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We’re great fans of business networking. Kirsten run her own netLinked group that meets in Bluewater, near Dartford, and Carl is a member of 4networking.
You can start networking before you’ve selected your franchise. Check out your local chamber of commerce, any trade bodies that might be appropriate and of course the established networking organisations such as netLinked, 4Networking, BNI, and BoB ( Business over Breakfast).
New networking groups are starting all the time, so its worth signing up to a service like findnetworkingevents or events366 to get regular notification of events in your area.
Remember that business networking happens online too. Most offline networking groups give you your own online page. Use it to connect with other members and to increase your online visibility. There are also purely online networks - including facebook, myspace etc.
The most popular business networking options online are LinkedIn and ecademy. The rapidly growing networking franchise netLinked combines face to face networking with training on LinkedIn so is particularly good for professionals. All are great for raising your profile.
Business networking can be great for getting new business, but sometimes you also need a bit of friendly, non-threatening support - to know that you’re not alone, and that you’re not mad - just a normal business person going through what normal businesses go through.
Here are some organisations that can help:
Business Link is changing, but while it is still around (till November 2011) it;s worth checking out their local events. They often provide free training for new businesses too. Their web-site contains lots of tips and advice and will stay in place after November.
The Federation of Small Businesses is well worth joining (we are members, and no we don’t get anything for recommending them). As well as lobbying government on behalf of small businesses, many local branches run regular networking events, plus you get access to some fantastic deals on business banking, legal support and helpline, credit card facilities etc.
Many professional and service business owners like to join the Institute of Directors. Again, local branches often run regular networking events. The IOD also offers training for Directors (leading to a Chartered Director qualification), plus access to some very smart facilities for meetings and events in major cities across the UK.
At a more local level it is worth seeing if you can find a business support group or business club. These groups focus on learning and sharing experiences and problems rather than generating business. Most are not for profit, so have modest membership fees.
One of the best we know is Women In Business Medway and North Kent.
To find others near you, it’s worth checking with your local authority as many such clubs will be sponsored by them.
Here are a few that we know about:
Bexley Business Club
Bromley Business Club
St Albans Business Club
Women In Business Medway and North Kent
Women In Business West Kent
Women In Business East Kent
Women in Enterprise (based in Milton Keynes - for a full list of networking and support in and around MK click here)
If you run a not-for-profit business support club and you’d like us to list it here, please send us details using the form below: