Networking

Put join a networking group on your to do list with a big underline, star and happy face. You'll be glad you did for more reasons than you can count. And the advice is coming from this confirmed non-networker who, in 20 years of business, considered networking a colossal waste of time. The old dog is here with a new trick.

Business networking groups bring together people who, most times, are self- employed, successful entrepreneurs or corporate folk paid truly paid for their efforts. (see commissioned salesperson) The types of businesses these networkers represent vary, but the commonality is they meet to share, learn and become better at their craft.

The networking meetings are held at times that are fairly convenient even for the most type A business owner. Early morning, mid-day or evening are the popular meeting times and all involve food of some type, contests, and sometimes cocktails.

There is a networking etiquette that is a mix of business sense and remembering what your mother taught you. Be nice. Smile. Be genuine. Don't show up looking to dazzle everyone you meet with your slick sales pitch. To be sure, meet a lot of people, hand out a lot of cards, but give before taking. Listen more than you talk. Question more than you answer. Care about someone else and their plight.

What's in it for me? That's the common question in many business conversations. Here's what you get by joining a networking group:

New contacts--what business can't use more contacts? The fellow businesspersons you meet might be able to use your service. They also know lots of people and aren't shy about recommending you.

You look like an expert to your customers. As you meet new professionals, you won't hesitate to recommend them to your customers to handle tasks you don't. Your stock will rise appreciably with your customer for being such a willing problem solver.

Education. The meetings always revolve around a guest speaker who will bring to you valuable information about topics ranging from accounting to law, sales to hiring an employee and much more.

Friendship. Everyone can use more friends. Imagine playing golf with those that share your passion.

Advice. Ask around and fellow networkers will be glad to dispense it for free and many have already faced the same situation you now have.

Find a local networking group and get involved. It will be one of the best decisions you ever made. Go ahead. Write it down. Your to do list is waiting.

Brian Grinonneau is the general manager of McMann and Tate Advertising an advertising agency that works with small business owners to help them stand out in a marketplace where so much of the advertising and products look the same.

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