Guide

Networking for staff development

Advantages of business networking

Networking can provide a number of benefits to businesses. Networking involves meeting, getting to know and interacting with people who share similar interests, who can assist you and that you can help in return. Networking becomes really effective when strong long-term relationships are built through trust and mutual respect.

For a start-up or small business at any stage, networking can provide a lifeline of support, solutions to problems and lead to new business opportunities.

Benefits of networking

Some of the many advantages networking brings to businesses include:

  • Build relationships – networking gives you the opportunity to connect with other businesses, helping you to establish effective relationships with key people across various industries, that you can call on if needed.
  • Solutions to business problems – if you are experiencing a business problem networking may give you access to other people who have experienced similar issues in the past and can offer valuable advice and potential solutions to help you move forward. You may also find best practice guidance is promoted through business networks that can help streamline how you operate.
  • Business opportunities – networking gives you an opening to other people and organisations that could lead to new business opportunities being identified or new partnerships established in the pursuit of new business ventures.
  • Develop social skills – regular networking can help build your confidence when dealing with people and this can have a positive impact on future interactions you have with staff, customers and suppliers.
  • Helping others – just as networking can provide you with helpful business advice and solutions, you in turn can be a source of help to others, giving you a great sense of pride and satisfaction. It will also help enhance your professional reputation.
  • Access new talent – if you are struggling to recruit for job vacancies or are looking for a particular skill set to bring to your business networking could introduce you to the talent you need.
  • Benchmarking – networking gives your business the opportunity to measure how your business is performing against other similar organisations, giving an indication of your strengths and areas where improvement may be required.
  • Raise your business profile – networking gets you and your business noticed by others and by establishing more connections and by regularly contributing to networks your business will become more reputable.
  • New customers or suppliers – networking can help you identify new customers or suppliers either amongst the network members or based on recommendations from others in the group.
  • Latest information – business networks can be a rich source of new industry developments, perhaps highlighting upcoming legal requirements or technological advancements in your sector.

The extent to which you benefit from business networking 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 get involved in business networking.

Find and get involved in Northern Ireland business networks.