Building An Effective Network
The people you surround yourself with have an enormous impact on you, positive or negative. Whatever age you are when you are setting up a business, it is essential to surround yourself with people who will support and encourage you
“Close friends and relatives, while not meaning to do so, often handicap one through “opinions” and sometimes through ridicule, which is meant to be humorous. Thousands of men and women carry inferiority complexes with them all through life, because some well-meaning, but ignorant person destroyed their confidence through “opinions” or ridicule.” ― Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich
The people you surround yourself with have an enormous impact on you, positive or negative. Whatever age you are when you are setting up a business, it is essential to surround yourself with people who will support and encourage you. These are the sort of people who notice your many small triumphs and encourage you to learn from the things that do not go to plan. They inspire you and say things like: ‘What is the next thing you can do towards your goal?’, ‘You can learn how to do that.’ and ‘I know someone who can help you with that.’
These people may be business contacts, coaches, or colleagues. What matters most is their attitude. Search them out.
Emotions are contagious. If you spend time with positive people you are more likely to be positive. If you spend time with people who are negative, you are more likely to become negative. That is why it is important to avoid or limit your exposure to people who say things like: ‘That will never work’, ‘You can’t do that’, ‘You will never succeed at…’ or ‘Who do you think you are? Richard Branson!’
If you have to spend time with people who have negative attitudes, you need to develop an invisible shield that has the power to repel unhelpful energy and remarks. Visualise wrapping it around yourself whenever one of these people approaches you. See the negative stuff bouncing off your shield with a reassuring ‘Ping’! You can stand inside your shield, safe and smiling.
If you are a new entrepreneur it is essential to set up a network of business contacts. The benefits of networking include:
- Connecting with other business owners
- Developing mutually beneficial relationships
- Marketing your product or service
- Building a group of people you trust and respect
- Exchanging information, advice and referrals
If you are a solopreneur or small business owner, attending a regular network group can help you to feel less alone. Attending networking groups can also be a safe way of practising and finessing your elevator pitch.
There are lots of networking opportunities. You could start with a breakfast meeting, and then move on to a mid-morning coffee group before you go to a lunch group, and so on, ending with an evening gathering. You need to decide what you want to achieve from networking and find the groups that help you achieve that. You may want to achieve a certain number of referrals or build your business’s image or brand.
Most networking groups allow you to attend two or three meetings before you have to join. Try a few and find what works best for you and your business before you commit to any annual membership fees. Remember, networking is about building relationships and that takes time. Do not expect overnight results.
I attend a monthly women’s network group. At one meeting I was sitting next to a visitor and we were discussing our businesses. I told her what I did and she said, ‘Wow, I am looking for a Cognitive Hypnotherapist’. No one has ever said anything that specific to me but she showed me the search she had used on Google. She immediately booked a session with me and followed up with a second session. She then referred a friend to me who booked in for two sessions. She was so happy with the results that she referred me to colleague who had four sessions! Eight sessions booked from one conversation.
The idea of the mastermind group came from Napoleon Hill’s book, ‘Think and Grow Rich’. He described it as ‘The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work towards a definite purpose in the spirit of harmony.’
The benefits of a mastermind group are; mutual support, differing perspectives, resources and accountability. I would add friendship to that list.
There are no rules about the constitution of mastermind groups but between 4-6 members seems to be a good number. It does not matter if the members are in the same business as you, what is important is that they share your values.
If you are fortunate, you may be asked to join an existing group. If not, think about starting your own group. Invite people who have a similar drive and commitment. Look for people with diverse skill sets who are prepared to share their knowledge and experience. It is helpful to include people who are good at giving feedback and who are active problem solvers. You all need to commit to regular meetings.
To make those meetings worthwhile give each person the same amount of time to talk about their topic. It is most effective if you have a regular agenda which may include a specific topic for the meeting, such as how to run webinars. You can rotate the role of Chair or facilitator so that no one person feels put upon. Celebrate your successes and keep a note of lessons learned from your experiences.
Remember: ‘Who you spend time with is who you become’ (Nido Qubein) so make sure you are spending your time with the right people.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.