The Benefits Of A Small Business Network
Category : Networking
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Networking is a common synonym for developing and maintaining contacts and personal connections with a variety of people who might be helpful to you and your career.

Networking is about reducing your operating costs. Its about reacting quickly to changing markets and customer needs. Its about being prepared for the future.

A small business network begins with a highly secure and reliable data network foundation that`s fast and accessible. Following are seven ways that a small business network can transform your company:
Networking between businesses has never been easier.

There was a time when representatives of local business had to drag themselves away from their own business concerns to attend meetings of the Chamber of Commerce or a local business forum and, whilst that kind of personal interaction is still vitally important for the purpose of knowing who is who within your local business community, there are now so many other ways of keeping in touch with business owners within either your neighbourhood or your niche.
The latter is extremely important. It has always been relatively easy to interact with business people operating along your street. Traditionally it has been much more difficult to keep in touch with those operating in the same line of business as yourself who might be based in some other part of the UK, or indeed in another country.

Social media such as Facebook and Twitter, along with business focused resources such as LinkedIn, have proved to be invaluable. They have almost literally brought the world to your computer screen. Today it is so easy to communicate with anyone anywhere else in the world that we pretty much take it for granted.

But why would we wish to be in contact with other business people? Particularly those with whom we are competing in the same finite and often scarce market?

This question needs to be looked at from the perspective of differening situations. If you were the manager of a public house, for instance, and another public house was located next door to your own (unlikely though that may be in this age of closures), your neighbour and yourself would clearly be in competition with one another. If however the other premises were located a few streets away you would most likely share many of the same customers, as they move around from venue to venue. You would have a shared interest in maintaining the quality of the neighbourhood for incoming visitors, and in identifying potential troublemakers and sharing intelligence on such things as drug taking and anti-social behaviour.

Benefits of Networking

Active networking and participation in network partnerships can help you meet people and build mutually beneficial business relationships.

For a start-up or small business, networking can provide a lifeline of support and business generation through benefits such as:

  • benchmarking opportunities against competitors and similar-sized businesses
  • comparing and discussing issues of common interest, eg legal and regulatory developments, staff retention, supplier networks, customer service and computerisation
  • developing ideas, innovation and knowledge of best practice
  • staff exchanges and secondments, eg an expert from an association or business network may join your business to oversee a specific project or you may second a graduate joiner to a supplier to learn about the supply process
  • joint skills development for staff in your business sector which can save costs across the board because of economies of scale
  • raising your business profile by becoming an established and regular networking member, getting your face (and the business name) known and being an active networking partner
  • expanding markets by generating business contacts such as customers, suppliers and partners
  • Establishing overseas partnerships, eg through international exhibitions and conferences

You have the opportunity to further your personal, professional and career development and your business` growth by learning from other`s experience, and how they have dealt with similar problems or situations.

When it comes to seeking advice or help to address a weakness or need - for example people development - some businesses are reluctant to participate in a network for fear of being embarrassed by admitting a problem or a competitor taking advantage. However, for most businesses that participate in network partnerships, the benefits of taking an active role usually outweigh any potential concerns or reasons not to network.

Of course most neighbourhoods will play host to a range of completely different business interests. Once again these will have a mutual interest in raising the appeal of an area so as to encourage more outside visitors who will, it is hoped, use all the shops and retail outlets. They will have a mutual interest in eradicating crime such as robbery, vandalism and anti-social behaviour that has the effect of scaring off custom.

Business networks provide a very useful rallying point for local traders, but in addition can provide additional services such as training in starting a business, small business advice and vital support for those thinking of going into home business.