Joining your local Chamber of Commerce is a necessary first step as a new small business owner. There you will find people in the same boat as yourself – people with a vested interest in your local economy and owners of small business themselves. Many of these people have years of experience in running small businesses. As you meet them and learn more about their businesses and begin to share the story of your small business, you will gain invaluable allies in this new venture of yours. They will become your biggest supporters, cheering you on and assisting you in innumerable ways to reach the goals you have for your business. Take every opportunity to gain any small business help that they are willing to offer. Look for ways in which you can mutually benefit each other. Take every chance you get to refer potential customers to fellow Chamber of Commerce members and no doubt, they will in turn do the same for you.
Do not stop with the Chamber of Commerce, however. Make friends with your local banker, your grocer, and any other business owners that may not yet be a member of the Chamber of Commerce. Be a recognizable face around town. Offer discounts for referrals and be sure to refer others to these businesses every chance you get.
Make friends with the parents of the children your kids go to school with or are on sports teams with. You never know which person will be just the kind of contact you are looking for that will help you break into new markets. One caution however: be genuinely interested in people, do not just approach them as another potential customer or business contact. People respond well to sincerity but shy away from those they perceive are just out to use them. Be informative but never pushy about your business.
The most successful networkers are those who are friendly to everyone, never meet a stranger, and somehow manage to remember faces and the names that go with them. If you struggle with being outgoing or with remembering names and faces, as a small business owner, it would behoove you to work on getting outside your box. Purposely reach out to people, making a goal to meet a certain number of new people every day. Look into memory tricks that will help you put together names with faces. Do not allow yourself to make excuses! You will find that these are things you can improve upon. The more you do it, the easier it will become and the better you will get at it.
Your small business will benefit from your networking in ways that may be unseen in the beginning. However, the more you reach out into your community to those who may or may not have more small business training than yourself, the more you will reap the rewards of business that you would not have seen otherwise. Furthermore, your life will be the richer for it, guaranteed!