Over the last 30 years, I have worked with more than 1,000 small and medium sized businesses as an Adviser, Mentor, Non-Executive Director, Strategic Planner and Corporate Financier. During this time, I have noticed that most successful Business Owners are good networkers.
Another person, who came to the same conclusion was Sir Ronald Cohen, who at the age 26, co-founded the firm that became Apax Partners. When he stepped down from the Chairmanship 33 years later, Apax was the largest global private equity firm with $20 billion under management, offices in eight countries and more than 300 staff.
So, if anyone knows about investing in good people, then it is Sir Ronald — and in his book, “The Second Bounce of the Ball”, he believes one of the main ingredients for business success is “the size and appropriateness of one’s network.”
Being based in Richmond, Surrey, I find there is a plethora of opportunities for networking locally, including the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, 4Networking, Business Networking International (BNI), Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Fabulous Women (and Marvelous Men). Best of Richmond, Omni-Local, Institute of Directors, Richmond Lunch Club, Business Biscotti etc., etc. It would not surprise me if you were in a similar position such that we could all quite comfortably attend two networking events per day every working day of the week.
But should we ? Here are 7 Networking Tips.
1. Check out your local networking groups, speak to others about their experiences and work out which is best for you — local networking events are often the best.
2. It is a good discipline to be able to explain in 40 or 60 seconds (Elevator Pitch) what your business is all about. This takes expertise and then practice, then more practice and then even more practice. Mark Twain said it took him two weeks to write a good speech and three weeks for an impromptu speech.
3. When it comes to “One-to-Ones”, remember it’s not all about talking about yourself. Remember to ask pertinent questions and listen more than you speak.
4. Database — whatever system you use, make sure you keep a tab of the contact details of people you meet and who could be useful to you.
5. Remember your first impressions may be misleading. For you, the most important person in the room maybe the most unlikely individual.
6. Trust and Integrity are imperative to good business practice and this is essential to your ability to communicate and impress when engaging with others. It is important to leave a memorable impression built on character and reputation.
7. Networking should be fun. It is like most things in life you can be proficient with practice but outstanding only with passion and commitment about your business.
Norman Jackson is Richmond-based and is a Partner in JFP Strategic Planning, a Director of Sunningdale Corporate Finance and a Director of London Scottish. He is also on the Advisory Board of the Scottish Business Network and facilitates Group Mentoring sessions for the Richmond Chamber of Commerce.