As a businessperson, have you ever wondered what your business could gain by engaging in social and business networking or say by connecting with high net worth individuals? Have you experienced a situation where you find yourself with some other entrepreneurs pursuing the same business? How would you feel if suddenly you discover that a job has been given to someone else because you did not have the right kind of people to help you facilitate it in spite of your experience and the effort you put into it to ensure that you get the job? These are the questions I recently put to one of my friends who is a business person when I was about to write this article.
I am sure that if you find yourself in a similar situation, your feelings and reactions would be apprehensive. To many of us who have been in business for a long time, this may not be a big deal as we experience it nearly every time. It is not peculiar to Nigerian businesspeople alone as it is a general rule as companies and individuals usually prefer to entrust their job to someone well known and of high repute. As entrepreneurs, you must drive revenue to survive. To generate revenue, you certainly need your customers’ patronage, and to get customers patronage, you need a network of customers. Therefore, networking has become an important marketing tool.
As inevitable as networking is in business, not many of us realise that we need it. However, only a few of those that realise this understand how to go about it. I know this a big problem for some of us that are called entrepreneurs today, especially the young ones. There are times when our financial muscle and marketing efforts cannot help us get good business from clients. It also obvious that some of us do not have the kind of reputation that can drive good business. This situation gives credence to why we need to ride on someone else’s reputation and good name. We cannot achieve any success these days without networking. For instance, just about the same time I was putting up this write-up together, a friend of mine who happens to be a member of Nigerian-South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry called from Port Harcourt to share some good news about his business with me. He had just won a contract of N45,000,000 (Forty-Five Million Naira) from one of the oil companies to supply some computer hardware. According to him, someone he met at a function organized the previous year by the association above facilitated the process of winning the contract. The success he achieved by winning the contract did not just come from because he bid for it, neither did he win the contract because his company was seen as the only competent one that could handle the job. He won the contract simply because the process was facilitated by someone he met through networking. I am very sure that some of us have experienced a similar situation one way or the other. While we cannot deny the fact that competence and quality service is very important, we cannot undermine the benefit of connections and acquaintances in today’s business. It, therefore, underscores the importance of networking in all business activities.
In some of the seminars I have handled, I have seen a lot of people expressing the difficulty they experience in getting clients. I’ve equally heard some experienced entrepreneurs complaining of the same problem. From my experience, the easiest gateway to new clients is through referral and connection, and these are a harvest for networking. It is, therefore, good for us to understand that what drives success in today’s business is not only a matter of competence but also includes the level of networking we can make, the kind of connection and business relationship we can build over time. There are a lot us today that are called entrepreneurs who are yet to understand this fact, and this is one of the reasons why we put in so much effort pursuing some business and at the end, nothing comes out of it. Running a business today requires more than working hard 24/7. As a matter of fact, working hard does not necessarily mean that we are going to get some result that will translate into profit. I am sure we all know that there is a big difference between working hard and working smart. For instance, we can be running from pillar to post without any success at the end of the day if we are not smart. Being smart therefore means being able to use all available strategies at our disposal to overwhelm our competitors.
Even though we have the competence or perhaps our product or services are second to none, the business of today is a business of people. In some quarters, if you do not have reputable referrals, you may not be eligible to do business with them. This is one reason some organizations ask for performance bond from either a bank or an insurance company before they can give out jobs to entrepreneurs. Therefore, the number of contacts you have and the class of social and business groups you belong to in the society often determine the level of your success as far as business f today is concerned. The saying that “it is not what you know that matters but whom you know: has now become a standard rule in today’s business. The purpose for this write-up is therefore to discuss the various ways we can build a strong business network and the kind of business groups we can belong to meet the right kind of people that will connect us to our desired business, and financial partners. For those that are looking for capital or business associates, we can share our experience with high net worth individuals and our peers in the same kind of business. The aim of networking is to build a network of people, customers, business associates, and high net worth individuals who can help us facilitate the process of growing our business from time to time.
From my experience, networking occurs whenever there is a planned social or business event or gathering with the primary goal of connecting with others. In most of the network and cluster membership groups that I have experienced, the purpose of attendance can vary based on individual priority. However, the primary focus is to meet people and have people meet us. Often, these events present us with various opportunities to market our companies and ourselves in a relaxed and social situation.