A lot gets written about networking. But among all the content that extols how networking can grow your business, very little is dedicated to how networking can be an act of taking care of ourselves as business owners.
At the same time, self-care is a mainstream topic. On any day, many articles and podcasts explore the benefits of self-care.
However, for entrepreneurs, especially having just come through the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns (and the challenges look by no means over), there’s great value in community care. This is a prism through which to view networking too.
Create a community for yourself and your business
While business owners ostensibly find themselves exploring networking for the leads it can deliver for their firms, there are multiple other advantages to taking networking seriously.
In fact, Jean Evans, Networking Architect and founder of NetworkingJean.ie believes these other benefits are even more critical than lead referrals.
“When I encourage other people to network, my first reason for doing so is mentioning how you build your own board of directors when you network,” Jean says. “This has always been important; entrepreneurship is an exhilarating but lonely journey at times, but in 2020 it took on even more relevance. Businesses were facing a whole new environment, with no earlier playbook to implement, and needed all the help they could get. This help, for many, was found in their fellow business contacts.”
Jean’s statement about a board of directors has a community feel about it.
Just as in a community, business networks look out for their members. On the face of it, a graphic designer, a baker and a legal professional might have little in common. However, they’re all experiencing the ups and downs of self-employment, have deep industry knowledge that others could find useful and may have beneficial contacts to share.
Reduce the isolation of entrepreneurship
In 2016, research was published that showed the extent loneliness was causing burnout among SME owners. Just a few years earlier, a large study of CEOs found that more than half of them reported feeling lonely and 61% of the business leaders surveyed claimed feelings of isolation hampered their performance.
So, it seems from an enterprise that comprises of a freelancer of one to a CEO heading up a company, loneliness is par for the course when it comes to running a business.
As humans we crave connection with other humans. This fact has been driven home in a big way during the last year and a bit where we have been so restricted from our usual habits.
And our longing for human connection is not a nice to have.
Spending time with other people promotes feelings of safety and security. Our interactions with others soothe our nervous systems and increase feel good chemicals in our brains.
When it comes to running a business, building connections with other people on the exact same path will foster these all important human connections.
Zoom fatigue is real. However, for many business owners keeping in contact throughout the pandemic via technology platforms was still an act of caring for themselves. A coffee and a chat, no matter how virtual, proved itself a wonderful antidote when increasing levels of isolation were the norm.
Now, in person meetings are slowly creeping back as restrictions lift slowly and at different paces around the world.
Making connections is all networking is
Jean has noticed a change in how people perceive networking in the last while.
“Networking has always been powerful, but it did have a bit of a branding problem. For a long time, the image was of events in stuffy boardrooms, a whole crowd of strangers and people trying to stuff business cards into your hands. And you having to do the same to them!” Jean mentions.
“I’m noticing that people are beginning to view networking now as a way to build relationships. This is wonderful and far more accurate, because making connections is what networking is all about.”