Creating networks: The value of business networking

Networking is a valuable business asset, whether you run a small business or you manage a larger corporation. Creating industry networks is a skill; and it’s one that can take a while to master. The Business East Sussex business experts have a wealth of experience in business networking and teaching others how to network effectively. Here are our top tips to make the most of business events:

Listen as much as you speak

It can be tempting to talk to avoid awkward silences during business networking, but it’s just as important to be a good listener. You may be there to sell your business, but so are others so it’s important to give people a chance to be heard too. If a conversation is proving not to be valuable in the short term, remember the person you’re speaking to may be able to introduce you or recommend you to someone else in the future.

Plan who you’d like to speak to

If you know who’ll be attending a business networking event in advance, plan who you’d like to speak to so you can make the most of your time there. If you have any specific targets, it’s worth finding out if any existing connections know the person you want to speak to. Failing that, looking at their LinkedIn profile can help you build an idea of their interests.

Tell people how you can help them, not what they can do for you

Ultimately, many people network to find out how others can help them, whether that be by buying their products or introducing them to someone valuable. However, telling people what you can offer them without a sales pitch is important if you’re to be a valuable contact for them too. Perhaps you can put them in touch with someone who can help them or perhaps you can offer them free advice on a certain aspect of their business?

Pick your business networking events carefully

While it’s great that there are so many business networking events around, it’s important to use your time wisely. You may not always be able to predict who will be at an event or which will be the most valuable contact wise, but getting your brand in to the right industries and locations is a good place to start.

Go where you feel comfortable

If you’re unsure about attending an event alone, take a colleague or friend, but make sure you both explore and strike up conversations, not just stick together. It’s also worth considering where you stand at a business networking event – if there’s a bar or food table, you’ll often find people congregate here which could help with conversation starters.

Rehearse conversation starters

If you’re especially nervous or relatively new to networking, rehearsing a couple of conversation starters can help you relax. Topics like business news or the speakers at the event can be ice breakers without launching in to who you are and what you do. Beware how you deliver them though, as you don’t want it to look staged!

If you are a business introducer or consultant looking to meet business providers in East Sussex, you can register to attend our Business East Sussex Connect event. If you’d like to find out more about business mentoring and support available in the region, please contact us.


Your Business Event Checklist

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail as the saying goes. When it comes to a business event, preparation is important if you’re to ensure you make the most of the time. Preparing for who you may meet in advance can not only help you on the day, it can also save you valuable time. With Business East Sussex’s Connect event just days away, our business experts have put together a business event checklist to help whatever the occasion:

Business event objectives

Treat a business event the way you would treat marketing your business and set yourself some objectives before you go. Perhaps you’d like to meet new leads or return armed with new information about your industry – whatever it is, be sure to know why you’re attending. Don’t go to the event and focus solely on achieving strict objectives though as you’ll miss the point of networking and end up annoying people. Simply having an idea of why you’re there so you can work out what you’d do differently next time or which events are most relevant for you should be enough.

Learn about who you’re targeting

It goes without saying you don’t want to come across as if you know everything about the people you’ll be meeting, but knowing (even for your own benefit) things about the people you’ll meet in advance can be an asset. You can take a look at their LinkedIn (just be aware your settings may show who has viewed their profile) or speak to mutual colleagues to find out more about what’s likely to help you connect.

Forget the sales pitch

This one might seem counterproductive, but no one wants to be stuck talking to someone who launches in to a sales pitch as soon as you say hello. Go to the event as yourself, not your business and find out more about the people you’re meeting, the same way you would at a party or gathering. There will be an appropriate time to talk business, so be patient.

Promo items

Don’t forget to bring business cards and promotional items. At some events a simple business card will suffice, but if you have the opportunity to demonstrate any products or showcase promotional items consider taking a small selection with you. Keep it concise though – the smaller the better when people have to carry things around!

Work the room

If you meet someone you really get on with it can be easy to end up speaking to them for the whole event. When you meet people, show interest but be mindful of directing the conversation to cover what’s important to you both so that you also have time to dedicate to others. To avoid being rude, think of some ways you can invite others in to the conversation or leave to speak to other people. Choosing your positioning carefully can help you open up your chat to others.

Follow up

Don’t forget to follow up with people in a timely manner. The method for follow up may vary – for some important contacts you may wish to call or set up another meeting. For others, it may be simply a connection request and message via LinkedIn – either way, be sure to contact people before the event is old news.

Find out more about business events in East Sussex by viewing our events finder. To find out about business finance or support available locally please contact our expert team.

 


How to find the perfect business partner

Finding a great business partner with the right skillset for your company can be one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a business owner. Going about it can be easier said than done though, so just how should you start looking for the perfect business partner?

In this blog, we discuss finding a business partner who is a valuable asset to your company with tips from our expert team…

Business partner skills

Firstly, thinking about the skills that are important or missing in your business can help you narrow down options. Perhaps you have a great knowledge of your industry and products but lack confidence in crunching the numbers. Having someone whose skills complement yours can be invaluable.

Shared passion

When you’ve built a business from nothing yourself, it can be hard to let go. However, it’s important not to get caught up in perfection and doing things your way. If you can find someone with the same passion and drive for your industry and business you’re halfway there.

Speak to colleagues and friends

One of the easiest places to start looking for a business partner is by thinking about your colleagues and friends. While many people advise against going in to business with a friend, as long as you outline expectations and agree ways of working in advance, your friendship can prove a benefit rather than a hindrance. Just be prepared that if things don’t work out with your new business partner, your friendship may suffer. If there’s no-one who seems immediately suitable, approach friends and colleagues about people they may know for a trusted recommendation.

Get networking

If you’re looking to meet new likeminded people, networking is one of the easiest ways. Select the best events by thinking about the skills you’d like your business partner to have – perhaps you’d like someone with a wealth of industry knowledge, in which case going to targeted industry events is advisable. If you’re a local business and lack local connections or market knowledge, consider attending local networking breakfasts, events and dinners.

Invest in the person behind the experience

While your business partner should bring experience to your company, don’t overlook the importance of personality. You’ll need to not only gel with this person as you’ll be making crucial business decisions with them, but you’ll want to trust them too. Trust your gut instinct – do you value their opinion and are their intentions genuine in life as well as business?

Keep an open mind

While finding a business partner with vast experience in your area of business can seem like the dream, it’s important not to overlook people who may not seem like the obvious choice. For example, if you’re very particular in the way you deal with certain aspects of your business and wouldn’t value an alternative opinion, consider someone with different experience. That way, you may find you both have control over specific areas of the business without clashing on details.

Consult experts

Finally, don’t forget that mentoring and business support is available for SMEs in East Sussex. The Business East Sussex advisors have many contacts and may be able to point you in the right direction to finding your perfect business partner.

Get legal advice

Don’t get so caught up in the excitement of finding your perfect business partner that you forget to protect yourselves. Get legal advice on your partnership and where you both stand at the beginning to avoid complications further down the line. Partnership break-ups can be just as messy and upsetting as divorce!

Find out about our upcoming events including the Business East Sussex Connect event for business consultants and advisors. You can also contact us for support and access to grants and finance.


Business East Sussex Support Sessions come to Brighton!

The team at Business East Sussex are pleased to announce they will be exhibiting at this year’s Let’s Do Business Brighton exhibition as part of the innovative new Enterprise Zone. The zone, sponsored by Barclays Eagle Labs will feature local business support services offering exhibitors and exhibition goers the opportunity to find out about business growth, funding and support sessions.

Among the support services on offer from the BES business experts, will be access to finance including grants that are available now for SMEs in the East Sussex area. Available through the European Regional Development Fund, the grants available for businesses in the region start from £1,000 and go up to a maximum of £10,000. The Enterprise Zone support sessions will enable companies to find out if they could be eligible and how to begin the application process.

There will also be the opportunity to put questions to Business East Sussex’s Business Support Navigators in real time following previous support sessions instrumented via the hashtag #AskFred. The Business East Sussex team, made up of 10 business experts, each with their own area of expertise, will also be informing visitors about free events taking place in the local business community including Ready for Business events for start-ups and entrepreneurs, and marketing workshops to help businesses with promotion.

This year’s exhibition takes place at a new venue, the Amex Stadium in Falmer on June 14th and will offer an exciting array of speakers, stands and networking opportunities. For those wanting to make the most out of the day, there will be a pre-event networking breakfast with Juice FM at the Stadium, and post-expo exhibitors and visitors are invited to network in the Sussex Skills Solutions Lounge while watching the first game of the 2018 World Cup.

The Business East Sussex team have a wealth of experience offering support services and funding to a number of businesses from a variety of industries – you can read about ways they’ve recently helped other businesses and may be able to help you too by visiting our case study page. In total over the last 12 months, the 10-strong team has engaged with over a thousand businesses, as well as offering support consultations to 450.

Business East Sussex is hoping to extend its offering of support and access to funding to more female entrepreneurs across the county, following a successful 12 months helping female led businesses. This has led to Business East Sussex sponsoring the Medium Business category at the JP South Events Women in Business awards taking place this July. Judging for the event takes place on 29th May and the panel will include a member of the Business East Sussex team.

Ian Smallwood, Head of Business Services for Business East Sussex says “The Business East Sussex team is often out and about in East Sussex meeting businesses and spreading the word about how owners can benefit from our services. It’s great to be a part of this year’s Enterprise Zone, which makes life for busy and time poor business owners easy by offering a number of support services all under one roof. The Business East Sussex team is looking forward to meeting everyone on stand B1 on June 14th.”

To find out how Business East Sussex could help your business please visit the contact us page.

To find out more about the Let’s Do Business exhibition and Enterprise Zone, or to pre-register please visit letsdobusiness.org/brighton-expo


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