two laptop computers and online meeting
In recent months you might think that business networking has been ‘on hold’. In fact, many groups have been thriving throughout lockdown as business owners look for new ways to do things. 
At LEOBS we have been keen networkers from the beginning and it has made a big difference to us. It doesn’t only provide a source of valuable referrals, it’s also the place we go to find reliable advice and support from people we know, like and trust. 

Why do people say “networking isn’t for me”? 

Some people feel that it’s a waste of time; you have breakfast, coffee, lunch or dinner and meet nice people but networking doesn’t help to create new business opportunities. 
Others don’t like to walk into a room full of strangers or feel that they must try to sell to everyone in the room. For some people the idea of delivering a short ‘elevator’ presentation about their business in front of 20 or 30 people is frightening. 
Depending on the type of business networking event you choose, all these things could be reasonable concerns, but they really miss the point of business networking. 

Why LEOBS believes in networking 

If you can’t or don’t already use an elevator pitch as part of your life as a business owner, and you aren’t meeting new people and helping them to succeed, you will regularly miss opportunities
If you don’t measure and review what you do, you won’t know if your business is succeeding. 
Lucie Howard explains why networking was at the top of her list to help LEOBS to grow: “I knew I enjoyed bookkeeping. I already had some informal clients and was busy completing my qualifications. Then it was time to make the decision to leave my job as a teacher and to focus on my business full-time. 
“Like many other business owners this was a big step and I will admit it was quite frightening. I knew I had a lot to learn about how to run a business. That’s why I started visiting different networking groups. I wanted to hear about other people’s experiences, and to meet people who could give me advice as well as possibly finding new clients. 
“I realised very quickly that there are many different types and styles of networking. That means there’s almost certainly something to suit everyone. I’m still in touch with many of the people I met at my first networking meetings.” 

How to choose a business networking group 

Lucie continues: “I visited business networking groups that met quite informally, some that took place just once a month and some where you could visit as many groups in different places as you could fit in. 
“In some meetings you can just have a chat and some food or a coffee. It was left up to you how many people you met. Other groups encourage you to spend time with at least a few other people in the room at every meeting. 
“I had heard of Business Networking International (BNI) but didn’t think it would be possible for me to join a group because many meet at breakfast time when I’m always busy getting my children ready for school. 
“However, I was invited to a BNI group that meets at lunchtime, which was perfect for me. I know some people don’t think BNI will work for them because of the structure, because you’re expected every week or because you are accountable to everyone in the room. These were all things that I liked.” 

The benefits of business networking 

Looking back to the early days, Lucie didn’t know who much networking would help her business to grow. 
“My BNI membership is the basis of my marketing plan and the real value comes from what happens outside the weekly meeting. 
“We spend time getting to know each other in one-to-one meetings where we find out how we can help members to succeed. It’s a good way to learn from others and you get really good tips and advice too. 
“During the week we are all working hard to find referrals for other members and that motivates people. I think the fact that we measure how much business is shared between members just shows that everyone wants to help others succeed. 
“There’s very good training available too and that’s important when, like me, you are starting a new business. 
“Now LEOBS has an office, staff, we are VAT registered, and we have a strong client base. BNI and the support of my chapter have given me the confidence to grow and develop the skills I needed to achieve this.” 
If you would like to find out more about business networking, we will be very happy to invite you as a visitor and to explain how it works. Just get in touch
Tagged as: BNI, business networking
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