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Small firms missing a trick on networking

According to British Gas Business research, more than 50% of UK small business firms do not network. This supports thoughts that small business owners just aren't getting how beneficial networking can be. In a rundown of the poll results 69% believed networking was not relevant to their business. 45% thought they did not need any more customers, so no need to network. On the other hand, 86% that did network said they won more business as a result, and 70% benefited by simply discussing key issues with other business owners.

American Express studies reveal that many business owners targeted mentors, social networks or trade associations to get their business advice. This was more popular than using professional business advisers or accountants. The trend seems to be mirrored in the UK.

Mixing with business peers could be the most important habit you can get into for your business. Beginners can find it daunting - as you can feel less important than the seasoned business people. But remember, most of them started exactly where you are now and most are very willing to assist in you finding your footing.

  1. For ways to get started with networking in your area find business events and check out these sites to track businesses in your area
    Chamber of Commerce
    Entrepreneur's Organisation (EO)
    UK Business Clubs
    trade association
  2. Be confident. Even if you feel nervous, try not to let it show at your first few meetings. Be confident and know that just because you are a startup company, or new to networking does not mean you don't have anything valid to add. At the very least, you will get your business product some attention. Stay relaxed and listen a lot until you get a feel for it.
  3. The three P's, be Positive, Polite and Professional. In all dealings connected to business, keep a professional profile during the get together and afterwards. Make sure you follow up on any arrangements, like calls or meetings. Don't be a stranger, keep up the contact now you have broken the ice.
  4. Be Available. If you change your number, let everyone know. Keep stationary up to date e.g. business cards. Answer correspondence, have a tour of your business, or host a get together at your home, if you work from home.
  5. Be web savvy. Online networking opportunities are endless. This takes networking worldwide if you want it. Do learn about how to protect yourself online until you build up trusted networks. here are some good sites to start:
    LinkedIn
    Plaxo
  6. Another great resource are referral exchanges. Operating at a local level only, only one person from a trade or sector can join in any particular local chapter. Business Referral Exchange
    Business Network International
More information on networking for small business in the UK can be found at UK Small Business Marketing Bible
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