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In an increasingly connected world, networking has become essential to business success. From building new partnerships to tapping into talent pools, networking opens doors for companies to grow and succeed. Building connections has been the cornerstone of my company’s success and is an essential skill for any entrepreneur. Here are some key reasons you should make networking part of your everyday life.
1. Expanding business opportunities
By cultivating strong relationships with industry peers, potential customers and suppliers, companies gain access to new markets, collaborations and referrals.
At my company, we often encourage our clients to attend networking events with organizations such as their local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, Eagles and BNI networks. One of our clients, Lisa, is an excellent example of how these meetings can result in unlikely connections.
Lisa engaged in a conversation at a local conference with a man named John. Lisa is a fashion designer specializing in sustainable clothing, and John is an architect with a passion for incorporating eco-friendly designs into buildings. They discovered a shared interest in sustainability and a mutual desire to create innovative solutions.
Inspired by their discussion, the two decided to explore a partnership where they could combine their expertise to design sustainable, eco-friendly fashion boutiques. They realized that by integrating sustainable materials, energy-efficient lighting and green building techniques, they could create unique retail spaces that align with their shared values.
They secured funding from investors who were impressed by their unconventional partnership. They were approached by other retailers and designers interested in incorporating sustainable elements into their stores and collections. Lisa and John’s unlikely collaboration boosted their businesses and created a ripple effect, inspiring other professionals to explore unique partnerships and embrace sustainability in their industries — and that could happen for you, too.
2. Accessing knowledge and experience
By connecting with industry leaders, entrepreneurs can learn about best practices, new trends and innovative strategies. Let’s use Tesla as an example.
In Tesla’s early days, Elon Musk sought out Martin Eberhard, an experienced engineer and electric vehicle enthusiast. Through their collaboration, Musk was able to leverage Eberhard’s extensive knowledge of battery technology, which helped Tesla develop its groundbreaking electrical vehicles. At SAB, we regularly hold online networking sessions where our clients can share what is working well in their business and what they may be struggling with to get suggestions from other clients.
3. Improving your company’s reputation
Actively participating in networking events, industry associations and online forums can help entrepreneurs build credibility and authority in their respective fields. Speaking at events and offering your expertise to others will position you as a thought leader. Speaking in smaller locations allowed me an opportunity to grow my brand awareness which then opened doors for me to speak on larger stages. As my brand grew, people would come up to me after events and ask how they could work with me.
4. Attracting and retaining talent
Networking can also be a great way to secure talent for your business. Through networking with employees and other entrepreneurs, you can learn more about who is looking for work or a change in environment, who would be a good fit for your company culture and who’s recommended by previous employers.
A fellow business associate carries recruitment cards that he refers to as “rockstar cards.” When he receives amazing customer service, he gives the rep a card for “rockstar” service. On the back, the card reads, “We are looking for superstars like you to join our team” with a link to apply for his company. You never know where your next stellar employee might come from.
5. Facilitating collaboration and innovation
Networking can lead to interesting collaborations and new products and services. Apple and IBM are great examples of two large companies that are considered rivals. But they were able to come together regardless of their different work culture and work together. Their strategic partnership, announced in 2014, allowed both companies to leverage each other’s strengths and expertise to develop a suite of enterprise applications that revolutionized mobile technology in the business world.
6. Promoting diversity and inclusion
As you network, you increase the diversity of those on your team and those you collaborate with. This can help you and your company bring in a greater mix of ideas, perspectives and cultural considerations into your work environment. To build upon the diversity in your organization, try participating in events and organizations that focus on diversity and inclusion. You could even hold your networking event and invite specific people and businesses to attend to ensure different groups would be there. Actively seek out connections with people from diverse backgrounds, industries and skill sets.
Related: 3 Ways to Diversify Your Network
7. Connecting globally through online networking
It’s no secret we’ve moved more towards online networking during these past few years. Social media has given us access to interact with other entrepreneurs and our customers. Don’t underestimate networking through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I’ve personally benefited from these platforms and created various professional connections.
My company, Strategic Advisor Board, uses the popular team collaboration tool Slack every day. Slack offers numerous industry-specific communities where professionals can exchange ideas, share resources and make new contacts. This platform allows for easy collaboration internally and communication globally in real time.
8. Building long-term relationships
Networking isn’t a one-time activity, but an ongoing process of building and maintaining relationships. Due to relationships I’ve built over the years, I have a network of referral partners for nearly all service sectors and I’m able to refer others to trusted people; this furthers my status as a trusted business resource.
By incorporating diversity and inclusion into networking and using technology to expand connections, we can build a stronger foundation for lasting success. As markets evolve and the business landscape changes, the relationships forged through networking will continue providing invaluable support and resources to help companies succeed in an ever-changing world.