When Networking Check the Group at the Door!

By Julie Barnes

The starting of a New Year brings with it a time to reevaluate what is and what is not working for our businesses - networking groups included. When we first start our businesses we follow the golden rule of network, network, and then network some more. We ask colleagues to suggest groups to visit. The next thing you know, you are a member.

For home-based entrepreneurs, networking meetings are also a way to socialize and to have a fabulous lunch. It seems a lot of home-based entrepreneurs eat quite a bit of cereal for lunch. Entrepreneurs seem to take less time for lunch than in corporate America.

Here are a few tips to consider when reevaluating the groups that you belong to:

•Is the group a good fit for your needs?

Keep in mind that most groups will allow you to visit at least two meetings before asking you to make a decision on whether to join. It is essential to introduce yourself to as many members as possible when visiting. Exchange business cards. This will help you in remembering later. It is time to evaluate after visiting a couple of meetings. Set down and review who you met and what kinds of businesses are represented. If the group is filled with primarily corporate ladder climbers and your business targets small mom and pop’s, then this probably is not a good group for you to join. Besides, corporate ladder climbers and entrepreneurs just do not understand each other.

•What are the fees per month?

Take a look at how much becoming a member of the group is going to cost you. Most groups charge a yearly membership fee. Some also charge a monthly fee if you attend, especially if the group is serving lunch. You may find a perfect group that is free, but if they hold their meetings at a restaurant, keep in mind that the restaurant is hoping that you will purchase lunch in return for using the meeting room for free. Do not forget to add networking cost into your monthly budget. The cost to network can quickly start to add up.

•How many times does the group meet?

Some groups meet weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Do you have the time to commit to the group? Most groups like members to attend regularly. Also, keep this in mind when deciding to volunteer for a committee position.

•Is all of this networking helping your business grow?

After awhile, it can seem like you are always running to a meeting or working on a committee project, but how is all of this affecting your business? When planning your schedule, remember that the average hour-and-a-half meeting will take double that out of your day. For example, if you have a meeting that starts at 11:30 a.m., depending on what your distance is from the meeting location, you will need to plan on leaving about 10:45 p.m. Most meetings have a set networking time before the meeting begins. The meeting starts, lunch is served as the speaker gives their presentation then the meeting is adjourned. By the time you get back to your office it is nearing 2:00 p.m. Take this average, multiply it by the number of meetings per month and you will learn the average amount of time you are away from your office networking. Has business improved? Are you making some great connections?
Remember that networking is all about building strong connections and friendships that in turn help you and your business grow.

Copyright © 2010 Julie Barnes and One Who Writes

Julie Barnes is a Freelance Writer focusing on her passions of entrepreneurship, women’s issues, and holistic health and wellness. Julie published “So You Want to Start a Business…Now What?” in December 2009. Julie lives and works in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, KS with her husband Ron and lovable dog Hank. You can visit her site at http://www.onewhowrites.com.

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