By Ashley Gallman Williams of Wix
Like people, a small business withers in isolation and thrives in community. By building a strong network small business owners can trade ideas, learn, and grow within a supportive group. This in turn helps entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses as they find new opportunities and ideas that they may not have considered beforehand.
At Wix, I run the Community Outreach program, including the Wix Lounge — a free co-working, event and exhibit space for Wix users. Hosting weekly events, we equip people with strong networks and a space to exchange and build out ideas. Here are some tips and programs that will help you become a networking guru:
Tip 1: Remember to give back
Giving back is the best way to network. People are far more likely to speak with you and remember you if you begin the relationship by providing them with value. You’re an events manager looking for a venue – did you know we offer a free space? You’re a developer looking for a great UX collaborator – I actually have a contact I can highly recommend. If you are constantly adding value, then your network is far more likely to respond with an enthusiastic yes when you ask for a favor or resource.
A great way to think about networking is as relationship investing. You invest in others by providing information and resources, and they in turn will be very happy to return the favor. When making an investment, you have to put in something before getting a return.
What you provide to others does not have to be over the top. It can be as simple as sharing information about an event happening nearby or making an introduction to people that would benefit from meeting. As you cultivate these relationships you can then begin to ask for a favor. Remember that you have to give before you can get.
Tip 2: Make breakfast work for you
We have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not make it a powerhouse time? Get your day started and take advantage of you fresh AM mind by taking part in morning get-togethers. Wix recently partnered with CreativeMornings, a monthly breakfast lecture series for the creative community in 157 cities worldwide, in which we provide both communities the opportunity to share their talents with the world.
These free monthly lectures give small business owners the chance to speak with other creatives and hear from thought-leaders from diverse backgrounds. By engaging with others and sharing creative ideas you can get an out-of-the-box approach that may help accelerate your business’ growth.
Tip 3: Join a community
There are so many different organizations you can join to help you accelerate your small business and your career. First, outline your needs and think about the keywords for the types of communities that might help you. Try to be specific rather than general. Instead of searching for “Design,” search for “graphic designer groups Boston” or “women UX designers NYC.”
From there, think strategically. How will the networks you discover help you meet your goals and get to the right people to further your business? Once you identify these needs then look for the ideal organizations where your time and energy will be best spent. Keep an eye out, though, for groups that are focused on indiscriminate business card swapping. Think about Tip # 1: just as you should be providing value to your network, you should only join communities focused on giving and collaborating, not shameless self-advertising.
One place to look for the perfect community for you is on the Wix Lounge site. In our NYC space we offer free weekly programming that ranges from networking events to workshops and equips entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need to succeed. We also host free workshops around the world where people can learn the latest about website development and how to manage and grow their business online. Other great hubs to find information include your local SBDC, Meetup groups, and Eventbrite.
Remember not to overexert yourself! Networking is about the quality of your relationships and how you build them. Invest in the organizations and communities you chose and work on strengthening those ties. Reexamine the strength of your relationship with each of these groups: if you notice that one is weaker, identify the reason and if it makes sense to invest more time and effort to foster those relationships.
Ashley Gallman Williams is the Global Head of Community Outreach at Wix.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.