Over the years, I’ve participated in hundreds of networking events. I’ve also helped hundreds of clients manage their business risks. Personally, both of these things have always been exciting and enjoyable to me – I like meeting new people and I enjoy helping businesses be more successful.
It was only recently that it occurred to me: These two things are related. For a business, networking is actually its own form of risk management.
Two of the Biggest Problems in the Great Lakes Bay Region & Beyond: Recruiting, Pipeline Building
I can’t tell you how often I hear from local businesses and organizations that one of their biggest challenges is finding the right employees. Indeed, the need for qualified people to fill open positions is not only a huge local need, it is a wider need nationwide.
In addition to this problem, there is still and will always be the fundamental and ongoing problem for any business: Finding the right clients.
Networking Is the Solution
Look back at those two problems – those two risks. How are they related? They both involve people finding people.
And how do people find people? Networking.
By intentionally, regularly and effectively engaging in networking – both to find potential employees and potential clients – a business or organization is actually managing two of its biggest risks.
And since this is the case, networking best practices are far more than just incidental “people” or “soft skills.” They are absolutely essential skills for connecting with people and therefore helping address two of the biggest problems faced by businesses and organizations.
Seven Keys to Networking as a Risk Management Approach
With all this in mind, here are seven keys to effective networking, as it applies to an overall risk management approach meant to address finding prospective employees and clients:
1. Attend the right events
Sure you could rush right out and attend networking events at random, but with the dual goals of recruiting and pipeline building in mind, it makes much more sense to choose events strategically.
2. Stand out in the crowd
When you network, make sure to do so with purpose. After all, everyone else wants to make connections too, so your primary goal will be to connect with the right people by effectively communicating what makes you and your business or organization unique.
3. Speak first and ask good questions
Make the first move when meeting new people. Introduce yourself, of course, but then get straight to finding out more about others by asking good questions. It will be hard to know if you’ve found a good potential hire or connection if you don’t get the necessary information.
4. Teach about your business
Not only do you need to be brand-conscious, you need to communicate your brand as a teacher would – keep it simple, use examples and illustrations, make it relevant to your audience, etc.
5. Be fun
Business events can come off as stodgy, but they don’t have to. Even if you’re representing a pretty formal brand, it’s still in your best interest to come off as approachable, down-to-earth and appropriately fun.
6. Be assertive
Not only should you speak first and ask good questions, you should be assertive in general when networking. Especially at the end of a meeting, be sure you’re thinking in terms of next steps – hand out your card, make a point to let a person you’ve met know when you plan to get back with them if you do, and so on.
7. Review and improve
When you’re networking for recruiting and pipeline building, you’re going to have some solid successes and some times when you feel you’ve missed the mark. Build it into your routine to assess how events and your overall networking strategy are going, and then make intentional changes to improve.
Making the Complex Simple
Businesses, companies, organizations – we all need employees and we all need clients. Start thinking of networking as a key risk management tool to help meet these needs.