The Importance of Networking
Provided by IFC's Gender Entrepreneurship Markets Program.
Mentoring can help women entrepreneurs build skills, expand networks, and find markets. Creating channels to share business know-how is critical to helping more female business owners succeed. Sharing business knowledge among women entrepreneurs contributes to the stability and growth of their businesses, and encourages innovation and resourcefulness.
NETWORKING: "the building up or maintaining of informal relationships especially with people whose friendship could bring advantages such as job or business opportunities."
Networking has at least 4 main benefits:
1. It will help increase your sales, through referrals.
2. It will help you learn things that you need to know to manage and grow your business.
3. It will help you find people that you can buy goods and services from.
4. It can help stimulate your creativity about new things or approaches for your business.
Networks are important because they help strengthen and support your business. Networks can be formal or informal. You should also consider joining a women's association - where you will find a larger group of women, and resources that you should take advantage of - such as information on contracts and seminars on various subjects.
Women's Associations and your trade association are important sources of support and information.
Networking requires that you have ONE piece of information - a business card. It should be a nice card, with a good logo, so that people can remember you!
There are many types / categories of networks. A few examples include: trade associations, chambers of commerce, women entrepreneurship associations, charitable associations such as Rotary Club.
Networking Example: The Story of Business Network International (BNI)
There is another type of network that is quite interesting. It is a type of organization that was started by a management consultant in California, Mr. Ivan Misner. He invented what he called Business Network International (BNI) and there are over 4,000 such groups all over the world. Essentially, it is based on the concept that word of mouth is one of the most important marketing tools. Groups form, but only one type of business is allowed in each group. They hold weekly breakfast meetings to discuss a variety of topics and they refer business to each other. For example, when Kory hears that his neighbor needs a painter, Kory refers his BNI colleague who is a painter to his neighbor. When Kory has a question on whether she should include an expense on her Profit and Loss Statement, she can talk to Janice, who is the accountant in her group.
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