Growing your Network
Starting a new business can be an isolating experience, especially if you have gone from working for a large company to sitting by yourself each day developing your start-up. The best way to tackle this is to get out there and tell people about your business – not only will you gain feedback about your idea, but you can also gather interest and promote your business to potential customers. Assuming that you’ve exhausted the list of family and friends, the next step is to grow your network!
'You have to build your own networks, make friends with people, cross benches, friends on the left, right and middle. It involves lots of cups of tea – no magic. I'm building networks so hopefully when I need them in the future I can ask for their support.'
Martha Lane Fox, The Telegraph, 2014
Taking time away from the operational side of your business to develop a network of mentors and peers can have a really valuable impact on the future success of your business. By joining a local group or attending an event you might meet someone who has practical insight into your field of interest, or useful connections in an area of the business you need assistance with. Guernsey has a tight-knit business community which means that it can provide great opportunities for you to build a network of people who can help you grow your business. For a small island, there is a huge variety of network groups, events and support communities to choose from. Here we will identify just a few but if you are looking for something specific and don’t find it here then please get in touch and we will help direct you.
As a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation, we have an array of events, business development groups and workshops to help people grow their networks through collaboration and knowledge sharing. Have a look at our events calendar and sign-up to our newsletter to keep up-to-date with everything that is going on.
Barclays Eagle Labs Guernsey
Supporting the growth and development of entrepreneurs, businesses and the wider community through specialist mentoring and coaching, as well as access to professional networks and introductions to the wider Barclays Eagle Labs network across the UK.
Gez Overstall, Eco Manager at Barclays Eagle Labs Guernsey says:
‘Spending your time and energy on building connections is an investment worth making. The best advice I’ve heard is from Venture Capitalist and Techstars co-founder Brad Feld, who suggests cultivating a #givefirst mindset where there is no expectation of gaining anything in return. I find this helps to take the pressure off and helps you focus on the needs of the other person or people.’
Guernsey Chamber of Commerce
Guernsey Chamber has a clear focus on supporting an enterprise culture and engaging with members, politicians and island youth for the development of a progressive business culture.
Young Business Group
The Young Business Group is a non-profit organisation providing networking opportunities for members through monthly events and business and community projects.
The Guernsey branch of the Institute of Directors supports, represents and sets the standards for directors and business leaders in the Bailiwick.
Okay, so you’ve signed up to a network event...
... How do you make sure that you get the most out of it?
Preparation is key!
Despite how people appear, no-one feels comfortable approaching someone they don’t know so the more prepared you are, the better. When you are first starting out, you won’t have all of the answers so by meeting people and discussing your business you can ask these questions and learn fast from their experience. First of all, decide what you would like to get out of attending. Are you meeting potential customers? Do you want a referral to another business? Are you looking to learn new information? Once you know your reason for going, you can prepare for the types of conversations you might have. Think about a pitch for your business - a succinct description of your idea that tells a compelling story and starts a conversation.
Don’t forget to listen.
Some of the most valuable information can come from conversations guided by others. If you spend the entire time speaking about you and your business how will you find out if the person you are connecting with is useful or learn anything from them? Maybe you could make an introduction for them and help grow their network, and in return they might do the same for you. This type of interaction adds value and builds stronger relationships in the long term.
Follow up with people ASAP.
Reconnecting with people the day after a networking event will remind them of the positive experience of meeting you and the conversation you’ve had. If you wait three or four days, any empathy they had or actions they agreed to might be forgotten and asking again could be like starting from scratch. Whether that’s arranging a one-to-one meeting or connecting you to a mutual contact, the sooner it is followed up, the better it is for both of you.