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Published on Aug 1, 2012
From the moment you enter the business world, there's one word of advice that's repeated over and over again, a mantra for the modern entrepreneur: networking.
Networking will help you grow your business. Networking will help you attract customers. Networking will help you stay ahead of the curve.
There's no sure-fire way to network, and for those starting a business, any social event can yield surprising results, from word-of-mouth referrals to previously unknown funding opportunities. By taking advantage of every opportunity, you could quickly find that more doors are being opened for you than you ever thought possible.
Perhaps the most likely place to make business connections is through a local chamber of commerce. Particularly for small, local businesses, meeting other area merchants could be key to helping grow business opportunities. Some regions have various chambers of commerce, and it may prove beneficial to join as many as possible. Chambers of commerce often hold networking events at which you will be able to make contacts, discuss business ideas and learn about new funding opportunities.
At these events, it's important not to be too shy. The other businessmen in attendance are also interested in meeting new people who can help them with their own ventures, and avoiding contact can only hurt you both. Conversations can be started with the simplest of questions, like "what line of work are you in," or "how is your business doing?" It may seem obvious, but for some shy entrepreneurs, these simple questions can help break the ice.
Not all networking opportunities come during prescribed events, however, and the savvy entrepreneur can make connections in the least likely of situations. From casual conversations on a vacation to events at a local church, opportunities are everywhere. For new company owners, it's vitally important to make time not just for your burgeoning business, but for your social life, as well. Meeting new people is the fastest way to grow your pool of contacts, and participating in as many different social events and outings as possible is the best way to meet new people.
Of course, instead of just waiting for these social events and occasions to present themselves, ambitious entrepreneurs can create their own opportunities. Consider attending regional business or entertainment awards shows, or finding trade shows in your area, even if they don't directly relate to your own business. Opportunities are everywhere and often come in unlikely forms.