That’s a great question. Networking is a term that gets tossed around quite a bit within the professional world. Any small business owner has heard about the numerous benefits of networking and how vital it is to the expansion of a business. Though it can be important for professional growth, networking is also often a great stepping-stone for personal development. And trust me, we’ve all been there. Stepping outside of boundaries that have been set in stone for you can be a difficult task!
That’s why we’re here today to talk about some of the common challenges that people face when starting to network, and why it can be so rewarding to put yourself and your business out in the world anyways.
Some Common Networking Challenges
The process of networking can feel like a lot to handle, so here are some of the various challenges you could face while embarking on your networking adventures, and how to combat them:
I don’t have time…
This is understandable. Owning and running your own business can be completely time-consuming, and it may not seem particularly important to leave your home or office to go meet with new people. But think of it this way instead; investing your time into going to networking events can put you and your business on the map, especially within a smaller community. Studies state that involving yourself in local events and chambers of commerce increase the likelihood of future patronage into your store or other business by 63%. So yes, time is money, but dedicating some of that time to mixing and mingling with other business owners can increase your revenue.
Meeting new people is nerve-wracking…
Totally get it. It feels like you’re waiting to get picked for the middle school kickball team all over again, and who wants to relive that experience? One of the potentially less attractive qualities of being a small business owner is that talking to new people is a huge part of the job. You can have the best product in the world, but no one will ever know unless you tell people about it. Networking can be a great way to conquer this fear and improve your self-confidence. Networking can also allow you to meet other business owners that you can rely on in times of trouble. It can also be a way to find a professional mentor if you’re just starting in the business world.
The best way to approach new interactions at these events is to simply be friendly. Ask opening questions about the event and treat everyone as if they could one day become a friend. Everyone is in the same boat.
What if I don’t remember everyone I meet?
This is a valid fear. You’ve taken the time to go to an event and you probably met 25 people, three of whom were named Joe. Luckily, there are ways to combat this. If you have a moment after each conversation you have, take a minute alone to mentally debrief about everything you’ve heard. You could even take notes if you wanted to. Make sure to get key people’s names and numbers so that you can contact them after the event. Even if you don’t remember everyone you talked to, it’s clear you’ve still talked to people about your business and brand and will be more recognizable to people in your community.
I feel the need to know more than everyone else…
The short response is, “you don’t,” but the feeling is understandable. We have all been in situations where we feel the need to measure our success by the success of those around us. The age-old adage of “comparison is the thief of joy” applies here. The point of networking events is not to parade your accomplishments around; it’s to make new connections and learn new practices to better run your business. Even if there are people who choose to treat the event that way, see what you can learn from them instead of comparing yourself. For example, maybe they know more about a new type of technology than you do, and you realize as you listen that you’re able to apply it to your own company.
Also, remember that you are the expert on your business. You already know everything that you’ll need to best advocate for your organization.
The Benefits of Networking
As we’ve mentioned numerous times, networking can provide you with many new resources and insights about how to better run your small business. One of the best ways to start the process is by joining a chamber of commerce in your area. The goal of a chamber of commerce is to further the interests of small businesses in their community by giving those businesses a central place to connect. It’s networking made infinitely easier. Here are some of our favorite benefits of networking via your local chamber of commerce:
Making new contacts:
Getting out there and meeting new people is half of the job description when owning your own small business. Chambers of commerce are designed to make this process easier by organizing monthly networking events where business owners can meet one another and share new ideas and perspectives.
By joining your community’s chamber of commerce, you’re adding a level of prestige to your business that patrons will recognize. Positive public perception is crucial to the success of your organization.
Be a government voice:
Since chambers of commerce are so well regarded by the general public, they often have the opportunity to oppose city and state legislation that may hurt the small business community. Whether it be a raise in taxes or a new assessment, being a member of your chamber can allow you to advocate for your needs as a small business owner.
To make your life even easier, chambers often send out weekly or monthly newsletters to inform members about upcoming events. They also often include new information about running your business and articles about the community that they serve. Newsletters also often list and promote the businesses that they work with, and by being listed, it can increase your company’s visibility within the community.
There are obviously many professional advantages to not only networking but to joining your local chamber of commerce as well. Networking can help launch your business to the next level, and thankfully, the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce is ready to partner with you.
Join Jefferson County’s Chamber of Commerce
We realize that networking can seem like a monstrous task for many people, so at the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, we try our best to make the process a breeze. Not only can we easily connect you with the right contacts for your business, but we also provide you with frequent entrepreneurial advice and local networking events that can broaden your business horizons. Nestled in the valley of the Smokey Mountains, our community is the perfect place for you and your business to take root. We serve the surrounding municipalities of Baneberry, Dandridge, Jefferson City, New Market, and White Pine, and are committed to developing a prosperous county in which we all can flourish. If you’re ready to leap into the world of networking, visit our website to find out how you can join our chamber of commerce today.