Business is about networking

Business is about networking

To succeed in business you need to develop relationships. Life has taught us that to be successful in life or in business it’s not how much you know but how much you have managed to relate to other people. God has made us in such a way that we need to lean on each other.
Making connections and maintaining relationships with the people who support you throughout your career can be the key to success for most individuals.

You need to build a network of friends, colleagues, business associates whom you can call upon for help. We are often reminded that we should not burn bridges. Maintain your contacts with your friends, school mates and business associates; you don’t know when you will need them.
Mike Davidson once said “It’s all about people. It’s about networking and being nice to people and not burning any bridges.” Your helpers in life might come from your previous relationships at work, from a conference or from a business dinner.

A network has been defined by The Oxford Dictionary as, “a group of people who exchange information, contacts, and experience for professional or social purposes.” Networking is building relationships before you need them. The relationships you build now can usher you to greater heights in the future.

In our interaction with people we have built a lot of contacts, some of which we will never get in touch with but with others we develop relationships with. You need to interact with these people you build relationships with to benefit from your network.
Nowadays it’s very easy to build networks because of the digital age we are living in where social media networks dominate our lives. This is one way one can build networks. Face to face networking however still is the most trusted and tested way of building relationships. The places you can network face to face is at “networking” events, conferences and social gatherings.

Many people tend to view conferences as an opportunity to only learn about new products, technologies or companies, but ignore that it’s also a great networking opportunity. It’s important to spend some time before attending a conference to be able to research the speakers and attendees online and see those who you will be most interested in talking to or listening to.

Make sure you build productive relationships. At the conference itself make sure you get business cards from those you have targeted to talk to and follow up with e-mails after the event to start a relationship. Specialists in networking have said that effective networking is all about the people you know and meeting new people through other people. Your network is only as strong as the way you manage it. If we need to grow our business and be successful in life we need to build lasting relationships.

Isaac Newton once said “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” You are not an island you need others.
As we network we need to bear in mind the objective of networking, which is to help you make new contacts, build effective business relationships and build awareness of your business’ products and services.

As a business person you need to exploit every encounter with new people. Networking opportunities appear everywhere so be prepared for business networking at all times. You should carry your business cards and ensure you have developed a succinct, brief introduction of yourself and your company that summarizes who you are and what you do.

This is an ‘elevator pitch’ which you will use when you meet a potentially important contact for the first time at a conference or event and you have to introduce yourself and leave a lasting impression on that person for him to want to contact you later with a business proposal or to get further information.

When you exchange business cards with the people you meet take notes about the person giving you business cards so that you are able to contact them back.  You need to take a few seconds to jot down a few points about your new contact so that this will trigger your memory about your discussion topics when you follow up later.

Whenever there are conferences for your industry, endeavour to attend such because this is where you will meet people that will add value to your profession and business.
To make the most of such an event don’t spend too much time with people you know only, move around and mix with other participants and introduce yourself, making sure each encounter is productive and beneficial to both of you.
Pay attention to what the other person is saying. Don’t be distracted by other people you would like to see. Make your “elevator pitch” and encourage the other person to talk as well.

You need to use listening skills. Give the other person your full focus until you have finished discussion then you move to your next contact.
The key to every fruitful networking encounter is to ask questions. By so doing you can learn valuable information you can use to help build your business. Questions can range from what challenges your contact’s business or industry is facing and offer how you can offer solutions, if you have the skills.

Doing this will make them open up and they will begin to discuss their business and which this gives you the opportunity to learn about potential partnership avenues you can approach in the future. It is imperative that you always follow up on your new business contacts with a phone call, an e-mail or a letter. Make sure that you do personalise your communication and refer to the event you met so that it’s a reminder to the other person.
You can use this opportunity to invite the person for lunch, a social meeting or a business meeting. The whole idea is to reconnect with previous contacts.

Networking is the single most powerful marketing tactic to accelerate and sustain success for any individual or organization. Networking helps you to learn the dynamics within your industry much faster by relating with new established contacts.
Networking will open one to new career opportunities and can also accelerate your professional development and above all can open up a customer base for your business.

Stewart Jakarasi is a business and financial strategist and a lecturer in business strategy and performance management. He provides advisory and guidance on leadership, strategy and execution, preparation of business plans and on how to build and sustain high-performing organisations.

l For assistance in implementing some of the concepts discussed in these articles or for strategy facilitation please contact him on the following contacts: sjakarasi@gmail.com or +266 62110062 or on WhatsApp +266 58881062

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