Let’s put that question to bed straight away. Yes. Unequivocally yes. Nothing can grow your business like networking. Even if you landed a huge life changing contract on your first day of trading you will still have achieved it with some form of networking. Therefore, the most sensible thing you can do is jump headlong in to networking and get good at it, fast.

Where do you start? A quick visit to LinkedIn will see you bombarded with links, suggestions, stories good and bad of what networks you should visit. Google will yield the same. The simple answer is that you have got to get out there and try for yourself.

But, I’m going to give you a piece of advice. A piece of advice that I wish someone had given me years ago, so I could have avoided wasting a lot of time. Don’t mess around with cheap networking. There are many networks out there that are negligibly priced or even free and to paraphrase a networking associate of mine, “if it’s cheap or free, you get what you pay for”.

Networking is not:

  • Meeting once a month for a couple of hours over a soggy buffet
  • Somewhere to go desperately trying to sell
  • A place to stand with the same three faces talking over coffee
  • An informal meeting with a pub quiz thrown in
  • A way for the network owners and other attendees to harvest your contact details

Networking is:

  • A structured, targeted way to get your message out
  • Attending a professional organisation with like-minded individuals
  • A place to promote synergy
  • Regular, the more regular the better
  • A place where everyone is committed
  • An investment in your future

By all means go to a networking event to get a feel for how these things work and to practice speaking in front of others but go to a networking organisation to generate results. You can meet once a month and spend £100 a year but struggle to get a return on your investment or you can meet once a week, spend £1000 a year and earn back 10x your investment.

Search out structure, organisation, longevity. Check the evidence, ask for metrics, see the proof. Most of all, go and try it for yourself. Experience it. Don’t take someone else’s word for it. Just because they couldn’t make it work doesn’t mean you won’t thrive. Don’t be scared of long-term commitment, it is the most positive aspect of any structured networking. Don’t go looking for a network where you can sell something, find a network that will generate you so many sales that you need to grow the business to keep up!

One last word, how can you expect your network to invest in you if you don’t invest in your network?