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By Kate Strassel | Citizens Bank Staff
As a small business owner, you have a lot on your plate. Responsibilities such as hiring employees, paying invoices, engaging with customers, shipping packages, and marketing your business can often consume your entire workday, leaving little time (you think) for building a professional network.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Really — you’re not alone.
Mentors and business peers can be found virtually anywhere: your neighborhood, local business association meetings, industry conferences, even online. They understand your frustrations and fears because they’ve experienced them too, and they’re willing to help and guide you. All you have to do is reach out.
Read on to learn how growing your professional network can set your business — and you — up for success.
Many entrepreneurs underestimate the wealth of resources and expertise a professional network can provide. Having experienced peers in your corner helps alleviate some of the stress and pressure of being a small business owner.
More benefits of business networking include:
A source of new insights and perspectives. It’s difficult to be objective about something you’ve put so much heart and soul into, like your business. Members of your professional network can offer a fresh perspective and suggest new ways to tackle an issue.
The ability to learn from the experiences of others. Instead of trying to figure out everything on your own, take advantage of the knowledge and wisdom of those who’ve faced similar situations in their own businesses.
Partnerships and opportunities. Cultivating a diverse network of professionals gives you access to resources that can help your business run smoother. When you need to hire new staff, for example, you could partner with a recruiter in your network to find talent.
Networking has earned itself a bit of a bad rap. For many, the mere thought of attending a networking event invokes feelings of fear and vulnerability. Fortunately, social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter have made it possible for even the most introverted business owners to connect with professionals across town and across the globe.
That being said, there’s something to be said for meeting and interacting with people face to face (and no, I’m not talking about FaceTime). Joining your local business association or chamber of commerce is a great way to meet business owners in your community. Here are a few more local resources for business networking:
Whether you’re building your professional network online or in person, don’t limit your search to those within your particular field or industry. Think about people whose services or expertise could help to streamline your operations or productivity, as with the recruiter example above.
It’s also important to keep in mind how you could be of value to others. Offer help and support to people in your network as much as possible — even if you have no idea if they’ll be able or willing to help you in the future. By removing the “What can this person do for me?” mentality, you’ll naturally treat people as you desire to be treated, and your authenticity will stand out to others.
Building a diverse network of mentors, small business owners, and professional partners you can lean on in times of need can have a profound effect on both the success of your business and your emotional well-being. Also, it’s not uncommon for professional connections to evolve into genuine friendships — and there’s nothing better than having someone you can count on in every aspect of your life.
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