Florence has decided to stop working for “the man” and branch out on her own launching “Sadie Suds – Domestic and Commercial Cleaning”. This is Florence’s first venture in business and she is looking for ways to attract customers. Marketing 101 suggests that networking is one of the best ways to grow a business. Eagerly Florence researches this “networking” thing and discovers there are a number of ways to do it – one being to join a networking group.
OK, she thinks, sounds simple enough. Google research indicates that the primary goal of many networking groups “is to generate referrals for the member’s”.
Woohoo, she thinks, that’s what we want! All I have to do is join my local networking group, turn up at meetings and the referrals will flow – simple!
Four months later, Florence is in a quandary – I have been a member of this group for 4 months now – people have started talking to me – some have shown a bit of interest in my business – but no firm referrals yet. Why isn’t it happening? Am I just in a bad one? Have I been miss led? Help!
There are many networking groups available to business owners, but what makes a good one and what happens to make them a success for members? Who better to ask than a bunch of committed members of the Albany Creek Business Contacts (ACBC) group. Here’s what they had to say –
Firstly, successful networking groups are about building personal and professional relationships not transactional relationships. What is meant here is, unsuccessful groups will focus on just handing out business cards, hard sell and pressure to refer. Yes referrals are a foundation of networking groups, but the ACBC members find that the referrals come happily if the group is focussed on getting to know each other, each other’s businesses and being prepared to give to each other – that is, build relationships with each other.
As we all know – relationships take time. Creating success in a networking group is a long term commitment and if all members are working together with similar goals and philosophy, then the group will succeed.
The group then agreed that a successful networking group must support and nurture members to be givers and sharers not takers. If business owners join groups with the sole expectation that, because they are a member of the group everyone will refer to them, then a good networking group is not for them. Members commented that the success of ACBC is around the sharing of knowledge and ideas with each other to support each other’s growth as individuals and business owners. With this giving, groups are successful when members are being honest, real and genuine with their contributions, not “flapping egos” at every opportunity.
Successful networking groups are made up of members who are prepared to get out of the group what they put in – that is, be involved, invest time in the group and the individual members, participate in discussions, events and activities and find out as much as they can about each other.
It was suggested that some of the best networking groups as those owned by the members not by a business. Successful groups feel like business communities where people are comfortable/at home with the members and are motivated to attend meetings/events/functions and have a genuine motivation to support each other’s business growth.
So, I say to Florence – give it more time, build genuine honest relationships with your fellow members, invest time and effort in the group and individual members and be prepared to share your knowledge, ideas and bumps along the business journey and you will find that others will engage with you more and more.
If the ACBC members have got it right – find this type of environment in a networking group and the referrals will flow.
(Blog contributors – Leonard Whittaker (Action Cycle Learning) Rob Carmody (Australian Integrated Communications) Sally Balwin (Balanix Solutions) Kathy Patterson (Brendale Stationery Supplies) Matthew Fox (Brisbane hosting & Web Design) Kirsty Newbery (Caring Cottage) Brad Davies (Conquest Pest & Termite Control) Scott Deaves (David Deane Real Estate) De Wet van der Nest (Express Air Con Cleaning) Oriano Giammichele (GT Racing, Mobile Mechanic) Anne-Louise Underwood (SMS Toolkits) Stuart Bywater (Bywater Design) Rhennen Ford (Streten Mason Lawyers) Tracie Palmer (Cornerstone Home Loans) Tracey Carter (Scrub Mutts) Jason Matthey (Insurance Web) Bruce Hall (Wombat Electrical)
Albany Creek Business Contacts consists of local quality and reliable businesses who provide a wide range of services from home and residential services to B2B and commercial services. Our service areas cover primarily Albany Creek, Eatons Hill, Brendale, Aspley, Warner, Chermside, Strathpine, North Lakes. However many members will cover greater areas.
Albany Creek Business Contacts meet fortnightly on a Wednesday morning for a 7am breakfast and networking meeting.
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Situated in Strathpine on Brisbane North, we partner with our clients to assist them in their accounting, business management and bookkeeping needs. Our clients vary in industries from professional services (such as law, vet and dentist) to the trades (mechanic, bricklaying, plasterer etc), hospitality and retail. Are clients are located in the Pine Rivers area (including Brendale, Lawnton, Albany Creek and Eatons Hill) through to Kallangur, Petrie, North Lakes and Caboolture, as well as Brisbane South, the Gold Coast and various other parts of Queensland.
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We all know that networking groups are about referrals. However, according to the members of the Albany Creek Business Contacts Group (ACBC), there are many more equally important motivations to be a part of the group.
Andrew Gallagher from Lollyworld indicated that networking groups are effective forums for stress relief when he faces challenges. “There just comes a point where you think: I don’t want to do this anymore; I don’t want to go in; I don’t want to deal with that problem; I don’t want to deal with that customer. Really if you had the option you would just run away and hide.” This is where colleagues in networking groups come in.
“You’re talking to all these other business-owners who potentially have been there and had that experience as well. And then they become more than just business associates. They become friends.” (Sydney Morning Herald 6 February 2014)
It was also concluded by the ACBC group that it is an awesome forum for sharing ideas, strategies and taking from someone else’s experiences and applying them to your business.
Kathy Patterson, Brendale Stationery Supplies shared “I was having an overwhelming day recently and [fellow ACBC member] Rod, Rocket Printing-Brendale came into the shop. In discussions he shared a simple technique of a Plan List where I take a few moments at the beginning of each day and prioritise what I have to do into “Urgent Must dos” “must dos” “can wait but must get done” and “nice to do and will get there”. Now every morning I create my Plan List and things have improved.”
ACBC members agreed that the group was a terrific source of mentors – business owners you could confidentially chew the fat with without judgment. An added bonus also is that members of networking groups are generally at different stages of business ownership and maturity so it is a terrific incubator of cross fertilization – learning from the experienced and being inspired by the new.
The group’s members indicated there are also more pragmatic benefits such as direct learning from guest speakers, developing technical skills from discussions/workshops with service business owners, broadening knowledge of the different types of businesses and industries, as well as, of course, direct referrals.
Finally, these savvy business owners agree, they are committed to ACBC [networking groups] because of the ongoing building of relationships and friendships as well as the motivation and energy they derive from meetings and each other.
If you are a business in Albany Creek, Brendale, Eatons Hill, Strathpine, Lawnton or surrounding areas and are interested in networking groups give Sally from Balanix Solutions a call.