Networking is the most powerful tool in the small business owner’s arsenal. But networking in Phoenix is rough. The truth is that it doesn’t have to be. Here are three things that I believe could help:
1) Embrace technology. Frankly, in Phoenix we are willing to settle for really crappy technology and we accept people using it incorrectly.
We need better tools to help us network. The tools that we widely accept as networking resources do not communicate the value or difference between networking events so small business owners with limited time and resources often end up skipping networking all together or sticking to a limited number of groups. Huge valuable events often go unnoticed because the main media and technology in town focuses on events that they sponsor.
Sadly, the good networking groups currently do not leverage technology very well. So often you hear people say that you need networking or social media, but then people don’t use it. The truth is everyone needs networking and social media. The two leverage time and efforts. If networking groups used social media correctly, it would bring real discussion online. Currently the majority of groups use social media to sell or highlight the elite sponsors that wouldn’t be caught dead at a networking event.
2) Do more than a speaker, meal and out. I am a speaker and I have gotten some of the greatest pieces of business advice by attending networking events, but seriously, there has got to be more! How about real conversations or speakers that focus on current topical issues not just how to post on your facebook or follow your dreams?
Currently the main alternatives that we are presented with are speed networking, mixers (also known as adult keggers / Scottsdale Meat Markets), or feeling circles (girlfriend / wine parties).
3) Have a variety of events. I’m not just talking about variety in formats and times of day. The problem is that all networking events market themselves the same way, so we have no way of knowing what events really fit our needs. Since we have been given the same thing over and over, most of us don’t even know what we really need. As a community we need to look at the needs of businesses and determine how we can leverage different groups’ strengths.
That was only three, but there are about a thousand other things that we could do. There are a lot of great networking groups in Phoenix and not all of them fall into the above-mentioned traps, but unfortunately most of them do. The truth is that most groups are run by business owners. We can make the difference. If anything, we can demand more. Getting involved and making a difference in a business group can help you grow your business and can help others. What do you think we could do differently that would improve Phoenix’s small business community?