Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Over 4 Million Reasons Not to Ignore People at Networking Events

A recent survey by the Department of Business and Enterprise found that over 99% of the 4.5 million businesses in the UK are classified as 'small', in that they employ fewer that 50 people. In an economy where the 'corporate' business takes the spotlight in the media and in our minds, small businesses are the engine driving us forward.

Yet, still so many of us still avoid speaking to other small businesses when attending networking events. We are looking to sell our services to bigger businesses, because that is where we know we can win good contracts and secure our futures.

If 99% of businesses are small, who do you think is more likely to attend networking events? Trying to find a corporate decision-maker at your local business lunch is likely to be a futile exercise. Take a moment and look at the people around you. They may not be your customers, but who do they know and who do they service? In many cases, it is the exact people you are looking to meet.

On Friday I was invited to open Albans Office Space ,a new serviced office centre for small businesses in St.Albans. The people who attended the event were local small businesses, many of them currently working from home and prospective tenants of the new centre. It would be so easy for someone looking to work with corporates to dismiss the other attendees as irrelevant to their business.

On the contrary, as a result of conversations at the event, I have the chance of introductions to a number of media figures and to a prospective new corporate client. Contacts that would come from a new start-up business.

Networking is not about selling, it is about developing yourself and your business with the help of other people, and doing the same for them. Combining experience, expertise, ideas - and contacts - for the common good.

If over 99% of businesses in the UK are small, it would be an unwise person who ignored their help.