Yesterday and today have been all about learning and networking.
Yesterday I attended a business coaching working shop/networking event where we talked about the things that stop us, as female small business owners, from reaching our full potential. Interestingly, but probably not surprisingly, we all had similar issues – impostor syndrome, fear of not being seen as ‘nice’, a dislike of asking for money. But what I’ve come to realise is that this doesn’t just apply to women, it applies to men too, it’s just that men are less likely to be as open about it, which actually makes it much harder for men to deal with.
This morning was the monthly FSB North East Women’s networking event at The Border Minstrel in Gosforth Park. I really like this event. It’s a good mix of mingling and gossiping, with an opportunity to do a short pitch and learn something new from the speaker.
All this networking got me to thinking about why I network. When I first started up, I used to do it to make connections and hopefully get business, and it did work. Some groups were better than others, but what they all had in common is that business didn’t come quickly. Networking can be extremely lucrative, but it’s a long game and has more to do with building solid, trusting relationships than making a quick sale.
Now, however, I’m very fortunate that I have no real need to network, at least not for the purpose of building my business. I did step back from networking over the last year or so because of various personal issues, but I found that I got increasingly lonely and cut off, which I think is common amongst sole traders, particularly when they work at home. So in the latter part of last year I decided I had to go networking again for the sake of my own sanity. So now I pick and choose my networking events, and only go to the ones that I enjoy, with no agenda other than that. But the unexpected flip side of that is that they’re now bringing in more business than ever before! I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere.
When I got home today, I started thinking about networking and men again. There are a few women-only groups around but, as far as I’m aware, no men-only groups, and I often hear men complaining of that. I think for men to understand why there are so many women-only groups they’d need to be a fly on the wall. The atmosphere at mixed events is completely different. Not better or worse, just different. As an experienced networker, I think the only way I can really describe it is to say that mixed events tend to be more about making business connections and making sales than about making friendships, so I used to do a lot of them, but for me they’re just not what I need at the moment.