Breaking Up with your Networking Group
Networking, interaction with other humans to create relationships that are mutually beneficial, (my definition) is the way business gets done. From the part-time Avon lady to CEOs of multi-billion dollar corporations to politicians, business gets done by networking with the right people.
But what about you? Are you getting out there and networking and more importantly, are you networking in the right places with the right people? The right people at the right level can make all the difference in your networking efforts. If your company employs several hundred people, is a business-to-business company, and you’re are looking to get introduced to the CFOs of other big companies, a group of soccer moms who have small, part-time businesses to earn spending money is not where you want to network. But you probably already know that.
So now that you’ve been with your networking group for a while, should you stay or should you go? This is a debate I’ve had with myself several times in different groups. Often, if you have to ask, it is time to go. But sometimes just working with the founders and leadership can help the group evolve for everyone’s sake.
There are different types of groups. Some with one person per profession and others where several people doing the exact same thing can join the group. That is the first thing you have to look at. You may have started out with a clever new business idea or recently joined a network marketing company with a hot new product. And then all of a sudden, 30% or more of your group does the same thing you do. Does it pay to stay? It might if you can contribute to the other business owners in the group and you continue to get education, or business, or both from the group.
Even when your category is secure by being in a one person per profession group, it may not be the right place for you anymore. There are a few things you need to look at before you make a change. First, have you contributed to the group? It isn’t always just about new business. It could be ideas, connections or any number of indirect helpful things that move business along. Next, do you get anything from the group? Again, not just business. Has someone been able to make a connection for you that helped your company. Maybe you were introduced to the perfect patent attorney for your great idea. If you aren’t getting anything or getting less than you used to, look to yourself first.
Thirty seconds isn’t enough time to teach people all about what you do. You need to meet with the members of your group one-to-one and put what you do into a context they will understand. Once you have done this, you should see an improvement in the value of what you are getting out of the group. More business, better connections, invaluable information should come as a result of the meeting. And you should be upping your value to the members of the group.
What if you’ve done everything you can and the group is still of no value? You aren’t getting customers, or opportunities to speak to potential customers. Heck, you’re not even getting new ideas. You are simply buying expensive breakfasts or lunches and getting no return. Time to leave.
Let the leader of the group know you are leaving and why. Don’t be mean-spirited or burn bridges. If you are given the opportunity, say goodbye to the group. Thank them for allowing you into the group and let them know you feel it is time to move on.
In a great group, you can stay for years and keep getting business, advice, support and have a team around you. A great group understands business needs to go beyond doing business with each other. If you are in a great group, keep contributing to it and it will feed you. But like any bad investment, cut your losses if you are in a group that doesn’t work and move on.
Catherine Cohen and her husband/business partner, Barry, are business strategists with Business Solutions for Growth. They work with businesses to help them create a strategic plan with focus, clarity, and vision. They are also hosts of the popular podcast, Together 24/7. Catherine can be reached at BusinessSolutionsForGrowth.com.