Over the past year, West Cork Life and Business Coach Anna Healy embarked on a personal journey to interview women in business in West Cork, hearing their stories and learning from what they shared about their businesses. In the process, she learned a lot about herself in her business too. In her series of Women in Business articles, Anna will share some of these learnings with you.
This message is so important that I have written it three times in the headline! In all of the interviews that I have completed, networking was top of each person’s priority for their business. Particularly in start-up stage, networking is key to building a strong customer base. In a recent interview, Katy Wareing of OMKO pointed out that the Irish customer wants to know who you are; they want to build a connection with you so the only way to do good business in Ireland is to get out there and meet people!
There are numerous reasons why networking is so important:
To raise your profile. Many of the women that I interviewed said “People buy people!” So don’t be afraid to get your message out there. People will want to know who you are and that you are passionate about your business. Being visible and getting noticed will do wonders for your business. By regularly attending events, you will become familiar to people and you can become known as the reputable and knowledgeable person in your area when you offer a few tips and advice to people. This will help your name to pop immediately if someone needs your type of service.
To build confidence. You will have the opportunity to practice and polish your message, your pitch, each time you meet someone new. This will in turn help you to build your confidence and develop your story as your business develops.
To be inspired. Meeting other people is a great way to share ideas and expertise, this can improve your business immensely and stretch your imagination. My mind is full of so many ideas after a networking event.
To build your tribe. Finding your ‘Tribe’ is vital to keep you emotionally supported in your business. Starting up and building your business can be a lonely experience without the support of like-minded individuals who understand the challenges you are experiencing. Helen Wycherly of Celtic Ross Hotel (and formerly President of Network Ireland in 2019) described what networking has meant to her – “I made friends, I have people I can call on, when I need people to ask I know where to go, my first instinct is to go and find someone within the Network and I know I will get a recommendation. For business, it has brought direct business to the Hotel and the Marina Commercial Park, as they know I am part of it and they will give me a ring….It has taught me how to connect with people, and to understand that people are people, you make a connection and you don’t know where that will lead, I find that fascinating!”
To create new opportunities. You never know when an opportunity can arise through meeting other people. From my own experience I have been privileged to seize many opportunities from my networking. For example, I collaborated with six amazing business women from Network West Cork and Cork to build ‘Powerhouse Collective’ providing a one-stop-shop service to Business Women and Executives in need of a Reboot.
If you asked me three years ago how I felt about networking, I would have told you that it felt cheesy and that I wasn’t good at it! Which was interesting because I love meeting people, just not ‘business people’! But I was looking at it from a completely different angle. I was coming at it from a place of fear and low confidence in my ability to network – sure who would talk to me? I am going to make an ass of myself, no one is going to like me or my business. I forgot that the ‘business people’ were real people who happened to work in business!
So I decided to not try so hard at the events and be gentle on myself and see what happened. I decided not to go in with the ‘hard sell’ and just be myself, I made myself a goal to get to know just one person by the end of each event.
Since then, I have found Networking incredibly beneficial to my business. I have met mentors, friends, clients, inspirational people and I have built a strong foundation for which my business can thrive. I have made strong connections and from that I have collaborated with others to improve my business offering. I have been fortunate to be sent referrals through my networking and to be told of opportunities that may be coming down the line.
Yes, I know that Covid-19 has put a stop to face-to-face meetings and that can slow us down, but there are other ways to connect with people; there are lots of online networking events happening in your area and also nationally. Commit yourself to one event each week and make your presence known by introducing yourself. Connect with people on Linkedin and Facebook; make sure to send a message with the invite so that they will remember you. Set up your own online networking/support group and get people to invite their connections. That way you all get to meet someone new. Ciara Byrne of Alcon AI and former President of Network Ireland, West Cork branch, summarised it for me really well “People are everything….make sure that you have a network around you that you can lean on”.
Next Week we will look at key learnings around how managing your mindset is important for your business.
Anna Healy is a Life and Business Coach based in West Cork. She is also the membership officer of Network Ireland West Cork branch. You can hear the ‘Women in Business in West Cork’ series on West Cork FM fortnightly on a Saturday.