There are many types of business networks. Often they set joining criteria to take members with common attitudes or requirements, eg size of business or professional background.
You can find and establish links through a number of different channels. Some of these include:
- Education and research organisations - to explore development initiatives and to access studies or research into products, markets, customer preferences, best practice etc.
- Learning networks - managers and other employees can attend training and development activities tailored to their responsibilities, keep up to date with best practice and current thinking, and hear from high-profile speakers and researchers. Approach relevant trade associations and industry bodies and ask them about their seminars and events.
- Employers' federations - eg the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) or Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
- Regional/local organisations - eg Chambers of Commerce or trade associations, for advice, support and local news.
- Community organisations - action groups representing local, ethnic or social interests.
- Online networks - internet-based communities providing opportunities to communicate with other business people and potential customers. Some offer online networking opportunities, networking events and face-to-face meetings.
- Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) - Seek advice on training and skills for your business and on suitable networking partners from your SSC. SSCs are employer-led and independent.
Networking opportunities at other business events
The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) run a number of conferences, workshops and seminars throughout the year for small businesses on latest developments and practices in employment issues. These events are also opportunities to network with other businesses and share best practice. Find LRA employment workshops and seminars.
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland also run a number of employer training events throughout the year that offer businesses the opportunity to network. Find the Equality Commission’s employer training programme.
You can also use our Events Finder to search for business events across Northern Ireland that may offer networking opportunities.
Forms of networking
There are also various forms of networking:
- organised meetings/conferences - structured ways of networking
- online discussion and debate - co-ordinated on many websites
- business trips - sponsored by a relevant trade organisation or similar, business trips can provide a co-ordinated way of establishing foreign contacts and learning about overseas markets
- social events - an informal way to meet people with a common purpose for attending
- survey and focus groups - allow you to meet fellow contributors and the organisers