Networking: a critical component for business success.
By PJ Stevens
Networking is a critical component for business success, here's why.
In this digital-first data-hungry world where, according to the latest estimates, 328.77 million terabytes of data are created each day, we are not short of information and knowledge. Though one might argue we lack wisdom to utilise the knowledge and I for one sense we need to invest in relationships and high value networks, connecting people with knowledge and information for good.
the term Business Networking events used to strike fear into many people, perhaps it still does today. I found many events cliquey, and like many others, I saw or gained no value. Perhaps the word ‘event’ was the problem. We saw these things as one off events, some where to go and hand out cards, try to sell, a numbers game… In other words, everything that networking isn’t!
Networking is far deeper and more valuable than events, business cards and linkedin connections. A real network takes years to build, it's an investment and can yield enormous value for those people (relationships) in that network and beyond.
Networking, in my view, is critically important in business today for a number of reasons.
Building Trust and Credibility: Effective business relationships are often built on trust and credibility. Indeed there are three pillars of networking – know, like and trust – with trust being key. Meeting people face-to-face or through trusted connections can help establish trust faster than purely transactional interactions. Trusted connections are more likely to recommend your services or products, which can boost your reputation.
Collaboration and Partnerships: Collaboration is key to success in many industries. Indeed collaboration is a key indicator in business cultures, sought by many, though not always understood. Through networking, you can identify potential partners, suppliers, or collaborators who can help you develop new products, expand into new markets or improve your business processes.
Opportunity Creation: Networking provides a platform for creating new opportunities, providing you invest accordingly in the relationships. Whether it's finding new customers, partners, investors, or employees, the connections you build can lead to valuable opportunities that can fuel business growth, or save time and money. This where the likes of LinkedIn, if used properly can help with activities such as recruitment.
Access to Resources: Networking can grant you access to valuable resources, including information, expertise, funding and technology that might otherwise be harder to come by. By connecting with others in your industry or related fields, you can tap into a wealth of knowledge and resources that may not be readily available otherwise. Connecting with others from different industries you might ‘see’ new ways of working, ideas and opportunities. We know that there is a huge wealth of knowledge and creativity in businesses and networks, much of which remains untapped. Accessing these resources and connecting people and ideas can be of significant value.
Continuous Learning: Networking events, conferences, and conversations with industry peers provide opportunities for continuous learning. You can stay updated on the latest industry best practices, technologies and strategies, which can give you a competitive edge. Being ‘present’ in your market is one of the API factors – authority, presence and influence – stated by Prof Peter Hawkins.
Market Insights: Connecting with others allows you to stay informed about industry trends, market shifts, successes and emerging opportunities. Conversations with peers and industry experts can provide valuable insights that help you adapt and make informed decisions. Meeting people from other sectors, and sharing insights, can lead to new opportunities, ideas, value chains and new services.
Career Advancement: Networking is not just about building connections for your current business and projects but can also enhance your personal and professional development. Good quality networking can lead to new job opportunities, mentorship relationships and career growth for you and for others who you might be coaching.
Problem-Solving: When you encounter challenges or problems in your business, your network can be a valuable resource for finding innovative solutions or offering introductions to trusted contacts. Other people may have faced similar issues and can offer advice or guidance, or may have useful challenges in your thinking and ‘open your eyes’ to difference. Indeed, good networking meets many DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) values, and can release knowledge, creativity and ideas which might ignite new thinking for you.
Brand Building: Networking can help build your personal and business brand. When you establish a strong presence in your industry or community, it can attract customers, investors, and partners who are drawn to your reputation and expertise. It’s well worth reading Neil Barrie, from 21st Century Brands, who talks about influential brands.
Global Reach: In an increasingly globalised world, networking allows you to connect with individuals and businesses from around the world. This can open up new markets, export / import opportunities, and a broader customer base. It may also connect you with new ideas and trends to keep you ahead of the game in your region or industry. Global networking comes in many forms including university alumni, indeed many universities and learning providers – who operate globally -state networking as one of the key values to taking their programmes. In a recent learning group I was part of we had people from a dozen countries, including a manager from canning factory in South America and an Investment expert from Singapore
In today's highly competitive business environment, networking is a strategic tool that can help you stay relevant, adaptable and well-connected. Building and nurturing relationships must be a fundamental part of your business growth and success strategy.
About the author
PJ Stevens is an expert in organisational change, performance and improvement, with 20 years experience. He is chair of the business improvement network.
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