I cannot emphasize the importance of networking for business success enough. Ask any marketing guru or business expert and they will tell you that it is the number one requirement for the success of a business venture.

Despite its importance, I have seen many business managers and owners struggle to build a strong network of customers, suppliers and stakeholders in their business. Even though it is easier than ever to get connected online and stay in touch through social media.

Over the years, I have built a large global network because of my previous jobs, current business and travels around the world. I love networking and meeting new people. I am fascinated by learning about people’s experiences and hearing their success stories.

I feel like I have been a serial networker for a while now. Every time I meet someone new, they introduce me to someone else they know or an interesting event that ‘I must attend’, which I end up going to and making more business contacts.

I find it really easy to connect with people and would like to share a few tips than can help you build a network for your business expansion in the UK.

Events

Business and social events are a must for anyone looking to expand his or her network. Whether you go solo or with company is optional but both have their pros and cons.

If you are going solo it can be more difficult to get in your comfort zone and talk to people. I suggest making eye contact with everyone and introducing yourself to as many people as possible. If you have a business card, you are gold. Meet, greet, small talk, card, repeat.

If you are going with someone you are usually more confident. It can be easier to approach others and start conversations. However, some people tend to just stick with their companion. This is the wrong approach. You are there to connect with new people and grow your network. You can always catch up with your companion after the event as to go over the details and compare notes.

Seminars

Seminars are great for two reasons. They help you connect with people who have similar goals/interests AND you have a topic that everyone knows about to start conversations.

I always try to speak to the key note speaker at seminars. They are very sociable and can introduce you to lots of people who are the movers and shakers in the industry.

Parties

New business in UK, networking, socializeYou know me. I love a great party. Business and private parties are less formal but offer a lot of opportunities to connect with new people. On one occasion, I was at a party for my ex-boss’s 50th birthday and sitting next to someone. We started chatting and he turned out to be my boss’s private banker.

We shared a lot of interests and he became a great support for my business later. I made a load of introductions through him as he was heavily involved with a Fintech accelerator at the time, as were my clients. He also helped me set up my mobile business (office space, marketing support, etc) .

He also benefitted because of the business I gave back through my links and he has now gone solo as a financial advisor. One of many highly talented people in the Global Front Room network.

Although we all love a great party, please be aware of some of the pitfall. Here are some tips on the Do’s and Don’ts of party networking

Coffee Shops

One of the first clients I worked with was someone I found in a coffee shop. I was doing my Networking, Experts, Talentbest not to eavesdrop on her, but overheard her difficult conversation with her client. I like helping people out and offered her a sympathetic comment. We started chatting and went for a glass of wine which started a good working relationship.

We became friends and I later helped out her business which led me to expand my own company. Imagine all of that happening from just a simple comment I had made about the difficult person she was dealing with over coffee.

Sporting Clubs

Most people love  a good sport and over the years I’ve played a few. And yes the best bit is the social catch up in the pub.  The best thing about sports is that it brings together so many people from different backgrounds and professions.  After rowing in the Thames one day I was having a conversation with my friend about a business challenge I was having and BOOM!! just like that he offered to help. It’s great having a barrister as a mate to help you.

Connect with People

Everywhere you go, there are opportunities to connect and socialize with people. You just have to keep an open mind and be ready to build relationships that improve your network. Although sometimes (especially the Millennials – no offence) think business cards are “old school”, they are not.

Keep a stack of business cards with you at all times. Just make them quirkier, funky and different so that people remember. I always get complimented on mine as they are unique and more importantly the quality of the cards is great.

Don’t forget when people walk away with your card – they walk away with a piece of you and your brand and this is critical in the follow up. (Our preferred supplier is Moo Cards)

You can meet people online and offline. Once I’ve had a conversation with people I can easily connect the dots and introduce them to someone in my network. Yes 6 degrees separation really does work – although nowadays it is probably 3 degrees. Many times we have helped clients connect to customers, investors, service providers and contacts – Hence being Chief Connectors.

Another way to grow your network is to join a group with business minded people. The Global Front Room is connected with a large number of management experts and business professionals who can help your business set up and grow in the UK.

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