Network too much? Is that possible? Surely this concept goes against everything a small business owner has learned?
In some ways yes – neglecting networking could be the start of a downward slide for a small business. In other ways it is important to know the difference between networking that serves its purpose and networking that drains your resources.
Start by ensuring that you are not just doing the easy parts. Introductions and handshakes must always result in a follow-up. Taking these introductions from a superficial relationship to a meaningful (and profitable) one takes hard work and is the only way your networking can truly pay off. Like a builder, you must have the right arsenal of tools before you go out into the field. Improve your image, work on your ‘elevator pitch’, build comprehensive portfolios of your best work, etc. Essentially, be prepared. Be wary not to become ‘plastic chair filler’. Over-exposure eliminates a level of brand exclusivity.
Evaluate all networking opportunities with discretion. Make your time matter and network with purpose. “Don’t blur the lines between networking and socializing.” This can be a slippery slope and one that threatens the integrity of you and your business. With small businesses, setting boundaries is essential – if we are always out networking, who is actually running the business end of things and turning a profit? Over-networking can also be a sneaky budget-blower. Be selective. The myth of networking is that the more streets pounded, hands shaken and cards exchanged, the more dollars pile up in the bank. This is simply not true. The work that comes post-networking is where you generate the real results. Dedicate more time to the end results and you will realize the biggest payoffs that networking has to offer. Manage your time effectively and ensure that you are turning connections into transactions.