Is networking not for everyone?

It is the strangest thing, but there must be a lot of small business owners who simply do not get out to networking meetings. People do not like to get out of their comfort zones, but it seems an awful waste.

I went to an event this morning. It was not too early, so no one had to get up at the crack of dawn. It was a pleasure to meet one or two people whom I had not met before; new people to me and new people to the local networks. The majority of those there I had met before and some of them are in my quite close trusted network. They would be people I would be happy to help or whom I already have helped, or people who have helped me. A couple have become very good friends and I would never have met them in the ordinary course of business or social events. I know them because we have all made the effort to get out and meet new people.

All this is fine and proves that networking works and we can all get great rewards. However, the puzzle is that in a digital age and with so many people working from home or running small businesses on our high streets or industrial or business parks, there are not more. I do not suppose that the “missing” potential networkers simply do not go to the events I go to. We networkers go to quite a cross-section and in fact at one time or another have been to most of the networking groups around, whether they be BNI, the local Chamber of Commerce or one of our home-grown groups of which I run one.

My conclusion is that there are many people whom we are somehow missing who would be valuable resources for us, in that we could refer our network friends to them; they could benefit so much. I remember that when I was in BNI, a fine organisation, I took a lot of trouble to try to find people to come along to our visitors’ day. It was such hard work though and so few could be persuaded to come along. Those who visit my own group and join do it on their own initiative, though they may originally learn about the group from current members. The visitors understand the deal from meeting the excellent networkers I am fortunate to have. However, there must be a huge number of people sitting on their own working in their business and hoping for their best without tapping into the huge resources that networking brings. They may fail on their own. There is strength in numbers.

Some admittedly somewhat out-of-date figures (2004) said that

• 2,200,000 businesses had no employees (about 61% of SMEs).
• 1,450,000 businesses had an annual turnover of less than £50,000.
• 1,350,000 businesses had less than £10,000 worth of assets.

I believe there may be about 10% fewer businesses now, but plenty to go round.

Where are all these business owners? I love meeting my “same old faces”, my trusted network, but I am sure that we would all like to meet new people, expand our networks and tap into them as a resource, from which they would benefit. How can we get the message over? What do you think?

© Jon Stow 2010

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