Intuitively I have always known there are great psychological benefits gained from a strong professional business network and it wasn't until I started my own business that I validated this thought. Having spent my entire working life in travel and tourism and the world of digital marketing, often I am asked by budding small business operators, digital marketers, or young, aspiring students for advice and guidance where they should focus their efforts.
My response to these types of conversations always includes networking and they go a little something like this: your network is your net worth, get out of your comfort zone, meet new people, attend industry events and show up to your local business events. Like they say, “show me your friends and I’ll show you your future”. Over the span of two decades, I have a business family that I have hustled with, presented with, felt the fear with and even cried with.
I was reminded of this last week when I spoke at a dynamic networking event Venture Melton Business Network run by the City of Melton, on the topic of 'Understanding Your Customer'. A two-minute video summary of my presentation can be found here. A warm and vibrant room filled with like-minded business owners and professionals sharing one very clear and common interest of learning and growing their business and themselves.
Attending this event inspired me to write this piece as a reminder to us all that networking is one of the most significant skills that you could learn to take your business from good to great. Thanks in part to vastly improved technologies, networking has become almost synonymous with business success, with experts from all walks of life and industries emphasising how important it is to get in contact with other people. In fact, Adam Small goes so far as to call networking "the single most powerful marketing tactic to accelerate and sustain success for any individual or organisation".
What my Melton experience shined the light on last week is the real value in networking is not just in providing specific business opportunities but in the psychological advantages, it offers people. Below I have listed some of those benefits that are good for you, good for others and good for the greater good of your mental health and well being.
1. Eliminate stress and anxiety.
Regardless of the industry, you're working in, running or playing a major role in a company involves seemingly limitless responsibilities and tasks, which can translate to overwhelming anxiety and worry. But when surrounding yourself with people in your network, you give yourself an opportunity to have a sounding board where you can exchange ideas, seek guidance to current challenges, or simply vent about how you're feeling.
With that logistical and emotional support, helps you from lapsing into creativity-killing fight-or-flight responses. Instead, you build yourself a tribe of people that you can call on to help you stay calm and productive with a deep sense of relief that you're not alone.
2. Big (likely unfounded) fears go way down.
Fear of failure and fear of missing out are two huge issues business leaders grapple with on a regular basis. Appropriate feedback, however, can combat both. The people in your network can point you in positive ways to areas you might not have considered, reducing your risks and, subsequently, upping your confidence. They can offer encouragement when you're not sure and lacking confidence, and they can reassure you that you have the most up-to-date information and opportunities on your table.
3. You feel more like one of the cool club.
From the evolutionary perspective, inclusion meant that the odds of survival were better, as groups offered both protection and everyday care that supported good health. At this particular event in Melton, very talented Business & Industry Development Officer, Christine Sita referred to the business network as the cool club. I loved this because instantly Christine made members feel that just by being invested and showing up to these training sessions and networking events they had the edge and a competitive advantage by being involved.
When you surround yourself with other professionals, this basic, instinctive response kicks in. You start feeling as though you can validate your ventures because of the experience others can hedge you with. Having access to this is a powerful boost in confidence and gives authority to speak or try out more adventurous ideas.
4. It's easier to keep a broader perspective.
When you don't interact with anybody else in your field, or when the number of individuals you communicate within an average day is very limited, you can fall into a trap of developing a view of your business and the world that's extremely narrow.
Everything you believe and do is based on just a few experiences, locations or sets of data. But when your network is strong, others share gems of wisdom they've collected through their own business journey. They also can show you alternate ways of performing tasks that aren't common in your area but that might be extremely profitable if introduced. It's thus easier for you to anticipate what others might think, expect that you'll have to put in some effort, prepare better and, in essence, work smarter.
5. Being at the right place at the right time.
Just like you never regret going to a gym work out, you never regret going to a networking event. There is always something new to learn or someone to meet. Connecting with others can up the odds you'll be in the right place at the right time for savvy career and business moves. But having a dependable network also can take away a lot of the psychological hindrances to company success, letting you relax, be more confident, feel included and see the world in a bigger way.
Overall, meeting new people and making an effort to establish long-term relationships is advantageous no matter what your current situation, or status in your business journey. I am all for digital practices to collaborate and network, however, the more you show up and support local or industry networking events, the more opportunities you have to help others, hence the more the universe will help and support you.
"Personal relationships are always the key to good business. You can buy networking; you can't buy friendships." Lindsay Fox