Starting A Networking Group Part 1


Did you know why many so-called business networking groups could be a waste of your time? They should be labeled “social” networking groups because there is no real emphasis on “business” networking and no accountability. If you are unable to find an effective business networking group, one option is for you to start a group. 
You could choose to start a group under the umbrella of an existing organization such as BNI, L.E.A.D., In Houton, or many other groups. The advantage is that much of the work is already done for you such as building name recognition, creating policies and procedures, and you could receive referrals from other chapters of the existing organization for prospective members.Or, you could choose to start a new organization on your own. Either way, the steps listed below will be beneficial to you. 
WHY – Determining the reason you are starting a new group is most important and be very specific on the purpose. There should also be a vision statement for the long-term objective, a mission statement for how you operate, and a business plan including marketing, budgeting, and operations. 
The Law of Reciprocity – Like all networking events, it is important that the philosophy includes the law of reciprocity or servant leadership or pay to forward or give before receiving. As Zig Ziglar says, “You can get anything you want in this life by helping others get what they want”. This is a paradigm shift for many people in sales but it has proven to be the most effective system. 
Group Type – Decide whether you want an “open” or “closed” group. An open group would allow multiple representatives from the same profession or industry. For instance, you could have six insurance agents in the group, similar to chambers of commerce. With a closed group, you would have exclusivity, only one representative of an industry or profession. 
Location is one of the keys. Just like it is for real estate. Most people have been told that people decide whether to continue the conversation with another person within the first 8 seconds or less. This also applied to the perception of a meeting location. Cleanliness, signage, easy access, parking, lighting, meal prices, and attractiveness are all expected. What also needs to be present is a team of greeters, printed goals for the group, introductions to complimentary business owners, briefing on the agenda, a networking library, and a feeling of inclusiveness. Just like Starbucks, Ritz Carlton, and Mercedes, it is all about the experience – how you make people feel. 
Goals – We’ve talked about perception when a visitor arrives at your new networking group. Can you imagine the affect a goal board would have that showed budget and actual information on topics like referrals, 121s, visitors, and money changing hands? One of the secrets of successful networking groups is having the members committed to a specific goal or goals. When individual goals and group goals are synchronized, something almost magic happens. 
Recruiting – In most business networking organizations there are certain professionals who form the core group. That core is usually composed of a realtor, mortgage lender, financial advisor, insurance agents (health, life, and property & casualty), CPA, banker, attorney, health care, and a few more. The recruitment process is accomplished by building an inviting mindset – having everyone inviting prospective members, who are complimentary to the member’s business and help to form a contact sphere. The average attrition rate due to the job change, moving, health issues, etc. is one member per month from a group that has 30 – 40 members. That means at least two members need to be recruited each month to continue growth. 
One of the top networking trainers in the world, Tom “Big Al” Schreiter, has written a book with his son Keith you might want to read to learn more entitled “Start Super-Networking: – 5 Simple Steps to Create Your Own Personal Networking Group.” 
So, the next time you host or attend a networking event, check to see if these criteria are met. Additional criteria will be listed in next month’s article: Starting A Networking Group Part 2. 
See you at the next networking event!


About Author

Gail “The Connector” Stolzenburg
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  Gail “The Connector” Stolzenburg’s new book, “CONNECTIONS: Contacts to Clients”, was just released.

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