I had no idea there was so much to learn about opening a small business. I had no idea there were groups that could help you get there!
During this year I’ve been introduced to business networking.
Who knew this was going on?
Once a week at 6:45 am when most sensible Canberrans are still in bed, members of the Business@Breakfast networking group are piling into the EQ Café at Deakin.
The coffee is hot, the breakfast extensive and the chatter is excellent.
I am with them most weeks. We are ready for action. Swapping a story here, giving an update there and most importantly sharing business referrals. We are growing our businesses and contacts as we meet.
There are lots of businesses on display. There is a business coach or two, a leasing agent, naturopath, lawyer, travel agent, bookkeeper, photographer and in true Canberra style, there is an artist and a ghostwriter, plus many more.
In the middle of it all is one of the Queens of the business networking scene here, Misty Henkel.
She explains the process to me.
“The purpose of business networking is for everyone to get work. You learn to advertise yourself and get more customers.”
“Face-to-face advertising is the best advertising,” says Misty, who insists it is a great way for all businesses to find customers.
Misty is a networking coach. Who knew that was a job?
“People like to buy from people they know.”
Business@Breakfast isn’t the only business networking group in Canberra. Another well-known group is BX Networking for Busines. Further groups meet at the Hyatt Hotel and another has started at Gungahlin.
As the photo shows, EQ café Business@Breakfast members meet in the private function space. The session is organised and follows a format. We don’t sit idly by and chat.
It is member driven.
We meet the visitors (potential new members) who come along each week, listen or deliver an educational segment where new ideas are shared, then it is time for specialist presentations. As the second round of coffees starts, all the members make their 30-second pitch. We introduce ourselves and our business to the group. At the end, there is time for thanks and announcements followed by one-on-one catch-ups.
“It is really about learning how to interact and advertise yourself”, says Misty, who believes people don’t get sales by staying at home.
“When you learn to tell everyone what you do, along the way you will increase the number of people you know and the number of people who know what you do. Referrals will happen but only after you learn how to advertise yourself”, she says.
Misty admits most people don’t know that business networking exists. She stumbled on it six years ago after spending 15 years in sales.
“I had never heard of it. I discovered my first networking group by accident because I was doing a Diploma in Life Coaching and I had to learn it.”
‘Professional services, like accountants, have known about this for a long time”, she says.
I didn’t know about it either. I found it through a member who invited me along one week.
In small business, it is easy to feel isolated or worried as you try to navigate regulations while building a customer base and promoting your services.
This group has really helped me. With no office to speak of, the weekly meetings become a good focal point. It is always good to share a morning coffee.
The result is, I have begun referring these business owners to others and have been using their services myself. I have been to Sonny Forsyth’s Sunday exercise classes; I have found a regular and personalised print service with Arthur at MBE at Manuka; I have had a massage with Michelle at The World of Wellbeing at Philip. The list goes on. They have sent people to me too!
Can’t wait for next week.
Meantime, Misty is working on a book on business networking.