Maybe you are a sole trader tired of your own internal dialogue? Perhaps you are seeking the advice of other smart operators in the business community?
Whatever the case may be, it sounds like you could do with some support from other like-minded business owners. Networking groups are professional collectives of local business owners who gather to share ideas, give support, and help build upon businesses.
Many networking groups leverage the expertise of members to build knowledge within the group. They also seek guidance from external sources in the form of guest speakers, business coaches, and mentors.
Importantly, they foster networking. In doing so, encouraging business leaders to work with other business leaders for mutual benefit. This may be in the form of a business referral, testimonial, event support, or positive mention to people they know.
Anyone in the world of small business knows that the best referral is given from one person to another. Whether it be a satisfied customer, a friend of the family, or source in a professional network, personal recommendations do go a long way.
Such is the popularly of networking groups, that Australia and the Canberra region, have seen an explosion of them. But with so many options from not-for-profit, to professional associations and more, how do you know which will work for you?
The key to successful networking is choosing the right opportunity for your needs. As businesses differ, so too do networking groups. Thankfully, there are many wonderful local options available, so do read on to find out more.
What makes a great networking group?
Great networking groups drive the entrepreneurial spirit, expand business knowledge, and fuel business growth. To ensure you use your time and effort wisely we have pulled together some key attributes to help assess and identify an effective networking group:
- Power by association. The greatest value of your networking group will come from the association you have with its members. In many cases, the quality of the relationships directly correlates with the value exchange. Therefore, evaluate each on the calibre of its current membership base. Consider the nature of the members, their industry, organisation type and how long they have been in business. Some of the best networking groups even recruit selectively, to ensure a balanced group of members.
- Commitment & contribution. Joining a business networking group requires not only commitment, but also active contribution on your behalf. It’s important to understand a groups professional ethos, or intent. The best networking groups focus on developing mutually beneficial relationships, with an expectation to give before they receive. To ensure the best chances of a professional payoff look for those groups who are all about what members can do for each other.
- Fosters learning. One of the greatest benefits of joining a networking group is that it provides fertile ground for gaining business knowledge. The best groups foster continued learning, whether this be through member exchanges, mentors, guest speakers and more. They may offer opportunities to gain business or product feedback, test new ideas, and offer new perspectives. As a business owner staying ahead of the curve is challenging, so having access to business guidance and support is invaluable.
- Structural parity. Before joining a network group evaluate the nature, structure, and frequency of meetings to ensure they suit you. Some groups meet frequency with an formal meeting structure, while others meet periodically over a casual drink. So, to ensure the right fit consider the structure that best suits you along with the times you are available to make. Regardless of meeting structure, the best networking groups will meet consistently, allowing real relationships to form between members.
- Investment. As the old expression goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch. The cost of joining a group generally depends on the nature of the organisation. Some are commercial organisations, other community organisations, while others are not-for-profits. Moreover, some memberships incur a joining or annual fee, while others requirement payment on an event basis. When choosing a networking group consider the cost versus the expected return, being sure to factor in things like your time along with any fees. Always be sure to try before you buy and attend as many sessions as you can before making a commitment.
The best networking groups in Canberra
RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.
To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.
Home to Canberra’s fastest growing business networking group, Network One has attracted some of the regions best and brightest minds to help businesses gain more through effective networking groups. They believe that nothing is more valuable than creating meaningful connections, and as such are all about creating valuable referrals amongst members.
Network One has the A to Z of businesses covered, from accounts through to cleaners, providing a diverse community of likeminded professionals who are all about growing businesses together. Offering weekly group breakfasts at the Hyatt Hotel and an array of networking events, the group provides an inclusive and innovative environment for business owners to truly thrive.
Unlike other business networking groups, Network One is a not for profit organisation. As such, it does rely on an annual fee structure or the need to achieve referral targets. Rather, the group places emphasis on leading innovation and entrepreneurship through learning. To unlock your business potential and create lifelong professional relationships look to Network One.
Jonathan Mosslar had this to say about Network One on Google, “The most friendly and welcoming networking group I have ever been part of. Being a member has definitely been a factor in the growth of my business over the last 2 years”
Business Network International was founded in over thirty years ago in the US; and now spans 74 countries and over 250,000 members.
Positioned as a premier business to business networking organisation, the Canberra chapter aims to increase connections through regular local meetings.
Their networking platform provides the right environment, training, and support systems, to help forge professional relationships which generate referrals and business growth. For the learnings of a multinational with heritage that spans decades consider Business Network International.
David McLean had this to say about the group on Facebook, “I have been a member for just over 12 months. Learning is fantastic and have had 30 x return on investment. So happy with the result.”
Business Networking Reimagined was founded in 2015 by business coach and strategist Matt Alderton. After spending two decades running several successful businesses, his goal was to create a program based in training and education to help business owners thrive.
Now boasting almost fifty locations around Australia, Business Networking Reimagined is also at home in the local community. Offering fortnightly meetings to align and relationship build with other smart operators look to Business Networking Reimagined Canberra.
Arleen Hanks had this to say about the group, “Great way to connect with new people and grow your business both in person and online. Very good support structure.”
Canberra Women in Business have been providing support and development opportunities for businesswomen in the region for almost thirty years. They provide an environment that connects members with other local businesses for support, which ultimately leads to business growth through referrals and sharing of skills and expertise.
As a not-for-profit they attract business owners, employees from all sized organisations and members of professional organisations. Canberra Women in Business hosts an array of events from speed networking, guest breakfasts, and business awards. For an environment tailored to the needs of women, look to Canberra Women in Business.
Laurie McDonald shared her experience with the group on Facebook, “Fabulous professional networking organisation to join if you are a businesswoman in Canberra. The support from the other members, President and organising committee are second to none.”
Founded in 2014, the Canberra Innovation Network (CRBRIN) was created from a cross collaboration between the government and the regions world class education and research institutions. As a not-for-profit organisation they focus on nurturing Canberra’s start up community.
The Canberra Innovation Network runs an extensive programme including everything from networking and events through to incubation, acceleration and more. They connect entrepreneurs and small businesses with leading experts, mentors, and programme founders. To nurture, test, or scale your business Canberra Innovation Network is worth a visit.
Tatum Brown had this to say about the network on Facebook, “A fantastic connection point for researchers, small businesses, entrepreneurs and startups.”
If you’re looking for more information on small business services in Canberra, you might like our article on the best business advisors, the best PR and copywriting services, or the best marketing agencies Canberra has to offer.
Your experience with networking groups in Canberra
Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.
Have you had experience with any of the networking groups listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.