November 16th, 2015
Whether you want to set up a new business or expand an existing one, Global Entrepreneurship Week is a great place to start. This major annual initiative this year runs from the 16th to the 22nd of November and affordable office space specialist Basepoint is a Top Partner in the UK. This means we are joining forces with companies and organisations around the world in holding activities designed to inspire and encourage entrepreneurs.
A wide range of events are being organised both nationally and internationally, looking at many different topics. However, one a strong focus of the week is on promoting business to business networking, and Basepoint is working to do this through its networking hub activities at all its centres, plus special activities running over 2 days at 5 of them.
Why Do Entrepreneurs Need Networking?
“Going it alone” might be one of the attractions of becoming an entrepreneur, but in practice you’ll soon find you need to work together with others. Networking is vital to new businesses in particular, meaning you can get together with others in the business community, building valuable contacts and sharing knowledge and expertise.
By building up good relationships with others in your own industry or others associated with it, you can develop your knowledge of business trends, take advantage of opportunities and avoid possible pitfalls. It’s very helpful to hear from others who have been through things similar to those you are facing in your own business, and in turn you may be able to help them, so you can learn from one another. Being involved in business networks will also help to raise your profile.
So where can new businesses turn for networking ideas? Local business groups and regional Chambers of Commerce are a great place to start, and can help you to network in your own home area. Trade associations, community groups and national and global organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses and Business Networking International can also offer a whole range of opportunities to communicate with other businesses and strike up relationships.
How Can You Make Networking Work for You?
When you first go to a networking event, walking into a room full of strangers, armed only with a pile of business cards, can be daunting. However, there are ways to make it less so, such as going with a friend or colleague, or contacting one or two people who you know will be there in advance.
Even if you do feel nervous, the key to making networking work for you is to be natural and not too determined or pushy. Asking a question is often a good way to start a conversation and if you listen to others they will often be more inclined to do the same for you. Experienced networkers say you should avoid giving everyone a sales pitch, but at the same time be ready to share your passion for your area of expertise when the opportunity presents itself.
If you do know a few people there already, that may make you feel less nervous, but there could sometimes be a danger that you concentrate on talking to them and don’t get to know new people. To make the most of networking, it’s a good idea to try to connect with people who aren’t similar to you, not just those who you already know or instantly feel a connection with.
Lastly, remember to follow up after meetings, and don’t just get in touch with contacts when you want something from them, but try to keep up with them on a regular basis. Just an occasional phone call or meeting for a coffee and chat will help to keep relationships going.
Local and Global Networking
Traditionally, networking has meant meeting up with people locally and this is still very important and the key type of networking for many small businesses. Knowing people in your own area is very valuable to help you to respond to local business trends, and also so that you can possibly join forces in collaborative working arrangements and create informal support networks. There may be potential for neighbouring small businesses to apply for larger contracts by working together or to buy in goods and services together at a lower price.
However, growth of digital has led to the business world being increasingly global and it is now possible to do business with – and network with – people in other parts of the country and around the world. Social media is helping to develop global networks, while technology such as video-conferencing makes it possible to chat with people in other countries. Often national or international contacts can actually start via local networking events, as you meet people who then travel away but you are able to continue your working relationship.
Basepoint offers a host of networking opportunities, which are available both to entrepreneurs based in affordable office space at our centres and to those renting virtual business space. There are opportunities for informal social contacts within the centres and we also organise a range of networking events through the year. As part of our contribution to Global Entrepreneurship Week, there will be two-day networking events at Basepoint in Havant, Crawley, Luton, Swindon and Canterbury, and networking hubs at all our business centres.
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