So much in successful business boils down to your connections – your clients, your suppliers, your extended network of peers.
But when you’re up to your neck in the daily grind of managing your business, it’s so easy to de-prioritise getting out there and meeting people. When there are so many things that have measurable material costs and benefits – marketing, sales, accounting, training – actually meeting people face to face sometimes feels like a bit of a ‘nice to have’.
Well, I’m here today to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth.
Yes, networking takes time. And yes, it can cost money. But if building a solid, reliable network of trusted connections isn’t a key part of your business strategy, I can almost guarantee that you’re limiting your business opportunity.
The “investment” paradox is one that as small business owners we have to confront time and time again – and this applies to both time and money. You question whether you can afford to invest your time or money in something but fear that without investing in that ‘thing’, your business may not flourish.
Taking risks is part and parcel of business development – investing is often essential to deliver growth. And although that can sometimes be scary, avoiding it is a surefire way of guaranteeing stasis.
Please believe that on this front, I don’t just talk the talk – I’m definitely walking the walk too!
There has been no point in my career where I haven’t poured time, energy and investment into developing connections.
With building a network, it’s easy to think its power is limited to referring business, but a trusted network is so much more than that.
In fact, I think the concept of networking has become so diluted, I prefer to talk about building a tribe instead.
So, what is the value of being part of a tribe?
Anthropologically, there is scientific evidence to support how tribes benefit their members physically and mentally. Research shows that love, intimacy and being part of a tribe protected the members’ health. The cohesive community, the Tribe, was responsible for lower stress, well-being, and even a reduced rate of heart disease.
And there is a parallel in the business world as well. A tribe isn’t just a network that refers business opportunities.
A tribe harbours an environment for generating new ideas for work and life whilst also fostering a sense of community which is vital for a healthy productive life.
These groups can provide a sense of purpose, a reason to interact with others and even provide health and wellbeing benefits.
So, in addition to the known benefits of word-of-mouth and referrals, if tribes stand for:
Faith and belief
Dependability and support
When you put it like that, doesn’t building your network start to sound a lot more important?
Let’s me give you some examples:
Some time ago I launched a Mastermind group for language professionals. It started out as a 6-month programme consisting of 5 members who I met through networking and language shows. I found that the group members have gelled so well, I’d actually consider them friends now. Now, when I met first met these ladies in 2018 I had no idea we’d be where we are now – with a group that was so effective I had to run a 6-month extension ‘Graduate Programme’. That was a business opportunity that opened up in front of me entirely down to my business community.
And now a personal example: some time ago I was asked to be a panelist at one of the Language Professional’s Networking Group, and in the course of this began chatting with a great French guy who was living in America. He was new in business so I offered a virtual coffee to see if I could help in a small way. He mentioned to him in passing that he had studied for a business degree with a football scholarship in the US, hence the reason why he lived there. I thought that this would be the ideal path for my then 17-year-old son who was a bit lost thinking about further study. Fast forward six months and, thanks in no small part to my new contact, my son is currently in America, studying business while playing soccer!
In my experience, one of the main blockers to effective networking, is that people can be very guarded and closed off in business. There is a general concern that unless you’re playing your cards close to your chest and constantly looking over your shoulder, someone will come along and walk off with your business.
I think people forget that anyone can imitate your business – but nobody can imitate YOU.
You can be as cagey as you want and defend your ideas and products – but if you are authentic, work with integrity, strive to innovate and look after your customers nobody will come close.
In the language industry I’m all for connecting and collaborating rather than competing – we all have points of differentiation, and the opportunities lie in building on those.
Openness is the key to growth – personally and for your business.
When you get out there and open yourself up, amazing things happen.
And on that note, I truly wanted to create an opportunity for everyone in my language professional world to expand their network of contacts by talking freely about business and meet other amazing language business owners so I decide to create the Business Club for Language Professionals.
We start with 2 sessions to choose from on Monday and Friday and you can book on the links below.