You might have shrugged when someone first told you, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” But as you start developing your business you realize quickly that saying isn’t a hoax, it’s a reality.
Business networking is a must for any company, whether you sell to other businesses or to consumers at large, who you know can mean the difference between success and failure.
So, how do you get plugged in with other business owners and managers in your area? The answer is far from simple. Walking door to door is not an economical solution. What you need is guidance and a helping hand to get you pushed into the right circles.
Those guardian angels are out there, but they need you to step up and make the first move. So to help you get out there and start building those relationships, here are four great networking organizations that you can connect with in your local area.
1 Million Cups
1 Million Cups is a weekly get-together that allows two start-ups or innovative companies to present their business model and receive feedback that helps better their business. Each presentation is six minutes long and is followed by a 20 minute Q&A session for the attendees to learn more about your business and give you recommendations. However, you don’t have to present to get value out of attending. It is still a room filled with potential partners or mentors always willing to lend a hand.
There are over 73 different chapters across the United States, spanning from Portland to Orlando and many cities in between. They meet in the morning on Wednesdays every week and require no registration to attend.
Small Business Association
The Small Business Association does more than provide loans and grants. They also offer a wealth of knowledge both online and locally. They have offices, called Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), across the U.S. to help get your business on the right track.
They offer free consulting in areas like human resources, marketing, and finance, as well as low-cost training to help you learn valuable skills. Most SBDCs are also well connected with established businesses in the area and will be happy to connect you with other business owners.
To find a SBDC in your local area, visit the SBA Local Assistance page.
SCORE is another small business organization, but differs from the SBA in a very unique way. Instead of training you in specific areas, SCORE provides long-term assistance. As a SCORE “client” you have access to one or more mentors that have extensive real-world business experience. These mentors stick with you throughout the entirety of your business and give you coaching every step of the way.
From building a business plan to selling your company, SCORE mentors will guide you through the pitfalls that entrepreneurs face every day and help you achieve success faster. They also offer classes taught by professionals in different fields and have a wealth of knowledge on the national website ready to be accessed at any time.
Head over to the SCORE website to learn more about finding a mentor near you.
Meetup is an online platform that can be accessed for free anywhere and directs you to groups that meet in your local area. By searching for industry keywords, or under the Career and Business section, you should be able to find a number of different business networking groups easily. Meetup also allows those groups to send you email reminders of upcoming meetings and gives you recommendations on other groups you may want to join.
Check out Meetup.com and start searching for groups that fit your business.
The Power of Networking
Networking is about more than just finding potential clients. It can open the door to lucrative partnerships, sponsorship opportunities, and incredible mentoring relationships. Whether you think of yourself as a social butterfly or a homebody, there is too much to be gained from making connections in your community to pass on it.
These organizations will put you on the right course to gain all of these benefits and more. All you have to do is reach out.