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How to Use Your Network

Last updated August 21, 2012

Now, What’s it to be…. Your Network or Networking Events?

Over the years networking events have gone up and down the business popularity ladder several times. There are many exponents of these networking events; any number of groups willing to take your money to facilitate groups, setting up gender specific groups, industry specific groups or just a random group. The Tweet Up seems to be flavour of the month just now.

Business experts, books, seminars, blogs and training sessions have mushroomed to fill the seemingly insatiable appetite from business owners for networking gems.

But why isn’t it top of our minds all of the time? Why is it that you see the same people at every event; the same ‘speakers’ are doing the rounds saying the same things. I could go to one every morning, lunchtime and evening but then I wouldn't have a business left! The answer is probably because we've tried it out several times and just haven’t managed to connect with the right type of networking groups.

For me, the important bit that everyone seems to overlook is that your existing network is infinitely more important and valuable than networking at events.

Everyone has a network – lots of people just don’t recognise that they do – but it’s there!

So how do you maximise your network? It takes a little time to set it up and with some regular proactive action it will build, grow and return you great rewards.

  1. It proactively ‘connects’ you to people who:
    1. can help you
    2. know other people who can help you
    3. you can help
  2. It’s your sphere of influence – because you know the people you will find it much easier to influence them; as well as find people who you don’t know but they do
  3. You won’t be able to attend as many events as you need to keep in contact with your network – quite simply they might not be at the event that you are. So, you need to find other ways to connect - the choices are endless; pick up the phone and talk, text, email or arrange to meet!
  4. There are lots of tools to help you keep in touch – and don’t forget that phone! This is not an excuse to hide away – personal face to face time is always beneficial.
  5. Think about the people in your network and what might help them. If you see an interesting article, blog, website or seminar then share it with them in whatever format you prefer.
  6. Ask your network how you can help them - make yourself valuable to your network. You don't need to keep score - what goes around comes around!
  7. Above all don’t neglect your network – you would have kept them close if you were looking for a job and now you are looking for help to grow your business keep them even closer.

A few of my clients have set up their own network groups. They are closed forums made up of like-minded people who meet 3 or 4 times a year for face to face time but are ‘close enough’ to each other and able to ask for or provide help when needed. They have their own rules and are a ‘safe’ arena in which to test out theories, learn from others, ask for help or just download a problem and find a solution.

Related Article:  ‘It’s not what you know’ has some more networking tips.

How do you manage your own network and how has it helped you?

shirley-mansfield-CoachSME
Shirley Mansfield
Master Business Problem Solver

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