- Arrive time: You want to make the most of an event? Stay late. Why? Not everyone arrives early or stays late. Arriving early and staying late gives you the opportunity to meet professionals with varying schedules and you have more time to get to know the people you just meet.
- Remember, business relationships are a two-way street: It’s OK to talk about yourself but the best compliment is to ask a lot of questions about the person and their business.
- Ask open ended questions and listen: This highlights ways you can add value and meet needs other professionals might have. It’s like dating: the more questions you ask the more the person feels a connection with you.
- Stand. Why? Sitting signals that you are having a private conversation, or otherwise busy with your iPhone. Sitting should be reserved for serious conversations and follow up meetings. Don’t be a wall flower.
- Know your current perspective: Connecting with like-minded professionals can give you inspiration, insight and the inside scoop on emerging trends and needs within your industry.
- Wear a nametag: Why? Everyone attends a networking event to meet new people, so don’t be shy! Say hello, mingle and introduce yourself. Make sure your nametag is written clearly with your name and business name for others to read.
- 50/50 rule: Spend an equal time with people you know and meeting new people. The more people you meet the easier it get when you attend your next event.
- Pay it Forward: the best networker is a connector, someone that refers business to other people without thinking about themselves but thinking about helping others in networking. This will help you in the long run by getting more business and contacts in the future.
- Elevator Pitch: Have several Elevator pitches ready for your event. This way, if someone already heard your last pitch they can hear another one which might help them find you more business and or know more about you and your business.
- Volunteer: The best way to meet everyone at an event is to volunteer at the front sign-in desk. This way you can meet the people you want to talk to and it will save you time.
- Share relevant news: Sometimes we all like to talk about ourselves but knowing about current events, business news and other relevant events will give you something to talk about. By doing this, it will make you more memorable.
- Networking groups: A good way to grow your business is to join a Chamber, to increase your business and get your name out there. It’s just like customer service the more you have contact with your current and past clients the more likely they will refer more business your way.
- Network, network, network: Try to visit at least one event a week. The more you network the more business contacts you gain which will result in more business. If you don’t network, your business won’t grow and no one will know about you and your business.
- No limp handshakes and eye contact: the worst thing you can do is to give a really bad handshake, remember you want to give a good first impression. Always have eye contact with the person you’re talking to, by not looking in their eyes it could show that you’re not telling the truth or hiding something.
- Have a professional looking business card: If you break out a business card, make sure it’s high quality. Don’t start a conversation by giving a person your card first, it’s really tacky.
When I began my networking journey, I attended any and all networking events as time permitted. Every event was fair game! Today I am much more strategic in my networking endeavors. I discovered which events and organizations gave me the best return on my investment of time as well as how to be an effective, caring networker.
In order to know where to begin you must first understand what networking is and why it is important to grow your business. Networking in its purest form is simply talking to people, making connections and developing rapport to grow our circle of influence. Business networking is essentially the same except that our primary objective in business networking is to help us grow our businesses. For most of us, building a network means meeting people we can do business with or who will do business with us, or refer people who will do business with us, are our ultimate goals.
In fact, some of the best networks are those created by people who own and run their own businesses. When you create valuable networking relationships, you build them on a foundation of mutual trust, sharing knowledge, experiences and resources to help one another grow your businesses by either referring one another or doing business directly with one another.
It works like this: If you do a good job, one customer might tell three to five of her colleagues, family and friends about you. Whereas, when you build a network of say 10 to 20 strong advocates, they may each tell only one person about your, however your “exposure” is now more than doubled – With the right network, the ultimate in “word of mouth” marketing takes place. You promote your network, and your network promotes you.
I host events – I started an event called Networking in Memphis more than 2 years ago at Jack Robinson Art Gallery. It is an intimate gathering of women and men of all different interest and wish to expand their own circles. Have you ever attended a BNI or Le Tip or other form of structured networking groups? Perhaps you are already a member of a similar group. If not, you might consider becoming involved in one to the fastest growing business networking concepts around. These groups invite business professionals to join on an exclusive basis. That means, that if you are a chiropractor and become a member of one of these groups, no other chiropractor will be invited or allowed to join.
These groups have regularly scheduled meetings (anywhere from monthly to weekly) with a list of rules and objectives to which you must abide. In some cases, a minimum number of referrals are required to participate. In others, simply doing business with one or more in the network is all that is asked of the members. However, keep in mind that for this type of networking to be worthwhile for all parties, each must make every effort to do business with other members of the group.
If this form of structured networking isn’t for you, there are other options for finding potential networking venues and partners. Here are some ideas to help you on your way to networking success.
a. Develop a joiner’s mentality. By that I mean, don’t just sign up to get our name on a roster. REALLY JOIN. Get involved. Participate in discussions, events and BE VISIBLE. The saying “out of sight, is out of mind,” holds true when it comes to networking. I have been involved in groups and decided to take a hiatus from attending for 2 to 3 months (and sometimes more) only to have people come up to me and tell me they forgot the name of my business so they had to find someone else either through a friend or through the local phone book. BUMMER!
b. Get involved in a community service groups.
c. Volunteer with a non-profit organization, whose mission you are passionate about and believe in. People who have similar passions will want to do business with you.
d. Look for ways to cross-promote with businesses that complement yours. For instance, a spa might join with a health food store or restaurant and promote their products and services for staying healthy. A salon might join a florist to promote weddings or proms and a realtor might join with a mortgage broker to promote a “one-stop” experience for home buyers. At networking events you can look for people who can help you with that.
e. Interview others. A great way for me to network is to interview people for projects I am working on. Since most people are flattered when you ask their opinion about something or experiences in life, this has been a great means of increasing my own circle for various reasons. I might interview a woman or a man about an article or book I am writing, or a seminar I am developing. People love to share their stories.
Make it a point of attending one networking event a month; make a list of the people you know, the organizations you have heard and read about and the companies who currently do business with you. The best networking begins with planning and taking action. Being strategic in your planning is important to your ultimate success as an effective, caring networker.
Big banks’ reputations have taken a hit over the last few years, starting with the financial crisis and culminating with the Occupy Wall Street protests. Meanwhile, small businesses have been cast as the economy’s earnest underdogs, generating rhetorical support from Congress to the campaign trail to Wall Street. So it’s no surprise that Bank of America, Chase, Citibank and Wells Fargo were eager to release seemingly impressive small-business lending figures for 2011. Problem is, many of those loans may be going to businesses that aren’t that small.
For lending purposes, the nation’s four biggest banks define small businesses as those with annual revenues up to $20 million, an amount far higher than many businesses on Main Street will ever reach. This could explain the ongoing disconnect between big banks’ upbeat lending reports and the 61 percent of small-business owners who say it’s harder to get loans now than four years ago, according to a study released in January of 2012 by the American Sustainable Business Council, Small Business Majority and Main Street Alliance.
Sarwan “Rimpy” Singh, owner of seven Taco Time restaurants in the Portland, the area experienced disconnect when two big banks rejected his application for a $300,000 loan to buy property he is leasing. One bank told Singh it doesn’t give loans to restaurants because they’re high-risk, though Singh has been in business for 16 years, has excellent credit, a sizable down payment and has been a longtime bank customer. Earning $2.5 million to $3 million in 2011 revenue, Singh said he wonders whether he’s at the wrong end of the revenue spectrum when it comes to borrowing. “There are a lot of mixed messages from the big banks,” he said. “That definition is completely wrong. They have no clue what a small business is.”In other words, big bank loans to so-called small businesses may very well be going to businesses closer to the $20 million end of the revenue spectrum. Without more transparency, it remains unknown. “The big banks make their small-business lending numbers look as good as possible by stretching the limits as far as possible,” said Ami Kassar, founder and CEO of Philadelphia-based MultiFunding, which helps small businesses find the best loans available to them. “They include companies with up to $20 million of revenue. These companies are less risky, and less complicated to lend to. They also require larger loans that make the big banks’ total small-business lending numbers look much better.” Big banks’ definition of small business also differs from that of government agencies that monitor small-business lending. These agencies tend to adopt the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. call reports definition of small-business lending — business loans in the amount of $1 million or less. Based on this definition, the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy reported that total outstanding small-business loans fell 1.2 percent to $599.7 billion in the third quarter last year, from $606.9 billion in the second quarter, while small-business loans by the big banks were nearly flat for the same period. The Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency have also adopted this inter-agency definition, though the Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey published by the Fed defines small businesses as those with sales of $50 million or less. The Treasury Department does not have a definition of small businesses or small-business loans, but adheres to specific parameters for its two small-business lending programs, the State Small Business Credit Initiative, which targets borrowers with 500 employees or less with loan amounts not exceeding $5 million, and the Small Business Lending Fund, which offers business loans of $10 million or less to businesses with revenues up to $50 million.
Even small banks use a narrower definition of small businesses than the big banks. Umpqua Bank, a community bank serving Oregon, Washington, Northern California and Northern Nevada, defines small businesses as those with $1 million or less in annual revenue. Umpqua lent more than $328 million in 2011 to these small businesses.
To put the “small business” population in some perspective, of the 27,486,691 total businesses that filed taxes with the IRS in 2003, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 26,226,922 or more than 95 percent and less than $1 million in total revenues.
The U.S. government has pumped billions of dollars into the economy to stabilize the banking system and keep money flowing, but not much is trickling down to small-business owners. It can and does get a little frustrating when we have seen the big banks, the corporations and the automakers that have made horrible, horrible choices get bailed out, while those of us who work 12 to 14 hours a day, six to seven days a week, we can’t get any help. A survey released by the National Federation of Independent Business Research Foundation revealed that only 40 percent of small-business owners who attempted to borrow money last year had all of their credit needs met. That compares to a 90 percent success rate in the mid-2000s.As part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (signed Feb 17, 2009), the United States Government has allocated SBA backed funds for viable small businesses in the United States. Business must have qualifying business loans and must be experiencing immediate financial hardship. Qualifying recipients of the America’s Recovery Capital (ARC) Loan Program may receive up to $35,000 in short-term relief. Each small business is limited to one ARC loan. ARC loans can be used to make payments of principal and interest, in full or in part, on one or more existing, qualifying small business loans for up to six months. ARC loans are intended to provide immediate capital to small businesses to make payments (principal and interest) on existing debt and thus allow business owners to sustain and retain jobs. ARC loans are interest-free to the borrower and carry a 100% guarantee from the SBA. Loan proceeds are provided over a six-month period. Repayment of the ARC loan principal is deferred for 12 months after the last disbursement (18 months from the first disbursement), followed by a repayment period of five years. Good candidates for ARC loans are small businesses that can show a profitable past, but are currently struggling to make loan payments or are just beginning to miss loan payments due to financial hardship. ARC loans are made by participating commercial SBA lenders. The SBA will pay these banks a monthly interest rate throughout the term of the loan. ARC loans will be offered by some SBA lenders for as long as funding is available or until September 30, 2010, whichever comes first. When President Obama signed the 840 billion dollar American recovery and reinvestment act into law in 2009 Memphis received a total of nearly 640 million dollars. “Community health centers, monies went to the Memphis Health Center, and the Christ Community Health Center, we’ve had money go to all kinds of women’s shelters, any federal program has been effected,” says 9th District Representative Steve Cohen. “The stimulus has helped keep us from a deep recession and get us to where are coming out of it now.” Critics say hundreds of millions of our tax dollars were spent and unemployment in the Bluff City dipped only slightly from a staggering 12-percent in January of 2010 to 10-percent in May of this year. Conservative talk show host Andrew Clarksenior calls the stimulus package a bust, “It has brought needed funds to needed projects, but it has not been the panacea that the good congressman would make you think…by and large, the majority of that money was wasted, and misapplied.” Clarksenior points a few projects that were well meaning, but questions if they deserved funding. The Memphis Orchestral Society, the Center for Southern Folklore and the Beale Street Caravan received a total of a $125-thousand dollars to keep jobs that might have been lost because of the recession. Nearly a half million dollars went to the University of Memphis Math Department to create better traffic patterns. “It was a big lie. Not just here but all over the country. The “pork-u-lus bill, however you want to call it was terribly misspent,” says Clarksenior. In Memphis, the stimulus money was intended to create jobs, but millions was spent to help a social network already under stress. More than 10 Million dollars used on housing for the poor and people diagnosed with AIDS/HIV. Nearly 4-million dollars spent to improve emergency shelters in case of an emergency, almost 108 million dollars on public education in Shelby and Memphis even though teachers were laid off. All that money spent and exactly how many jobs were created? It had been estimated 68-hundred would be created, no one knows for sure. The federal, state and local governments can’t give a total. When will we wake up as a community? by Kelly D. Price
- Success will lead to loneliness. Some entrepreneurs believe that success will mean working long hours, neglecting their spouse and children, which in turn could result in divorce. Women, in particular, sometimes believe that success will make them unlovable and intimidating to men.
- Success will lead to envy. Many people want what others have, and the more success a person achieves, the more envious are that person’s friends, neighbors, and colleagues. This is a reality that some entrepreneurs don’t want to deal with, and some apparently undermine their own success to avoid it.
- I’m not good enough for success. This belief can result from many things, such as having negative parents and not having a college degree. With this belief often comes “I don’t deserve success,” so they sabotage their own efforts in that direction. If this resonates with you, I don’t recommend the entrepreneur lifestyle.
- Success will change my lifestyle. Some entrepreneurs fear that the changes that come with success will actually make life less enjoyable. They believe that will have less time to, for example, enjoy sports, surf the Internet, spend time with their family, or relish the excitement of building the business. My logical mind would assume just the opposite.
- Success is too expensive. There is a cost to everything, and success is not an exception. Sometimes, to make money you have to spend money, and some entrepreneurs just can’t face the risk of making that initial investment. Certainly I know many people who would never put other’s people’s money at risk to start their business.
- I won’t be able to control everything that happens. If you fear all the things you can’t control, you should never step into the entrepreneur lifestyle. Startups have to deal with many factors outside their control, so this fear can cause an unhealthy stress and worry. Successful entrepreneurs usually relish their ability to control at least one thing that no one else has managed to figure out.