November 17th, 2018

Business Beat: The art of networking

By Medicine Hat News on May 23, 2018.

Many good things, can truly be “lost” unless they are continually practised and exercised. I believe that there is an art in the practice of business networking and referring business. Once a business owner learns to do this well that skill can turn into increased sales. Networking and referring business may be one of the most important things you do, especially in the face of a market with intense competition.

Several years ago I worked as an independent financing specialist. For about eight years, my business was a sole proprietor under the authority of a licensed mortgage brokerage. It was my responsibility to advertise my services and generate my own leads. Advertising and marketing were outsourced while I used my relational personality to network and build business contacts. Not only did I grow my customer base, but I continually invested time and energy in meeting network partners with whom I could cultivate reciprocal business.

Each year, as I continued to build the business, I added more contacts to a database which grew to over 750 people including: prospects, clients, lawyers, appraisers, lenders, realtors, professional trades, and other service providers. I began to see a direct correlation between the referrals that I gave out to others and the referrals that I received back from others. A steady stream of referral business, along with constant networking and relationship building, allowed me to grow annual sales from $0 to almost $10 million by my third year of business.

While diligent efforts to promote oneself with advertising are certainly beneficial, be careful not to underestimate the growth power that comes with intentional networking and referral business. If you want to reap the reward of constant referred business coming your way, follow the basic rule: give if you expect to receive. What a straightforward concept, but yet so difficult for many to put into practice.

There are great structured networking programs out there that help motivate members to refer business so use these opportunities to learn more about others. Don’t simply promote yourself. Here are two that you might want to explore. The Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce posts regular networking opportunities, for members, on their website at business.medicinehatchamber.com/events. The Medicine Hat Women in Business is another group that hosts three annual networking events for local professional women. The local Rotary Club of Medicine Hat also offers opportunities to network and serve the community. There are also many other small service groups that meet throughout the city.

Does your business allow you to get out of your office, meet people for coffee, and learn about other businesses that can connect you with excellent leads? Focus on building an established network of businesses and professionals that you believe in and would endorse.

Take time to practice the art of networking and discover how this skill can lead to growth for your business.

Community Futures Entre-Corp has been supporting small business since 1988. We provide the tools and guidance you need to run your business. For more information about our programs and how we can connect you with helpful resources, please call Community Futures at 403-528-2824.

Elizabeth Blair is the regional innovation network coordinator for APEX Alberta. APEX Alberta supports the growth of innovative and technologically-oriented businesses in Southeast Alberta. APEX Alberta is a collaborative initiative between three core service providers: Community Futures Entre-Corp, Medicine Hat College and Alberta Innovates.

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