This piece was created in partnership with Indy Chamber.
Beyond the surface, true networking is more than who you know; it’s what you do with those relationships once you’ve earned them. But getting over the nerve-wracking feat of simply showing up can be tough. However, what’s on the other side of fear is a world of benefits that you can’t afford to miss. Take a peek at five of the biggest benefits of building a network of support and then get to building yours.
You Finally Find People that “Get” It
Being an entrepreneur can be lonely, especially if you’re early in the process. It can be challenging to know where to go for help, advice, or reassurance when the going gets tough. However, there are organizations, groups, and initiatives clamoring for opportunities to engage with would-be participants.
Barriers to entry exist in every industry, but they don’t have to. The Latino community is one example of a community that’s come together to provide support, and they’ve seen roaring success with groups like the Latino Business Support Network and by engaging in events like Conexión Empresarial.
“The Latino Business Support network is a group of organizations that supports the Hispanic business community with the mission of collaborating to provide information, access to resources, and programs to the community of Latino entrepreneurs and business owners,” shares Marcela Montero, Director of the Indy Chamber’s Hispanic Business Council.
This focused initiative helps address specific barriers to the community, which may take many forms, like language barriers and access to capital. Connections made among members and their host organizations share the same goal: to promote business growth in the city’s Latino community.
Members share information, provide mentorship, and get real about their challenges and, when they’ve overcome them, what they did to get on the other side. The Indy Chamber is leading the way toward facilitating these opportunities, too.
The Chamber’s Conexion Empresarial event series allows business owners to meet and learn from professionals in the area about topics such as marketing, finance, and legal matters that can help them better understand and manage their business. Without this type of network, access to this level of information would nearly be impossible, prohibitively expensive, or take too much time away from core business responsibilities.
Hidden Opportunities Reveal Themselves
Have you heard of the hidden job market? It’s a phenomenon that skips the dreaded applicant tracking system and gets straight to the source – the talent themselves. Sometimes, a connection made at a networking event leads to a referral, then another, and yet another. And sometimes, it’s a talent professional that helps reveal a treasure trove of talent to a business leader who’d otherwise never have considered it.
The Indy Chamber’s Kate Pangallo lives in the talent development world, and serving as a connector between talent and the businesses sorely in need of it is her sweet spot.
“Showing up for the community in my role is at the heart of how I approach each part of the job,” says Kate. “To connect businesses to talent and talent to business, I have to understand what the demands are from business and industry, where the talent is, and how we could approach meaningful partnerships across the region that support our community.”
Through networking, you might find your next superstar hire. Or, talent pros like Kate might help you attractively articulate the job description you haven’t been able to fill for months. Even more so, you might learn about untapped talent pools that could take your business to the next level.
“Honoring equity and ensuring that I can help connect companies to individuals they may not have traditionally considered, while also working to address the barriers and challenges our community is facing is at the root of our work in talent at the Chamber,” says Kate.
Congrats – You’ve Got a Cheering Squad
There’s nothing like feeling like you’re supported. And with a network, you have the chance to earn a cheering squad like none other. When you meet new people, share what you’re working on and striving for. Through these conversations, you may discover connection points, but you’ll also build camaraderie.
The next time you post an exciting update or call to action on LinkedIn, your network will help spread the word. Find yourself in the middle of a crisis? Your network will have your back. Whether your reputation is at risk, you need intel, or you need help, the better your network, the better positioned you’ll be.
Indy is on the upswing when it comes to building the infrastructure to support small businesses, which are often the lifeblood of a community. But doing so doesn’t happen by accident. It requires public and private partnership, and the willingness of small businesses to reach out, connect, and engage.
“Among the 40 largest metropolitan areas in the United States, studies have ranked Indianapolis the third worst for overall small business success,” shared Christina Snorten, Procurement Program Manager for the Indy Chamber’s Entrepreneurship Services Division. “Despite a plethora of small business development initiatives in the Central Indiana region, business owners have still struggled to find the right resources to support their sustainability and growth.”
But this statistical stagnation is anything but permanent — that’s why Indy’s so focused on fostering meaningful connections in the small business community.
“Stagnation in entrepreneurial achievement has threatened Indianapolis’s otherwise positive economic reputation,” adds Christina. “A thriving small business community is needed to drive regional innovation. The Chamber partners with other business service organizations to build comprehensive support solutions for business owners. We facilitate networking experiences that lead to impactful relationship building. We connect people with opportunities and resources. It’s more than small business development, it’s ecosystem development and market development.”
You Get a Masterclass in Soft Skills
Ever feel like your gift of gab has been slipping? Well, you may have technology to thank, among other factors. E.g. remote work, pandemic, generational changes. No matter the culprit, we as a society just don’t socialize like we used to. And while we love, and need, all the technology, putting our heads into a screen for 8+ hours isn’t doing our conversation and interpersonal communication skills any favors.
When you’re networking, you gain the benefit of building trust with a group of people whose goals and values align. It’s this common bond that helps shed our worldly armor in favor of authentic connections and collaboration. By showing up under the premise of networking, you’re also silently getting a pass to ask bold questions, get contact information, and follow up with a request for more.
Stretch your soft skills muscles with your network to find out what’s authentic for you. Then, bring what you’ve practiced into your business, the workplace, or among friends. By taking risks among your go-to network, you can be well-practiced by the time you’re in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Trickle-Down Reputation is a Thing
The people you surround yourself with influence how you see yourself and the world around you. While you’re more than the sum of your circle, there’s no denying that the people you spend time with are a direct reflection of you, especially in business. And if you’ve earned the respect of industry leaders and experienced professionals, your reputation gains a boost, too.
Be open to meeting people outside of your industry and outside of your comfort zone. Women especially network differently, frequently focusing on relationships over business advantages. While this approach isn’t necessarily a bad thing (see: cheering squad, above), it doesn’t always mean you’re spending time networking strategically.
Strive to get a good mix of social and professional networking, which can both be good for the soul and your bottom line. Plus, by diversifying your network, you’re also boosting the plasticity of your creativity and viewpoint of the world, and business ecosystem, around you.
Maven Space often plays host to a range of networking events, many of them free! Follow our Eventbrite page to stay up-to-date with what we’re hosting next. Kick off your networking journey on Nov. 16 at the Indy Chamber’s next event, Community Minded: Showing Up and Showing Out at 4:30 p.m. at Maven Space. Get your free ticket and the details here.
All of our content—including this article—is completely free. However, we’d love if you would please consider supporting our journalism with an Indy Maven Digital membership.