Creating a networking group can be a lot of work, throw up many roadblocks, yet can also be very rewarding.
A friend and I have been working on creating a stronger South African Business Community in Illinois and across the States/Canada. South Africans generally still have a lot to learn from other Nationalities when it comes to Networking amongst their community.
As a Nationality we currently do not take advantage of contacts and mobility through our ‘ethnic communities” in the US where other entrepreneurs from other countries have done so for many years very successfully.
I still often receive the email “I do not have the time or interest. Please remove me from your list.” Or no response at all when looking to connect with a South African Business Professional or inviting them to an organized event.
When receiving such an email (or no response at all) when setting up your group do not take it to heart. There will be others who will be thankful and appreciate what you are looking to achieve for your community/ group.
There are many Business Professionals who live by one of my favorite quotes, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill.
These are the professionals you want to be associated with.
As our Networking Group has grown, we have been ‘attracting’ more of the Professionals who believe in the Winston Churchill quote than the email, “I do not have the time or interest. Please remove me from your list.”
So let me thank you, the CEO, CFO, COO and high flying Professional who attend Events not because you are looking to get something for yourself but because you are looking to see what you can give back to others. (We are lucky to have a few of these Business Professionals in our Networking Group, and we all thank you)
Lessons learnt in the first Year of Starting a Networking Group:
- It takes more time than you may think
- You are going to get a lot of No’s
- Be Consistent with events
- Find a Niche Group you are looking to attract (e.g. Nationality, Profession; Sport Interest etc.)
- Aim Big
- People do appreciate what you are doing
- Take the little wins
- Do not take things personally
- Curve balls will be thrown at you. (e.g. Our Breakfast Location is not serving Buffets anymore-we quickly had to find a new location)
- Be Professional. (Create a Brand)
- Take Credit Cards (get attendees to pay prior to event- more likely they will attend and gives everyone more time in making new connections)
- People do not respond to Invitations. Do not be afraid in sending multiple reminders.
- Use LinkedIn and Facebook
- Advertise your Events on Social Platforms
- Have evening and morning Events
- Have the event at different locations as it will bring different business professionals (we generally have 3 in the Suburbs and then one in Chicago)
- Make it beneficial for the attendees (have your members speak on topics of interest that they have the knowledge in)
- Use the resources within your group (e.g. See if your members will let you use their office/ building for events)
- Thank the people who come
- Everything takes time
- Know what you are looking to achieve (What is your mission statement)
- The reward is seeing new connections being made
- Get your members involved.
- Plan Fun Events (e.g. Wine Tasting/ Art Show-get your members involved)
- Advertise your members.
- It takes time to get it off the ground (we are still working on getting consistent attendance and attracting new members)
- Never Give Up!
Thank you to everyone who attends networking events and looks to give back. May you make an excellent new connection at your next function.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” – African Proverb