What is a Networking Group and Why Do I Need One?
A networking group is, simply, a group of professional people who get together regularly to learn about each others' businesses. These can range from formal weekly meetings, with everyone in business dress that has demanding attendance requirements, to informal, irregular meetings with no minimum attendance.
Too many people don't attend network groups when they need to, because of social anxiety, depression, introversion, shyness, or any one of a number of other excuses for not putting themselves out into the business world. Other people don't realize the true benefits of networking, and so think it is a waste of time or just not for them. Unfortunately, they are not only doing themselves a disservice by refusing to go to networking meetings, but they are doing their friends, colleagues, and other people they depend on, or who depend on them, a disservice as well.
I have been networking for more than ten years, and the benefits I have received (not counting referrals to my business) are almost overwhelming. In fact, even though I am somewhat shy and not really at my ease in groups where I have to deal with people one on one, I look forward to my weekly networking meetings where I might be in a room and talk with more than fifty people!
The point of attending these kinds of networking groups is to meet people face to face, in order to establish relationships with people who provide either products or services. When you stay home, you can't receive a referral for your business (if you have one), and you can't give a referral to someone else's business, either. That refusal to network can have serious unintended consequences that can damage not only your business, but many other areas of your life as well.
What Happens in These Groups?
When you attend networking groups, you meet people from all walks of life: plumbers, architects, landscapers, auto mechanics, attorneys of every speciality, realtors, bankers, even musicians! By getting to know these people, you will have contacts in every kind of business imaginable very soon. And how does this help you if you don't have a business?
Regardless of what we do, or who we meet, we all need to buy products and services, whether for home repair, insurance, financial services, car repairs, housecleaning, yard work, or any of the other hundreds of things or services we buy every year. Sure, we could look in the phone book or read online reviews, but nothing compares to having a relationship (however professional) with someone in the line of business that has what we need. Even if the person we met can't help us, that person probably knows dozens or hundreds of other people, and by building up our relationships with people who are in business, when we need a product or service, we have someone we know and trust to turn to.
A great TEDx talk on how networking works!
How Does Our Networking Benefit People Close to Us?
In addition, our friends, relatives and neighbors all need products and services. If we have a network of reliable providers at our disposal, we can easily keep people we care about from having bad experiences with businesses. As good businesses develop more customers, it is easier for them to stay in business, and that means that that business will be around when you need them, too.
Personal Benefits from Networking
So, by taking the time to network, learning about local businesses, and meeting the people who work for them, we can not only improve our own lives by having good contacts in the business community, but we can also keep people we care about from being deceived, or even having to go to court to sue someone, and at the same time help good businesses thrive and prosper.
If this isn't enough reason to start networking, I don't know what is!
What We Can Receive From Networking
But there is another benefit: people also learn about you and your company or hobbies, too. When people who work at local businesses consider you a friend, they are more likely to treat you and the people you refer to them honestly. And if you work, the people you meet at networking will have a more favorable opinion of your company, which means your company profits and is more likely to stay in business (meaning you get to keep your job).
Are You Convinced?
When we add up all the benefits of networking, it's clear that no matter what our situation, having a large group of people to turn to in our neighborhoods is, quite simply, a great idea. By learning how to network, we not only build up ourselves, our friends and our neighbors, but good businesses and our local communities as well. So throw aside all those tired excuses for why you haven't started networking, and begin to build your relationships!