As you strive to grow your business and achieve success, it is important to consider not just the impact of financial capital, but your social capital as well. Have you ever heard the phrase, “your network is your net worth?” This refers to your social capital, which encompasses your ability to build a network of authentic relationships that ultimately can lead you to referrals, sales, or even the next great business idea with exponential returns. Networking is the most powerful tool you can use to gain social capital.
Take for example, how networking helped make Microsoft become a household name. Mary Gates, the mother of Bill Gates, sat on the board of United Way with John Akers from IBM. Mary Gates had conversations with Akers about new, small companies entering the playing field of the computer industry and being underappreciated. Perhaps partially due to those conversations, Akers began accepting proposals from small companies, including Microsoft, who ended up winning the DOS contract, which essentially catapulted Microsoft into the forefront of its industry.
The truth is you never know when a connection may be made that could have a significant impact on the growth of your business or your career. Let’s explore the key benefits of networking that help your business grow:
1. Builds Your Relationships
At its core, networking is about meeting people and developing relationships, both personally and professionally, and can apply to all aspects of your life. In a business setting, building connections with the right people at the right time could lead to a single idea or referral that makes a pivotal impact on reaching the next level of success – similar to Microsoft’s success in relation to Mary Gates’ connection with John Akers. You never know when someone in your network could make a connection that can come back to help you or your business.
2. Leads to New Business
Along those same lines are unknown paths to new business. One of the greatest benefits of networking is that it can frequently open doors to referrals and new business opportunities that may have otherwise been overlooked or left out of reach. When you actively and genuinely network with other professionals, you increase the potential that your contacts could serve as brand ambassadors and pass along your name when they come across an opportunity to recommend you. It also increases the likelihood of someone providing you with a lead, especially if you continually provide active support and a giving nature toward others.
3. Increases Your Awareness
People can’t recommend you or your business if they don’t know who you are in the first place. Actively networking with other professionals, both in and out of your industry, increases your visibility and reach. More importantly, it helps people put a face to your business and boost your reputation or profile, increasing Awareness. In turn, awareness is what helps bring you to the forefront of people’s minds when they think of the product/service that you provide, making you their top-of-mind resources when interacting with people outside of your network.
4. Expands Your Knowledge
Not only can you increase other people’s awareness of your business, but you can increase your own awareness of the latest products, trends, and solutions that are impacting your industry. Chances are that you are not the first or only person to face a specific challenge. Building relationships with other professionals gives you an avenue to discussions that can provide great insight, such as what has worked or not worked for others in similar situations or new software available that has drastically increased operation efficiency. You don’t have time to try everything yourself, but through relationships, you can learn from others’ experiences.
5. Provides Effective Support
Your first idea or solution may not be the best option and could often use some refinement. Getting valuable feedback and recommendations to help you make improvements could be critical in that refinement. By networking and focusing on developing your relationships you also create a support network of people that are genuinely interested in helping you grow and succeed. They will provide you with honest feedback and serve as invaluable peer advisory.
Next week, in Part 3, we will explore tips on successful networking and how to maintain your network.