Business networking – Sharing expertise for everyone’s benefit
Doing favours for other business owners can be beneficial. It’s good to give free help and advice.
But it’s important to make sure it isn’t a one-way street…more Flavor Flav than Favor Flav
If you’re a small business selling to other small businesses, as many of us are, it’s particularly important to share expertise. Nobody is brilliant at every aspect of business.
Some of us are dreadful at admin, perpetually lost in a sea of paper, emails, un-sent invoices and un-filed information. Some could sell anything to anyone, no matter what, but find marketing a huge challenge. Others fall at the first accounts or credit control hurdle. Your business network can save you a fortune in cash and a considerable amount of time when you get properly involved.
Some people are more generous and responsive than others. In an ideal world you’ll do favours for other people which they’ll return to create a two-way flow of business support working to everyone’s advantage.
It’s difficult to pin down the best ways to bring equality about in a business networking context, but human beings invariably have a strong instinctive sense of fairness. Many primates do too. It’s an evolutionary thing, where helping individuals in your community means everyone in it fares a little bit better. Collaboration, generosity and selflessness help communities survive, and being helpful is in our genes.
You’ll probably find you also have an in-built sixth sense about who owes you what from a moral perspective. If you’ve been extra helpful and given a lot of time, effort or energy helping someone else you’ll unconsciously expect some kind of reward, eventually. If they keep taking and don’t give anything back, you’ll probably start to feel miffed. But because most of us operate the same kind of emotional give-and-take system, things usually work out pretty well.
We Brits often find it hard to ask for help. But most of us actively enjoy helping other people. It gives us a buzz. Luckily social networks make it easier to break through our traditional reserve. Networkers use Twitter for marketing but crowd-sourcing opinions, identifying trustworthy suppliers, finding new staff, asking for answers to urgent questions, appealing for support and swapping expertise are all part and parcel of successful business networking online.
Manners are weird things. Most of us find it strangely hard to say no. Then we end up resenting having agreed. But if you feel someone is taking too much without giving anything in return, it’s best to gently, politely and firmly say no. Luckily Twitter also makes it easy to turn requests down. With just 140 characters to hand you’re forced to be succinct and business networks are, after all, about being business-like.