Small business financial services are not my only concern from day to day. In addition to clients’ business wellbeing, I’m focused on my own success. After all, My Small Business Pro is a small business, too. As an owner, I’ve got many of the same goals, dreams, challenges and headaches as you do.

One of the ways I strive to achieve those goals, and wrestle with those all-too-common small business woes, is networking. Meeting with like-minded professionals in your area takes time, but it’s worth stepping away from your business to hobnob. It’s more than just a break from the office—it’s a powerful way to build your business, and to strengthen your credibility as a business leader. If you want your operation to grow, building relationships is a must.

Here’s a number of reasons why networking should be at the top of your to-do list:

  • Business development. No small businesses operate in a vacuum—they frequently need the services of other businesses. Networking helps spread the word about your operation and generate leads.
  • Not everyone I’ve encountered via networking needs my small business financial services. However, if they encounter someone who does, the connection we made through networking improve my chances of them giving me a referral.
  • We’ve talked about the importance of not taking on everything yourself—similarly, you can’t be expected to know everything. Networking can help you tap into new ideas and viewpoints that benefit your business.
  • It’s hard to put yourself out there—showing up for networking events can help build your confidence, and skills necessary to navigate the world of small business.

Networking can take on a number of forms. Depending on your type of business, the region you’re in, and other factors, one might yield better results for you than another. Let’s talk about a few:

  • One on one. Whether it’s in person at lunch or over coffee, by the phone or via email, connecting directly with another professional can be a great way to build relationships.
  • Group networks. Your local chamber of commerce may offer a wealth of business connections. Some such groups offer social events for members, promotional outreach to residents of the area or other benefits.
  • Focused groups. More structured than other types of networking, these groups emphasize generating referrals and strong business relationships.

Speaking of focused groups: I can’t crow enough about Business Networking International (BNI). Their highly focused and exclusive model (there’s no other financial services outfit like mine in the group) has been a godsend for MSBP. Check the BNI site or Facebook page for more information or to connect with a chapter.

I’ve been active with my Chicago chapter, Integrity Business Advisors, for almost two years now, and it has finally started to pay off. I am in no way, shape or form a morning person, so if I’m showing up for a meeting that starts at 7 a.m., you know it must be worth it—and BNI is (and, truth be told, schmoozing at that early hour means I’m not sacrificing billable hours or time in front of clients, because it’s before my work usually starts). Gathering with a group of people so committed to and focused on business development has helped get my head in the game big time. It’s been a privilege to pick the brains of other successful people, and get to know them not just as colleagues, but close friends.

Building those relationships has led to solid insights, awesome leads, and decent rates and discounts on other people’s products and services. MSBP provides small business financial services—something every small business needs—and other professionals in the group offer things that I could use. Even if an owner’s business might not be a fit with mine, that owner still might have advice or contacts that I can connect with. We’re all in it together and there’s an inherent expectation that we all support one another.

If you need help finding a networking group, or need some small business financial services, contact me at Daliah@MySmallBusinessPro.com and I’d be more than happy to chat.