You’ve heard a gazillion times that networking is the best way to grow your business and attract new clients. To prove this point, there is no end to the number of business networking groups out there – BNI, Meet-Up groups, Original Tuesdays, just to name a few.
Hopefully you’ve found the perfect one for you. But maybe none of them work for you due to expense, size, lack of structure or the group’s focus. Do you just say screw it and write off joining a networking group?
Absolutely not! Networking is too important to just give up on. So if you haven’t found the right group for you I have an idea you might not have thought of.
Start your own networking group
That’s right – start your own. If you haven’t found the right local group there’s a good chance that others in your area haven’t either. Forming your own group will help you find those other like-minded people.
Before you dismiss this idea think about it this way: every group started somewhere – they didn’t just pop up wholly formed with tons of members. Even if you only have a few people to begin with, you’ll already be successful because you’ll have the networking group you were looking for.
Get it going
Now that you’ve warmed up to the idea let’s look at steps to get it going:
- Write down all of the things you want in a networking group and why they would be valuable/needed.
- Start with people you know – tell them what you’re planning and why. Send them the list you made in Step 1 and ask if they’d be interested in joining a networking group with those features.
- Schedule a meeting with those who said they were interested to discuss ideas for the group.
- Make any changes to your original document based on the discussion.
- Decide how you’ll arrange group meetings and keep members informed (Meet-Up.com, informal emails, Google groups, etc) along with the format for meetings and if you’ll charge dues.
- Decide where you’ll meet (restaurant back room, your facility, someone else’s space, library conference room, etc)
Once you have these initial steps in place let more people know about it through your social networks, emails and in person. Make sure you’re very clear what the focus and goals of the networking group are and how it will benefit the members so people will know if it’s right for them.
Word of caution
Sorry to throw a dose of reality into the mix, but don’t get so caught up in the idea that you don’t think about the commitment needed. You always feel enthusiastic and pumped to start something new, but if you’re not going to have the time to devote to this then maybe it’s not the right time.
One solution is to ask a few members of the group to commit to helping you plan each meeting, line up guests, and whatever else you’ll need help with to make the group a success.
Health Fitness Wellness Professional Network DC
To give you a real world example of someone starting their own I’ll share the story of Kevin Norris, owner of Mind Your Own Body personal fitness in Washington DC.
Kevin had tried many business networking groups in the DC area but none of them appealed to him. He knew the type of networking group he wanted to belong to – one where like-minded fitness professionals could get together and learn from each other and provide support to grow their businesses.
After months of failing to find what he wanted, in Jan 2013 he started a Meet-Up group in the DC Metro area called HFW Professional Network DC. But, as I mentioned earlier, he found that he was stretched thin and couldn’t do it all himself. He was determined to make it work though so he asked several people to become co-organizers – including me!
I love being part of this group because it’s focused on helping fitness professionals learn more about building their business and sharing industry information. If you’re in the DC area (or know fitness professionals who are) check out the Meet-Up and let others know about it.
Over to you
Have you thought of starting your own networking group? Anything holding you back from getting it going.