I wasn’t a very good networker. I struggled a bit to network with purpose or intent and just ended up chatting to people. I was ok at business events but more general gatherings, not so much. I never knew when or how to extract myself from a conversation and go talk to someone else. Before starting a conversation I would prepare myself like leaping into cold water - 3 quick breaths, brace myself and I’m off. Once the conversation started flowing and I got into my groove I was alright but a bit rudderless and lacking any kind of direction. Needless to say I didn’t do a lot of it or enjoy it at all, it was a chore.
Now, after a joining Chrysalis for Women and attending a few workshops with super networker Kim Chamberlain my approach to networking is entirely different. I go to meet people, learn about them, make some connections and help where I can. This wasn’t a conscious change and I only really recognised it after working through the chapter on networking in the Your Business Journey Workbook. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on what type of networker I was and how that had evolved. Basically for me it has become the easiest way to connect with small businesses with the real power in relationship building. Much of my work comes from networking and not from new contacts but ones I have built up over the years. With networking, it is never about what happens on the day but what it leads to as you develop the relationship.
This really came home to me this week when I was invited to meet with the Minister for Small Business Jacqui Dean and talk about the work I was doing with small businesses. I didn’t even know there was a Minister for Small business so how did this come about? Over a year ago I was dragged along to a meet the neighbours drinks by the ever enthusiastic Kathleen Wright. I went along to support her and the the, very new, Sub Urban Co-working which I was a part of. There were drinks and conversation with very established local businesses which were very much not my market, and a nice chat with local list MP Brett Hudson. It was a pleasant hour or two and I felt I had done my good deed for the day.
It was that nice chat with Brett that led to an opportunity to speak with Jacqui Dean about local initiatives for small business over a year later. Kathleen had kept Brett up to date with what was happening at Sub Urban and he remembered our chat about the work I was doing with business mentoring. Jacqui came and had lunch with us at Sub Urban, heard about our business and those of some co-workers and we hope, got a good sense of what we are doing and achieving in this small local community. It was a very positive experience all round.
Where will it lead? No idea, but my advice on networking - enjoy it, have fun and meet some really cool people - you never know where it will lead and what can come back to you.