In the world of business, when two equals compete, the differentiating factor between the winner and the also-rans is often networking. Well-networked people and organisations find it easy to get new contracts, ideas and – in the case of start-ups – funding.
But what is networking for business, and why do some people excel at it while others struggle?
People are inherently wired to form connections with others based on shared interests, but networking for business is a different ball game altogether; individuals who can form good social networks on a personal basis might struggle to connect with their professional peers. To some extent, this lack of networking in the professional sphere has been influenced by the rise of social media. Over the last decade, in-person interactions and meetings have been replaced by emails and messages. While social media following, to an extent, adds to your professional network, believing it can replace the need to meet people in-person is a thought that needs correction.
A report by Harvard Business Review indicated that the success of many enterprises and campaigns depended on both internal and external networking. Those who didn’t network showed fewer billable hours. LinkedIn’s global survey results from 2017 among 15,905 members across 17 countries showed that around 80 per cent of professionals considered online networking important to career success but 38 per cent said they found it hard to stay in touch with their network and cited lack of time as the leading cause.
Need more reasons to start networking?
For that million-dollar idea: Every business runs on ideas. But, great ideas often come with brainstorming. Veterans from the industry like to mentor young professionals. They are more than happy to share their experience of putting ideas to work and turning them into a real business. From Warren Buffet mentoring Bill Gates to Mike Markkula guiding Steve Jobs, there are stories galore of great mentors and their mentees. It’s a win-win for both parties. The one with the original idea gets to implement it, while the mentor takes home the satisfaction of grooming a young mind. So, if you are someone carrying a million-dollar idea, which needs a little bit of fine-tuning, a brainstorming session with a professional(s) from your industry may just be the trigger that you need.
To expand the business: No matter how big a business is, there’s always a new frontier to conquer. From mid-sized companies to large conglomerates, every establishment is looking for growth. But growth doesn’t come easy. It needs fresh investments, orders as well as the discovery of new markets. In such a scenario, meeting investors, who trust your growth plans and strategic partners, who will help you establish in newer markets is key to success.
Meeting such people needs moving beyond your existing network. Attending events where experts share valuable insights can be extremely instrumental in expanding businesses in the sector.
To iron out differences: In this connected world, we have partners sitting across the globe bringing in business worth millions. But, just like our personal relations, professional relations run the risk of getting sour. And just like in our personal lives, we need to iron out the differences with our business partners as well. It can’t happen over a conference call, rather, a face-to-face meeting is needed. One of the reasons why companies organise off-site meetings between employees is to iron out differences between different teams that are required to work together to achieve the collective goal of organizations. Similarly, business partners, vendors, investors as well as team members located at different office branches need to meet each other for a round of networking that will go a long way in building long-lasting relationships.
Morale and confidence: Networking is not always about getting something instant and tangible. Just meeting like-minded people and listening to their challenges and stories of success is what you need to overcome your dilemmas. Conscious learning keeps professionals dedicated to focusing on activities that bring value to their businesses and their image. This builds discipline, confidence and increases morale which are the most important factors that can help one become a seasoned professional and achieve desired success in their industry.
But, how to network in-person, in the age of social media?
Networking events: Several networking events get organised every year. The purpose of
these events is to bring together all stakeholders on the same platform, allowing them to be
in their element without the business jargon and the PPTs. There are plenty of upcoming business networking events people can choose to be a part of, depending on their interests and requirements.
Trade shows and Investors’ summit: Trade shows have always been in vogue among the veteran professionals, while investors’ summits are something that the new-age entrepreneurs always look up to. Platforms like Events High, MeraEvents, 10 times and Meetup help people find out such events, easily. Whatever be your requirement, choose to be present at such events and mark your presence. Since these events have a purpo attached to them, there are high chances of cracking a business deal at such places.
Other avenues: Then we have charity and fund-raising events, providing ample ground for local networking, trade events like Auto Expo, Convergence India, India Brand Expo, etc. The purpose of each of these events is to bring manufacturers, marketers, customers, writers, R&D experts from different regions under an environment most conducive for facilitating relevant business exchanges, creating meaningful opportunities for growth in their respective businesses and industries.
Are you ready for networking, then?
(The author is country manager, Admitad India)