For a start-up or small business at any stage, networking can provide a lifeline of support and business generation.
Networking to develop knowledge
Networking can help you improve your business performance, products and staff skills. It can also help you develop knowledge and skills, by providing opportunities to:
- Participate in benchmarking, which can help you identify areas where you can improve your business performance.
- Establish staff exchanges and secondments. For example, an outside expert may join your business to oversee a specific project or you may second a graduate joiner to a supplier to learn about the supply process.
- Benefit from economies of scale by involving employees in joint skills development programmes for staff in your business sector.
Networking to promote your business
You can use networking to boost your business reputation and gather new leads. You can:
- raise your business profile by becoming an established and regular networking member, getting your face and the business known
- meet new people and build mutually beneficial business relationships
- expand your markets by generating new business contacts with potential customers, suppliers and partners
- establish overseas partnerships, eg through international exhibitions and conferences
Networking for information and new ideas
Networks can also be a key source of information and business support. You can:
- compare and discuss issues of common interest, eg legal and regulatory developments, staff retention, supplier networks, customer service and technological advancements
- develop and share ideas, innovation and knowledge of best practice
The extent to which you benefit will depend on the events and services the network offers and how actively you become involved. Some businesses are reluctant to seek advice or get help for fear of being embarrassed or giving a competitor an opportunity to take advantage.
However, for most businesses, the benefits of taking an active role in a network usually outweigh any potential concerns or reasons not to network.
Find and get involved in Northern Ireland business networks.