“If you want to build a business you need to network.”
That was the first piece of advice I heard (from my husband) when I quit my job in 2006 to start a business.
I had no idea what “networking” meant. Having spent that first half of my career working “behind the scenes,” I never had to build business relationships. Or so I thought.
So, I searched online for “women’s business networking south of Boston,” found an organization hosting a lunch the following week, and signed up.
Naively, I believed that this one event would launch my business into wild success!
A Room Full of Strangers
The day arrived and as I walked down the hall to the function room, and heard the voices of the people I didn’t know, my heart raced and my thoughts ran wild.
What if they think my business is silly?
What if they don’t like me?
I can’t do this!
I turned around ready to leave. Then I stopped again and thought, “If you don’t go in now, Stacey, you’ll never go in. And, you’ll end up right back where you started.”
And where I started was a corporate job that filled my bank account and depleted my spirit.
So, with a big inhale, I turned back around and walked into the room full of strangers. A woman with a bright smile greeted me warmly at the door and immediately introduced me to another member. And exhale.
After that, I showed up at every event – building business relationships, being “seen,” volunteering for committees, showcasing my abilities.
The people I met became clients, collaborators, supporters, friends. They cheered me on when I succeeded and gave me a kick in the pants when I needed one. They attended events when I hosted them and told others to attend, too.
Some are still in my life all these years later. Some are not. As I continue to evolve, so does my circle of peers and influence.
The Value of Business Relationships
Here is what I learned: Whether you own a business, or work for one, you cannot be successful alone.
Business relationships matter.
Business owners need clients and collaborators and mastermind and accountability groups. Without clients you have no business.
Internal company leaders not only need strong client and employee relationships – that’s how work gets done – they need coaches and peers who can share in their challenges and successes, and edge them closer to their career aspirations.
In both cases, the higher you climb, the lonelier business can feel.
And lonely is a recipe for stress, anxiety, burnout, feeling like your work has no purpose, not being sure of who to ask for help, and not being able to receive it.
The Bottom Line
Since that nerve-racking day walking into a room full of strangers, I’ve come to believe that success is in the company you keep – no matter your role. And even if your hands shake, your heart races, you’re too tired, or think you don’t have time, you can learn to build the right business relationships to drive your success.
It starts with you and how you show up, followed by your ability to communicate your needs effectively, and finally a willingness to reach out and make the connection. And perhaps most importantly, finding the right environment where you are greeted warmly and introduced right away to amazing people.
And then if your experience is anything like mine, you may find your spirit is no longer depleted.
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