What are you looking for from your Networking?

All business people are told that they must go Networking, why is that?

... well quite simply if you don't then where are you going to go and meet other business people?

Networking provides a convenient method for assembling local business people together in one place so they can get to know each other. Networking is not a place to necessarily get new business directly (although that does happen) but you will also find suppliers, useful connections (people you can refer on maybe), potential collaborators, learn new things, and probably get inspired.

Talking to local businesses "networking" in its current form can still leave a lot of gaps in what we really need to develop ourselves and our business. Let me start off here by saying, what we have with our current 'Networking' models is not wrong, or bad, it's just only fulfilling a couple of our many needs at best.

So what are the needs of a micro or small business?

  1. Meet new people with a diverse range of backgrounds, experience and skills
  2. Get questions answered quickly and easily (2-3 minutes type discussion)
  3. Hands-on-Help (10-15 minutes) ... installing an app. getting advice, signposting, guidance
  4. Plug skills gaps, all of us quite frankly have a lot to learn (video training)
  5. On going support, team of people supporting and helping each other achieve
  6. Mentoring & Accountability, ensure we 'do what we said we were going to do'
  7. Strategy (Marketing / Business / development), benefitting from experience of others
  8. Creativity, Innovation and Ideas, when people 'group think' it takes us to new places

The other things on the checklist

  • Available when we need it. We all get busy, it's a bit "Feast and Famine" for us all, certainly in the early years. (so... no pressure to be there, drop in and out, no expectations enforced by others)
  • Variety... keep it interesting, different people, different event types, different locations
  • Just as easy to stay in touch networking online as it is at physical events 
  • High quality network of people that we can trust
  • Opportunity to develop new skills by leading, supporting, or contributing in some way by organising things local to where you are
  • No one's selling... just a group of people supporting each other to succeed
  • Everyone is treated the same... no one is more important than any other
  • Costs kept to an absolute minimum... or free
  • Can't be shut down and taken away from us by the government or greedy shareholders

You might be looking at the above and saying to yourself... that is a huge ask for a networking organisation to be able to deliver all of the above. Of course... existing networking organisations weren't created to fulfill the needs of our businesses, they are themselves very often businesses created for there own ends, to make a profit. They create a space for us to meet, with a format, that's their purpose. The answer actually requires a completely different approach.

There are those amongst you who will be old enough (and were in business at the time) to remember the good old Government supported Business Link, this was a service created to support small businesses. Now it has gone, people remember it with fondness although at the time it was oft slated. It was though, a place to start their journey for very small businesses, and did provide a range of free services, recognising that many of us start things off on a shoestring and money is always an issue.

In Conclusion

In order to provide an organisation that could help to create the environment described above (best for the micro and small business sector) is a big challenge, Business Link did quite well but that was a Government funded thing and we saw what happened there. The organisation ought to come from an objective of being 'not for profit' which keeps focus on providing value at the lowest cost... 'owned by the people' who are creating it... because it can't be taken off us... or shut down... or sold on.... So being operated by a set of guardians (for want of a better word) would  ensure that what we 'collectively' create doesn't deviate from delivering on those things that it set out to do.

Final Words

The above is part of an initiative which has been put together over the past 5 years called Link4Growth. It is now after 5 years transitioning (completion by the end of April 2017) to being owned by those who have helped to get it where it now is; that's anyone who has been a subscriber for more than 14 months. If you would like to know more... then do get in touch ipsl.chrisogle@gmail.com


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