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When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Networking

This has become my new mantra and quite honestly, I wish I would have seen the light a little earlier.  However, as a small business owner swamped with trying to make sales, market the business, oversee the day-to-day operations, and oh yeah- create the product, I just never saw where “having lunch” had a worthy place in my hectic day.  How could mingling be a priority when I still had bills to pay?  This year I finally became a little more open-minded.  With sales slowed and a little free time, I finally decided to join in on a couple happy hours and group dinners.  After my first happy hour with a couple of other entrepreneurs, I had found a new CPA, brainstormed with an ex-Neiman Marcus buyer on ideas for fine tuning my line, and found a new favorite wine.  Not bad, plus I actually had a good time!  Letting off some steam with fellow entrepreneurs who understood my situation was exactly what I needed to help me re-focus and re-energize.  Needless to say, I got the “networking” bug and have tried to incorporate some type of business mingling at least twice a month ever since.  With the likelihood of continued tough times ahead of us, we all need a little help.  Instead of spending money on a business coach or consultant, why not try to reach out to a couple colleagues first?  Here are some ideas and tips to get you started networking like a pro:

Get social…

  •  Visit networking sites like www.meetup.com for groups in your area that might be of interest. 
  • Volunteer to help with organizations you believe in
  • Join local trade groups, the chamber of commerce, or even Toastmasters
  • Host a brunch/happy hour for parents in your child’s class
  • Coordinate a block party for your neighborhood or business park

Know the etiquette…

  •  Listen twice as much as you talk… you’re not there to convert followers, you’re there to connect with others…
  • Leave the “hard sell” at home… the possibility of making a sale is an added bonus- not a necessity…
  • Have a plan… do you want advice on hiring a lawyer, feedback on your new tagline, or tips on negotiating a commercial lease?  You’re more likely to accomplish your goals if you define them from the start
  • Remember the golden rule… help others make introductions when you see a good fit and they will happily do the same for you
  • Follow-up with referrals quickly and send thank you notes to the person who made the referral
  • Be consistent… showing up once every six months is not going to help you become the “go to” guy/gal

Does anyone else have tips or suggestions for getting started networking?  I’d love to hear them!  Email me at heather@glamajama.com or leave a comment below…

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About the Author: Heather Schuck

Heather Schuck is a passionate entrepreneur who lives up to her "Lil' Firecracker" nickname. While she may joke about her "fun sized" 5'1″ petite frame or her nationally celebrated 4th of July birthday, she's serious about bootstrapping, inspiring mom entrepreneurs, [...]