Tips for Networking with Small Business Owners in Your Area
It is a great idea to talk to existing small business owners in your area about their experiences owning and running a company. They’ve ran the ropes long before you came along (even in the planning stages), and they know what it’s like to run a small business. They know the intricacies, the hardships, and more importantly, they know how to do it in your specific area. Which is why they’re a valuable resource for your future ventures. Whether you’re still getting a feel for the world of business ownership, or you’re researching and ready to dive in headfirst – learning from others is one of the most efficient ways to take on any new adventure. Especially one that can cost thousands when ran improperly.
In order to get the lowdown on who owns what and how they’re doing it successfully, there are a number of tactics you can take. Start by checking with local government about programs in your area. Chamber of Commerce, business owners associations, women’s networking clubs, and more all likely exist and are there for your learning pleasure. Many are free to newcomers, while acting as an effective way to not only learn the ropes, but get the word out about your upcoming franchise.
Next, look to the power of social media. Although this practice is fairly new, it’s incredibly widespread and has the ability to make (and interact with) all types of professional contacts. Search on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram for groups and accounts you can join (or individuals to follow). While LinkedIn will allow for a direct professional connection with others in your field, or even outside of it.
You should also be on the lookout for speaking events, luncheons, business professional gatherings, meetings, town events, etc. If you’re not sure where to look, head to your city’s website and email a representative about getting on an email list. They’re also likely to have a calendar of events, or direct pages on when and where you can go to meet with others.
If guerrilla marketing is more your style, check out local hotspots like coffee shops, copy centers, even the PO box section. Without being obnoxious about it, strike up a conversation with those around you to learn what they’re all about. If they have events to share, chances are they’ll let you know. Or if they’re interested in talking direct, exchange business cards to get back in touch later on.
No matter where you come across business locals, however, remember not to bombard them with questions all at once. Learning an area (or a market) is all about patience and going in one step at a time. Take in facts and tactics simply through interaction, not necessarily with Q&A. And just because you have plenty to learn from others, doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to take away from you.
Value your own skills and treat each networking bout as a way to improve, not as a starting place. It’s an attitude that will greatly help your networking and learning experiences, no matter where you’re located.