Starting out on my own, having been in my own little PAYE bubble for years, I knew I was going to need get on the networking scene pretty quick if I wanted to get myself established in the local community. Cue awkward handshakes, howdy-dos and a plethora of flimsy business cards... or so I expected.
Well, the business cards are much as expected ;) (good job I'm in the business of first impressions). But the usual hard sell, with your best (faked) customer service personality that I have experienced in my corporate years is nowhere to be seen. Don't get me wrong I've only been out mingling for a few weeks now, I'm sure they're out there, perhaps I have fortunately stumbled on the best of the bunch. But the events I have attended have been filled with people, just like me, just trying to do what they love and supporting each other in the process. If you're not buying what they're selling, and they don't have a need for your services, collaboration is the name of the game, and the possibilities are endless.
One of the things that also scared me about taking the plunge to work for myself, is the camaraderie of an office that you would be leaving behind. Going from a busy, thriving and banter filled environment to the silence of you, yourself and your own home. Because lets get real, the interactions that you have with your customers are just surface encounters and don't carry the same depth of a relationship to that of the ones you form working together in an office. Certainly some (not the case for all of them) of these networking events offer that companionship that we social types seem to crave.
Also, worth noting that some of the attendees are still in employment and doing their business on the side, if you are not in a fortunate financial position; a very sensible way of gaining some visibility before you take the big step.
I can't speak for the need of it once you're established, but certainly just starting up your business or revitalizing a business that's on a downer, it's well worth the visit.
Little plug for The Valiant Sailor who hosts the Capel Coffee & Business networking every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month from 7:30pm to 9:30pm. A charming little country pub with a very cosy atmosphere.
If you're starting, or have, a business and thinking about networking; do it. If you're not thinking about it; you should be. Don't be put off by the stereotypes.
The Valiant Sailor
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