Why it's important to have a professional business development network

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Behind every gold medalist is an experienced coach that helped them reach that spot on the podium. A coach comes up with a training plan to effectively keep an athlete accountable and on track with their goals, helping an elite athlete grow stronger and avoid plateauing in their journey. Depending on their sport, an athlete can train with fellow athletes and encourage each other to perform better. So, just as an elite athlete needs a support system and regular coaching to win gold, an elite business owner needs to partner with a coach and be part of a community to develop their small business.

Being an entrepreneur can be lonely if you don’t have the support of a business community. Friends and family can be a source of support, but unless they have successful ventures themselves, they might not be able to give you the best business advice to help you grow as an entrepreneur. Most of them will likely have traditional 9-5 careers which can make your business journey feel more isolating because they’re on completely different paths.

Joining a group of entrepreneurs can help you find a coach and meet a community of like-minded people. A professional support network can understand the business issues you’re dealing with when you need to talk about the setbacks you’re going through and they can offer advice or their skillset to help you grow your small business.

Finding a support group that’s right for you and creating meaningful connections with other entrepreneurs can take time so it’s important to participate in business networking and build your support network.

What is business networking?

Business networking refers to the process of building mutually beneficial connections with other entrepreneurs or potential customers. Networking in business can help you grow if you consistently meet new people that can potentially become important contacts, including other business owners, professionals in different industries and even suppliers or customers. 

As you keep networking, you can eventually build a pool of connections you can rely on, which also gives you the opportunity to offer your products or skills in exchange for another person’s advice, expertise or contacts.

Building a business network is more than just going from one networking event to the next. To create a feeling of support and camaraderie, it’s important to remember that building a network is also about developing personal relationships with others and being part of a community. 

Instead of just exchanging services with another entrepreneur and going your separate ways until the next transaction, you can invite members in your group to sit down for a cup of coffee and catch up with each other, which can lead to insightful conversations and deeper connections. By focusing on the human aspect of business networking, you can grow as a person and business leader and gain lifelong friendships in the process. 

Why you need a professional business development network

A professional business development network becomes effective when it’s built on trust and respect, which you can cultivate if you’re part of a group that supports each other and prioritises relationships rather than just transactions.

Some of the benefits of being part of a strong business network include:

  • Business solutions - You can meet people who experienced similar issues to what you’re facing now and they can offer you advice or solutions to help you move forward.
  • New opportunities - You can develop partnerships or joint ventures with other businesses that have the same goals.
  • Access to talent - If you need a staff member with a specialised skill set or expertise, your network can recommend talented people that fit the role. 
  • Benchmarking - You can measure how well your business is performing compared to similar businesses within your network which can give you an idea of how to improve your business further.
  • Brand awareness - Building relationships within your network and supporting other people can boost your business profile and make your brand more recognisable.
  • More customers and suppliers - You can find potential customers or suppliers within your group or based on your network’s contacts and recommendations.

Networking in business is invaluable for a small business owner because it can give you a lifeline of support as you continue on your journey. Once you understand that networking is about making meaningful connections with others, you start contributing in your business community and reap the benefits from a strong professional support network.

5 ways you can build your support network

To create authentic and meaningful connections with other business owners, make sure that your networking strategies are centred on human connections and community-building, as opposed to something purely transactional. Here are five tips that you can apply to to build your professional support network.

1. Join local social clubs and associations

Local social clubs that are related to your personal interests and hobbies can be a less intimidating way of meeting new people who can potentially become friends, associates or business partners. When you’re in a club that comes together because of a shared interest such as books, movies or sports, it’s much easier to strike up a conversation with a stranger and get to know them as compared to a group where you don’t share anything in common.

Industry-relevant associations are a great opportunity to meet and learn from other entrepreneurs who have different experiences and skill sets. Members of associations can enjoy exclusive perks such as product discounts and a database of contacts. Business owners who have developed strong ties within an association can find ways to share resources and achieve common goals such as innovating products or tools that can help them boost profit.

2. Host a meet-up every month and invite new people

Hosting a casual dinner or happy hour can be a good opportunity to meet with select people and deepen relationships with them. You can be strategic with your events by organising the programme of activities, if there are any, and by making sure that you personally interact with each person you invited.

Inviting new people every time you host an event can expand your professional circle, and it ensures that your network doesn’t stagnate and stop with the same set of people. You can set the tone for the event so that the meet-up doesn’t have to focus on business all the time, allowing you to unwind and have fun with people who are on the same journey as you. 

3. Build mutually beneficial relationships

A good relationship is a two-way street, and this definitely applies in a business network. You can foster mutually beneficial relationships if you’re authentic and people are more likely to trust and depend on you if they see that you’re a straight shooter. Being a straight shooter is living and working with integrity, and a straight shooter always makes sure that there’s an equal give and take between them and the other person. 

For new or inexperienced entrepreneurs, it’s important to initiate gestures of goodwill and support in the group, as opposed to asking for a business favour or request straight off the bat. This will show others that you’re making an effort to help them and get to know them. When members of your network see how invested you are in creating a reciprocal relationship, they will be more likely to support you in return.

4. Give back to the community

Investing in the improvement of your community or contributing to a cause you believe in can positively impact your personal wellbeing as well as your business network. Giving back and participating in non-profit projects is another avenue of meeting people who can become important connections in the future. Collaborating with others in a project enables you to showcase your expertise and skills, boosting your credibility as a possible business colleague for potential contacts within the community project. 

Make sure that you’re passionate about the cause or organisation you’re participating in, and that your primary focus is on how you can share your skills for the good of your community. Contributing to a cause you believe in and working alongside others who have the same mindset is a fulfilling venture in itself. Getting new business contacts out of the project is just an added bonus, especially since the project will give you an idea of the standards and work ethics of your potential contacts. 

5. Join a community of entrepreneurs

An established community of entrepreneurs will be able to support you in your journey and help you grow as a business leader. 

Some ways that a professional community of entrepreneurs can benefit you include:

  • Learning from each other’s mistakes - Hearing the personal experiences of fellow business owners can help you identify which pitfalls to avoid and how you can better prepare yourself for unexpected setbacks.
  • Exchanging tips of the trade - While Googling business tips and tricks can be helpful, learning from seasoned entrepreneurs can give you real insight into new ideas and suggestions you can apply in your business.
  • Applying new business skills - Your community can teach you more effective systems, processes or strategies that can further improve your own business operations.

As to finding the right business community, it can help to partner with an experienced business coach who is focused on helping you grow alongside other entrepreneurs. They should be able to lead a strong professional support network that is already built on mutual trust and respect, while also guiding you in your personal business journey.

By understanding that business networking is not just about going to seminars and events and that it’s more about building genuine and personal connections with other people, you can build a lifeline of support within a community of entrepreneurs.

If you are ready to meet business owners who are on the same journey as you, join us at The Business Evolution. We can give you the support you need in helping your business grow.

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