Networking is one of those things that your either take to like a fish to water or it’s something you have to work at, more like a bunny in scuba gear. I’m more of the latter and even though I quite enjoy networking, sometimes it feels like hard work.
Being a small business entrepreneur, networking is an incredibly important part of my business. So when I recently started to feel like it was too much like hard work, a good friend and excellent coach (Thanks Barbara!) really helped me to reframe all of my networking activity.
I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned about networking from the allotment. I’ve got a bit plotty, but here goes …. Networking is like growing veggies on the allotment because …..
1. The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out – usually. So what’s your end goal? Like the allotment, the quality of the output is equivalent to the quality of what you put into it. You start by giving your time and energy and heap on loads of goodness. Whether that’s poo or information and services. You have to give before you receive.
2. Some seeds take longer to germinate than others. Some relationships take longer to get going than others, you just need to keep nurturing them and eventually they will start to grow. Mind you, sometimes seeds fail and so do relationships. But then you can always replant and start again.
3. You have to thin out your seedlings to produce the strongest plants. You can’t build strong relationships with absolutely everyone. There isn’t enough time in the day. So choose which ones you want to foster, which ones have the best potential and focus on them.
4. Not everything grows well in freshly manured soil. Listen to your network, get to know what they need, what are their challenges and how can you help. Once you know this, then find ways to give them what they need.
5. During drought periods you have to keep everything watered – You can’t control the weather, and sometimes you have to go the extra mile to keep your relationships in good shape.
6. There will always be pests, learn to deal with them effectively and your crops won’t suffer. Changes in business structures, competition, you name it, just when you think you’re making real progress, something gets in the way. Learn to recognise those pests early and be ready to spring into action.
7. Sometimes crops fail, it doesn’t mean you did. Not every relationship will work or will last. And sometimes despite everything you’ve done, it goes nowhere. That’s just part of the process, expect a few failed crops and focus on the successful ones.
8. Peas v. Curly Kale – Like different crops, relationships will be ready for harvest at different times. Some will be ready within weeks others will take a year or more. The important thing is to not forget them and to continue to give them what they need.
9. Don’t forget to celebrate your work – periodically stop and take stock of everything you have achieved. Look at how your relationships have grown. It’s sometimes easy to forget everything we have achieved.
10. If you want to keep growing, you have to keep giving. There will always be more to do. Look for ways to enjoy the process. Chances are you’ll find something worth being excited about.
There are a lot of other lessons I’ve learned, but I’ll stop there! Networking, like growing can be hard work, and in general, you reap what you sow. However, rest assured that given time and a bit of TLC, you will find your hard work pays off. There are never any guarantees but try to enjoy the process and before you know it, you’ll be reaping the rewards!