – could lead to plenty of new opportunities. A team of small business owners in the local community is only a good thing, and that can lead to an increase in customers for everybody.

In addition, Springer explained that networking can receive a boost via social media. A strong online presence is a fantastic asset for any entrepreneur or small business owner to have, and these sites can be used to reach fellow colleagues and potential clients alike. Once connected, always take the time to follow up and stay in touch. After an initial conversation, it may help to reach out after one day has passed. Then, drop a line every few months or so, and always try to provide valuable content via social media.

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