Want to have a successful small business? Then build your network.
Comments like this are not uncommon. Good networking is one factor in building a successful, sustainable small-business. Both anecdotal information and research supports such claims.
We have written about it previously in this blog when discussing “Networking for Business Success.” Most articles, like this one, focus on why small-business owners should network and offer steps on doing it effectively.
Yet knowing you need to network and connecting with people at an initial meeting will bring you only a small part of the full value of networking.
The full value of your network comes over time as you deepen relationships and begin to branch out as one connection leads to another.
I encouraged this long term effort in 2016 in the post, “Don’t Neglect Your Networks.” Now let me add some specific things you can do.
- Reconnect immediately. This is true for two reasons. We will meet lots of people in our lives and also we forget. Send a thank-you. Remind them of who you are and what you do. Suggest a future meeting and perhaps even a topic or point of conversation. Email works well but a handwritten note will not be forgotten.
- If you talked specifics in your first meeting, put some notes in your contact. People are encouraged to write notes after meeting people that first time, but that rarely happens in reality. So help both of you remember.
- As time goes on, it is important to keep the connection. If you:
- See their name in the paper, let them know
- Find a news article of interest, pass it on
- Note something new in your business or industry, share it
- Find something or someone who might help them, give them the tip
- Send along non-business information also. Perhaps they mentioned their interest in jazz and a group will be in your area performing, send them the information.
- Meet on a somewhat regular basis. And while meeting just to reconnect is fine, think about a specific question or topic you might discuss.
- Celebrate their successes and a note on holidays, birthdays, etc. is always appreciated.
Networking can be a powerful tool for your business. The more you work at it, the greater your returns.
- About the Author
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Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.