As a small business owner, your network is one of your best assets for managing uncertain times. Don’t wait to build your network until you need it! In times of rapid and immense change, uncertainty can be overwhelming. By building up your network now, you can transform uncertainty into opportunity for yourself.

Uncertainty vs opportunity

Uncertainty in business can be caused by many factors. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most widespread causes of uncertainty in the business world today. As business owners, we can transform uncertainty into opportunity by:

  • Focusing on our attitude
  • Being flexible
  • Considering alternatives
  • Utilising assets such as our network

Your network is one of your biggest assets

Whether a business owner or employee, networking is an essential skill. Having a network of colleagues, mentors, friends, and industry contacts to reach out to, brainstorm with and bounce ideas off is invaluable in any career or field. Networking opens doors, offers support, and most of all ,creates opportunities. In times of change, these opportunities can help you and your business to thrive despite uncertainty.

Reasons to rely on a network at difficult times

While there are many reasons to rely on a network, they provide extra support in difficult times. Networks can help you to:

  • Stay inspired
  • Build a support system
  • Keep up with changing industry conditions
  • Develop new interests
  • Inspire and support others

Keys to building networks

Building and growing your personal professional network requires time, and it is important to focus on the following key goals:

  • Networking should be about the relationships, not the numbers.
  • Focus on learning. Choose to build relationships that will help you to learn and grow.
  • Identify common interests, and build strong relationships based on real, personal, shared experiences and interests.
  • Think broadly about what you can give.

Tools for building networks during uncertain times

Networking during any difficult time can be a challenge, but with the added social-distancing requirements caused by COVID-19, the way in which we network has become even more reliant on virtual tools. Use the following ideas to help build your network:

  • Manage your online brand – update and optimise your online, professional presence, and use Google, web meetings, email, LinkedIn and social media to establish and maintain connections.
  • Start with contacts – Find new connections through existing contacts.
  • Connect through professional networks – Both virtual and local:
    • LinkedIn can be a great resource for finding professional groups virtually.
    • Find networking communities through local industry groups (for example, your local Chamber of Commerce).
  • Consider peers, friends, groups, mentors, alumni.

Tips for reaching out

Finally, increase your chances of finding meaningful and productive connections by using these tips when reaching out:

  • Use care
  • Research potential new contacts
  • Ask to connect
  • Prepare for any meet-up
  • Share, ask questions, listen and learn
  • Cultivate relationships by following up, showing gratitude and being genuine!

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