The advantages of networking can improve your chances of survival during those hard early months dramatically.
Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2003 Michael Welch (Blackcircles.com) says, “Successful entrepreneurs are also fantastic networkers. It is not impossible to navigate through the mine field of owning a business without friends, but it is much harder. By meeting other entrepreneurs, you have the chance to share your experiences, success and setbacks. This is can prove to be invaluable. Not only will you have access to a vast collection of knowledge, but you will also have the chance to gain business in areas that you might not have considered possible before.”
No matter how good you are in your role, there will be times when you need to call on others for help so it's important to keep your options open and look around you for people to call upon. Some of these people could also refer work onto you once you've built up their trust.
As Louise Broni-Mensah (Shoobs) says, "Networking is vital for any new entrepreneur in order to obtain new opportunities for your business. It is equally important to build a friendship network of fellow entrepreneurs. When the going gets tough, it is these individuals that will be able to provide the support and advice that your friends will find difficult!”.
There are many ways in which you can network online, either through specialist sites, or social media. The Shell LiveWIRE Discussion Forum is also a great place to ask or answer questions, or debate business issues with fellow entrepreneurs, business advisors and Shell LiveWIRE staff.
In all regions of the UK, there are also many groups and organisations that provide networking events or business breakfasts. Such events are usually posted online and can easily be found by a web search. They offer a great chance to meet like-minded people from all walks of life and offer the chance to pick their brains, share ideas and make new business contacts.
Another good place to network is at trade shows or conferences - they can be great places to meet others who are just starting out, or connect with organisations that can help your business. Conferences are are great way to get advice and inspiration from speakers and attendees who have actually been in your shoes.
Don't Overdo It!
Although networking is an important part of any business, new or old, you've got to get the balance right and be careful not to overdo it! Networking at events and particularly online can become quite addictive but you need to do some actual work too in order to bring in the money. Therefore, limit how much time you spend 'networking' and try to set yourself clear objectives with each activity, event or meeting you attend. You should be aiming for something at the end of it, like closing a deal or setting up a follow-up meeting otherwise you could find that you've wasted your precious time.