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networking groups for business

Last week, Brisbane was inundated with accountants, bookkeepers, developers and MYOB staff, as our annual Partner Connection conference rode into town. Over a three day event, we had partners from all corners of the country (and even some Kiwi cousins), join us in a celebration of what’s to come for the year ahead and, more importantly, network.

Glancing around the convention at the 700-odd professionals as introductions were made and friendships renewed, it reminded me of the one downside of the rise of the online revolution. The loss of face-to-face interaction. We’re getting better at tweeting and worse at networking.

Personally, I network at every opportunity (and then some!). I never miss the chance to connect with another professional, and some of my most noteworthy ventures have been born out of a simple introduction and business card exchange over canapés and house wine. I could spend all day spouting hundreds of reasons why you should suit up and head out, but here’s my top three that I hope inspire you to get out and mingle.

Re-energize and reinvigorate.  No matter how much you love your work, every once in awhile it just gets you down, or you hit a rough patch where you struggle to find your mojo.  But the thing about enthusiasm is that it is infectious.  It’s impossible to be in a room with someone who truly has a passion for what they do, and not feel that little tingle of excitement brewing. We’ve literally lost count of the number of Partner Connection attendees who have fed back that they’re so excited about what’s to come, and that they left the event with a renewed passion and zeal for their trade.

People you meet networking just ‘get it’. As a small business owner, you probably share your gripes, problems and frustrations with your friends and family, right? And while they can sympathize and pour you a glass of wine at the end of the day, they can never truly understand what it’s like to be in your shoes (unless, of course, they are!).  For me, there’s nothing like the bond of finding a true comrade, someone who deals with the same sorts of clients, encounters the same roadblocks and understands your lingo. You can bounce off each other, find out how they handle similar situations, and share experiences, all without having to explain the finer details. When things get rough, it’s always encouraging to know that there are others out there who have weathered, and survived, the storm.

Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity.  I think I’m yet to attend an event that hasn’t given rise to a joint venture. At the Telstra Business Awards recently, two finalists joined skills to create a socially responsible project that’s providing a much needed revamp to the workspaces of not-for-profit organizations around Melbourne. We’re already seeing some of our Partner Connection attendees pairing up to create blogs and run webinar sessions. The opportunities that can arise from collaborating with other great minds and skill sets can even give birth to innovative new businesses. (In fact, many of this year’s Telstra Business Award winners grew their company from a great idea over a few drinks.) Don’t miss the chance to explore a new avenue, or get on board with a new endeavor. At the very least, you’re promoting your business out to a few more people which, no matter how successful the project may be, is always a plus.

As a business owner, do you network? Or are you one of the many that fear having to ‘work the room’? Have great opportunities or side projects arisen as a result of a networking event you attended?