Downtown Birmingham Chair, Kim Leary discusses the importance of networking and the best way to utilise a networking session for your business.
Hint* it’s not about handing out as many business cards as you can!
Personally, I owe a fair bit of my career successes to networking.
I was young and fresh out of University when I started to freelance, back in 2010. It had quickly dawned on me that to grow my client base I needed to meet more people to start generating a name for myself and to start building my profile. I was very lucky and struck gold with the first networking event I ever went to. It was in Mere Green and I didn’t have a clue what to do, what to say or how to “work the room”. I didn’t even know that was a thing. If it wasn’t for a very friendly and welcoming host called Ant I would have easily hid in the corner. But there was no hiding with Ant. Immediately, he took me round the room introducing me to a number of people within the group that he thought would be useful to me. He was in my corner – my first fan. We went on to work together on a number of projects but what he gave me that day was far more valuable and set me on a trajectory of personal and business growth. It was also largely responsible for my first award win back in 2013. Something I would never have considered entering. Suddenly I had credibility.
For me, networking isn’t about how much business you can win from each session. It’s not about dishing your cards out to anyone that will take one, because trust me, they quickly get dumped in the bin. Instead, it’s about listening and hearing someone else’s story. It’s thinking about what you can do to help them. So tell me. Who’s fan will you next become and who’s path could you help to change?
Networking during the pandemic has been different and I for one have certainly missed the hustle and bustle of a busy bar and the sound of glasses clinking in the background. But what it’s also shown me is how vital my network is and how much we have relied on each other over the past 12 months. Virtual events like Wine Down Wednesdays have provided a brilliant opportunity to see familiar faces and to talk about our stresses and worries.
Whilst it’s only natural to want to see financial gain from networking, not least because our time is valuable, we shouldn’t forget to be proactive in providing value to our fellow members.
Collaboration is the way forward.