If you’ve been in business for more than 5 minutes you will know the importance of networking. Without growing your reach and inviting people into your world, you will have a hard time finding an audience to work with.
For some, the opportunity to meet new people and develop relationships is fun, easy and a highlight of their week. For others, it’s a matter of summoning up the courage to put yourself out there and can fill them with a sense of dread.
When I started my business back in 2015 a few friends and I decided to create our own local networking group in the absence of anything else in our region. We created a safe space for women to come together once a month on a Tuesday night at our local community centre.
The first focus was on creating that old familiar elevator pitch. Just the thought of standing up in front of the room and speaking for 1 minute about themselves and their business was enough to bring on an anxiety attack for many of them. But over the next six months, their confidence grew in spades.
What is it about being supported in a room full of women that makes you feel like you don’t have to go it alone?
Women have an uncanny knack of being able to:
- Silently cheer you on
- Nod their heads as you speak
- Smile at you in encouragement and
- Emphasise with your discomfort
But for me, it’s more than that. It’s the support that continues long after the networking group wound up. Almost all the women who came to those Tuesday nights have gone on to develop amazing and successful businesses and we still cheer from the sidelines for each other. There’s a level of care that extends beyond the formality of networking and lives on through all the ups and downs of business and life.
How does it differ from predominantly male networking groups?
Never one to let my environment hold me back, once our women’s networking group finished up and my business moved more into the corporate space, it was time to get another group up and running.
Along with two other male business owners, we developed a local chapter of a very well known franchise of networking groups. This experience was different, as I was only one of three females in a group of 25 men.
The similarities were in the beautiful relationships I developed with some in this group. I still catch up with them for lunch and we continue to support each other in a similar way to my experience with women.
However, there were some distinctive differences:
- The meetings were held every week and early morning, making it difficult for women with caring responsibilities to attend
- The rules of the meeting were stricter, there was a structure to follow and an expectation that you would follow it
- Much of the focus was on providing business opportunities to others (nothing wrong with that) which resulted in money in the bank
For me, the differences represented the dichotomy of masculine and feminine energy. According to Forbes:
For years in business, masculine energy has typically been revered as being more powerful and effective, but our feminine or yin energy includes a more collaborative, empathetic, creative and receptive nature.
When it comes to committing to a network of like-minded business people to support you and encourage you on your business journey, make sure you are choosing the best fit for you.
Nicky and I have a strong belief that as women in business, together we are stronger and smarter
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