It’s Who You Know – Three Smart Ways to Network
Okay, so what you know may technically have placed you in the shoes of the company owner you are today, but when it comes to the valuable skill of relationship building – more formally known in the corporate world as ‘networking’ – it’s also about who you know. For SMEs wishing to take the next step (wherever they happen to be on the ladder), the business of networking should not be downplayed. Instead, it should form a key part of any growth strategy – particularly for those wishing to employ the efforts of experts they trust, or better still, clients they value. We take a look at how networking has the power to elevate start-ups in more ways than one: to further strengthen relationships, save money, and continue on an upward trajectory.
Focus on what’s in front of you
If you’ve yet to find the right suppliers for your business, it’s worth considering the already-trusted industry professionals within your circle: your clients. When it comes to ensuring a relationship with staying power, clients can offer the flexibility of services as and when required, together with peace of mind ensuring tasks are being performed to the best of their ability; using clients as suppliers can also help a business generate new leads through word-of-mouth recommendation. Here at Adams Moore, a small group of our own clients also act as our business suppliers, assisting us with everything from IT support to electrical maintenance to PR. Enlisting the services of our clients also gives us greater visibility, with more open lines of communication and regular meetings to discuss activity from both sides of the table.
“Working for Adams Moore, while also using them as our accountancy firm, offers a unique dynamic when it comes to sharing our expertise.” – Leon Swanepoel, Enlo Ltd, IT Consultants
Other local suppliers that are also our clients include The Printing Shed, AC Electrical, Common Sense Financial Planning Ltd and Hannes Digital.
“The greatest thing about working for each other is the fact that we’ve built up a very honest relationship. It may sound silly, but trust can be a rare commodity nowadays – especially when a challenge pops up and you really need someone on the other end of the phone that you can rely on!” – Gary Chamberlain, The Printing Shed, Print & Design Solutions
“Business networking is vitally important and particularly here where accountancy and financial planning go hand in hand. Working closely with Adams Moore is a real meeting of minds and partnership working at its best.” – Stuart Evans, Director & Chartered Financial Planner, Common Sense Financial Planning Ltd
“Using Adams Moore as our accountants, as well as other customers as service providers, has opened up new business via word of mouth. Similarly, we have recommended Adams Moore so it’s really win win.” – Carl Bailey, AC Electrical Ltd, Electrical Contractor
For fledgling start-ups (or those SMEs yet to dip their toes into the world of networking), taking the first steps can often feel the most daunting; without clear direction, it can also feel like wasted time. Social networks like LinkedIn are a great place to start interacting with like-minded SMEs – whether in the local community or at the other side of the world – and can provide a stepping stone to that all-important face-to-face meeting. Business owners can use it to research other companies of interest, join industry-related groups (type a keyword, hit search and scroll down for ample results), and engage with other members’ content – as well as posting their own. LinkedIn Premium allows users to send up to 20 direct InMail messages per month, with visibility over other key stats like how often they appear in searches and who, specifically, is viewing their profile. Information on both small and large-scale networking events is also likely to be shared here – whether it’s Walsall’s ‘Old Bank Business Networking Especially for SMEs’ or Birmingham’s ‘Investment and Business Opportunities in the Midlands’ (to name but a few).
If ‘corporate-style’ functions aren’t your bag however, a more alternative affair could prove an easier route to sparking that initial conversation. Taking inspiration from various events already running up and down the country, joining or forming your own networking group should be both fun and productive. Whether it’s a coffee with your peers, speed networking for time-strapped start-ups, ‘netwalking’ on the local footpaths, or networking with cocktails – a little imagination can go a long way. Research what’s already out there, and you’re sure to find the most effective way to reach out to your small business community.
“It’s important to remember that networking comes in many different shapes and sizes, and one shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that it means attending a breakfast event and handing out business cards to everyone in the room. For me, my friends and family acting as advocates are key. For example, I have one client that I met at a breastfeeding group before I even started my business, another who I was introduced to via a friend who tagged me on a local Facebook group query and Adams Moore got in touch through someone I used to work with. Every person you meet can be a jigsaw piece in a huge networking puzzle.” – Keredy Andrews, Hannes Digital, Marketing and Reputation Management Agency
Embrace the skill exchange
Another effective way to connect with other small business owners and potential clients or customers is through skill sharing. This is particularly beneficial to those start-ups in need of help to ‘help themselves’, or who are unable to make bigger financial commitments in the early stages. Simply put, what skill or knowledge can you offer others in return for the skills or knowledge you need, but don’t have a budget for? This can be done online or in person through a variety of forums, and will also depend on the type of support needed. Sites like Skillshare.com offer free tutorials for small businesses, ranging from time management hacks to building the perfect website. Whether you’re a member or contributor (or why not be both), this can also help forge new relationships with like-minded businesses from all over the world.
Hosting a free event for local SMEs, whether at the office, in your store, or the nearest community centre/hub is a more relaxed way to introduce your services, but crucially you must share something of value to the attendees. If you have staff members, this can also prove a great team building exercise, and may unleash some hidden talents transferable to their current roles within the business.
Adams Moore has a wealth of experience supporting SMEs on all aspects of their business journey – from start-up accountancy to payroll services. To find out more, get in touch to organise your free consultation today.