Making friends as an adult is a universal struggle. In a post-pandemic world, friendship apps reign supreme as one of the best new ways to connect with like-minded individuals. But when it comes to making friends of your small business? It’s a whole separate ball game.
Unfortunately, it will take more effort than simply swiping right on a few photos to build strong connections for your business. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be rocket science! In just a few minutes, you’ll be armed with the most simple and effective networking tools to substantially grow your community. You might still need to turn to apps for personal friends, but your small business will be thriving.
Be a joiner.
Before these friend-finding apps, everyone had to make friends the old-fashioned way. Joining a club, playing a sport, or signing up for a class were (and still are!) some of the best ways to build new relationships with like-minded people. The small business world functions the same way!
Starting a small business is an exciting venture, but it can sometimes feel lonely. Joining a small business association in your community is a great way to create connections with people who are doing the same thing as you. That emotional support is invaluable, but these associations offer more than validation and fuzzy feelings.
Access to additional resources, opportunities for development, and potential service discounts are all on the table when you choose to join a small business association. You’ll also be able to share advice, skills, and experiences with fellow entrepreneurs. Some associations to check out:
- SBA community groups
- Your local chamber of commerce
- National Federation of Independent Business
Each organization has different requirements when it comes to your time and investment, so do what you can. Joining an association might not be feasible for your schedule and budget at present, but it’s good to keep it on the radar for the future!
Attend events and conferences.
Registering for a conference takes time, and attending it takes money. So we’ll say it again: Do what you can. Keep an eye out for cheaper events that are close to home, and start your wishlist of ones you’ll go to when you’ve got more wiggle room in your budget.
Google is your friend when it comes to finding the highest-quality events for you. If people were unhappy about their experience, you’ll know about it! Explore which lectures and classes were offered in previous years to determine if that particular event matches your interests.
Here are four other ways to make the most of small business events:
1. Use the buddy system.
There tends to be a stereotype that all entrepreneurs are extroverts who are comfortable selling themselves—but that’s not necessarily true. There’s nothing wrong with being nervous about meeting new people, especially at a potentially overwhelming conference. This is where that phone-a-friend option comes in handy.
If you’re on the introverted side, invite a friend (that you met in your small business association!) to attend with you. Approaching a new person with a pal can feel much more friendly and much less intimidating.
2. Know your elevator pitch.
As you prepare for any upcoming event, don’t forget to practice your elevator pitch. You’ve got to be able to articulate what it is that you do, who you serve, and why it’s important. Conferences are a fantastic place to generate leads and referrals, but that simply won’t happen without some sort of an elevator pitch.
That being said, once your elevator pitch is prepped, throw it away. You know those booths at the mall? Yes, those booths. You try to walk away, but once you’ve made eye contact…it’s all over. They’ll chase you down and make you listen to a fifteen minute pitch about their hair straightener, phone case, or hand cream.
Don’t be that booth person! If you start every conversation with your elevator pitch, it’s much tougher to make personal connections. So don’t make it all about you. Start with a compliment or a question, and only give your elevator pitch once you’ve broken the ice in an authentic way.
Bottom line? Know your pitch, but don’t be annoying about it.
3. Avoid hot takes.
At any given conference, you might find a speech boring or an attendee rude. Because networking at these events can sometimes feel informal, it may be tempting to take part in a little gossip about it with some of your fellow entrepreneurs.
Don’t give in. You never know who might be listening, or who may be friends with whom! Gossip goes best with wine anyhow, so save it for a night with your close, non-work friends.
4. Take time to decompress.
It’s okay to leave the floor for a few minutes. You won’t lose the opportunity of a lifetime by taking care of yourself! Go get some coffee and fresh air. Take a few deep breaths, and meditate if you need to. Not everyone’s an extrovert! If you happen to be on the shy side, recharging your social battery may be exactly what you need.
Don’t forget to follow up. You’ve done all the hard work to make these connections…you owe it to yourself to keep them! Follow up within 48 hours of meeting someone, using something they said in your conversation. Don’t make it about yourself, and try to offer a solution for a pain point they brought up.
While you’re busy networking, don’t let your bookkeeping and financial health go down the drain! We’ve got you on the numbers side: contact KYN today for trustworthy financial guidance. You make the friends, we’ll take care of the finances!