Guest Blog: by Lireko Dorothy Ncube
Over the years the business world has drastically changed. With the rapid developments and significant improvements in the technology we use each day, we have the world literally at our fingertips 24/7, and what we do with it is what will help us make it in business, or not. It also means that they way we network has changed dramatically too.
The transformation is so profound that these days business networking does not necessarily have to happen on a golf course or over a cocktail or dinner in the evenings anymore. Also gone are the days where we had to simply pick up the phone to talk to someone, and to try and arrange a conventional meeting in increasingly busy diaries. Now, we just have to figure out how to best utilise all the latest technology to the fullest in order to help build professional relationships - whether it is using social media platforms and channels, online networking platforms such as LinkedIn, Skype meetings after conventional hours, online industry sector hook-ups - the list is endless. It is important to take note, however, that networking using these new channels and platforms should be highly focused on building potentially mutually beneficial long-term business relationships. Today’s world being increasingly full of frustration because of the economic challenges we face, particularly in African countries,means that effective networking is not just an option, but a necessity for any business to succeed.
The ability to network is most crucial for any woman entrepreneur, and the best way to succeed is to be strategic about it - to plan, commit, act and achieve.
So on a practical level, how can we best achieve our goals and make networking work for us as women entrepreneurs? Here are five top tips to help you to maximise your networking potential….
So, here are 5 tips to make your networking as a woman entrepreneur more effective.
1. Select your networking targets
The first step is to select your networking targets. Researching the people and the organisations you intend to engage with is of the utmost importance, as it will give you an essential insight into their backgrounds, their companies and organisations, their areas of interest, and possible synergies.
2. Plan your networking
Secondly, create a detailed plan on exactly how, where and when you will network, and with which people and organisations who have been identified as interesting or priorities for contact. After that you need to commit to the outlined plan for you to achieve anything. There is no result without commitment, so if you don’t commit to the plan, then do not even waste your time - there are no half measures in the world of entrepreneurial networking.
3. Take your opportunities
Thirdly, be alert to opportunities and information. As you network, you need to also use your eyes and ears constantly to observe people and companies in action - remember, the more you listen, the more you learn, and in life we can never collect enough knowledge.
4. Be ethical
Fourthly, ethical networking is key. It is important to realise that the business world can be a very brutal place these days, and one has to be emotionally intelligent enough to know not to cross lines that you shouldn’t, and always stay on the ethical path when contacting people and companies, and in networking generally.
5. Keep your word
Finally, once you sign on a new client in your business as a result of all that good networking and connection making, remember to always keep your word, and do not be tempted to over promise things you cannot deliver - it can quickly and negatively affect your reputation as an entrepreneur. Always set deadlines, follow your plan through, and keep your clients happy, and you will be on your way to the top.
Lireko Dorothy Ncube is a guest editorial contributor to Lionesses of Africa. Lireko lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is a regular blogger on entrepreneur lifestyle and communications topics.