Your connections in the business community are critical to the success and sustainability of your small business. You network can provide valuable contacts, opportunities for deals, and crucial knowledge about best practices. Networking is one of the key principals of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program and 76% of its graduates are now actively working together to better grow and manage their businesses, reports the HuffingtonPost.com.
Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is a $500 million investment to help entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity by providing them with greater access to education, financial capital and business support services. The ever expanding program is currently operating in Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Long Beach, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City.
In the program, participants are taught that networking should always be focused around a key goal, whether that’s increasing sales, expanding into new markets, or raising awareness about your business. For instance, if you’re planning to expand product distribution into a new region and you can connect with someone with logistical experience in that area, then that could help you meet your warehousing and transportation needs or put you in touch with suitable vendors.
Ideally, you want to create and sustain an entrepreneurial network that supports your business through good and bad times.
According to the HuffingtonPost, here are five of the types of people you want in your network to help grow the business:
1. The Veteran: Someone who’s been long established in their field and knows the ins and outs of an industry can be a huge asset, particularly if your business is relatively young. Knowing someone with years of experience can help you understand the challenges you’ll be facing down the road and how to tackle them.
2. The Innovator: If you’re looking for ways to stay on the cutting-edge, try to find an early-adopter with tech expertise who can keep you informed about the latest platforms and tools that can improve your operations.
3. The Advocate: It helps to know an active promoter who will be likely to spread the word about what you’re doing. This advocacy helps build your reputation and increases your chances of making new connections.
4. The Dealmaker: Someone who is assertive in bridging gaps and is always looking for ways people can help each other–whether through new contacts or deals–will serve you well.
5. The Outsider: It helps to know someone outside your industry who can provide a fresh perspective on your business or customer base. If you run a clothing shop, communicating with a graphic designer could provide you with a new understanding of aesthetics and product presentation.
One of the most direct ways to build up your network and add new members is by attending an industry conference, forum, or roundtable discussion. Just be sure to remain open to new ideas when meeting with contacts. Don’t just tuck away their business cards. Remember to follow up with them so you stay fresh in their mind.