Networking is one of the most important requirements of a leadership role. That having been said, while networks create great value, networking itself takes consistent hard work. No matter how busy you are, it is essential to make the time to spend on cultivating your networks. One way of fast tracking your ability to network is to identify and learn from a person you respect who is an effective networker – watch and learn how that person uses networking to accomplish goals. Another is to take a course in the strategic art of referral networking.
Networks for self-employed entrepreneurs
When you work in an organisation, you typically have a built-in network, but what if you own, or are about to launch, a small business – or currently work as a solo professional? The answer is that there are three types of networks that it is important for each self-employed entrepreneur to carefully cultivate:
- An information network
A competent and trusted network of support specialists is essential to the success of your business and can help you reach your goals.
Fledgling business owners need expertise and support in setting up and managing systems in their businesses, such as bookkeeping and cash flow forecasting, VAT returns, and even learning people management skills. Going forwards in our business we all need support from professionals who can supply information and services across legal, technology, accounting/bookkeeping and administrative spheres.
- A support network
Owning your own business can be lonely – you may feel like you are the only person on the planet going through your current trials. It is worthwhile to cultivate a personal support network.
Build a network of likeminded people you can turn to share uncomfortable things with – like money issues or conflict resolution – or who will challenge you on your complacency in certain matters. Who do you go to, to share ideas or for encouragement, or spend time with just to have fun and blow off some steam?
- A referral network
You may have the best product in the world, or be a top expert in your field – if no one knows about you your business will not grow. One of the most powerful marketing tools in existence is referral marketing.
It is imperative to design and implement a powerful referral marketing strategy for your business that will build a specific referral network, including people who are in complimentary spheres of business to yours, who will help you take your business to new heights.
Networks for middle and upper management employees
For those people who are employed at a managerial level and upwards, who wish to succeed and are working hard to forge their careers in medium to large organisations, Herminia Ibarra, INSEAD (international graduate business school) Professor of Organisational Behaviour insists – based on her research – that networking is an essential requirement in today’s competitive environment. She believes it is what separates successful business managers and leaders from the pack.
Professor Ibarra recommends that management builds three types of networks:
- Personal: these are like-minded people outside of the organisation who can help you with personal advancement
- Operational: these are people within your team at work who you need to accomplish your assigned, routine tasks
- Strategic: these are key people at work who are outside of your control, who are able to help you to reach your organisational objectives – and your advance in the company