Professional Partnerships Networking
 
 

Professional Partnerships Networking

Another reason why people turn to networking is to build professional relationships. These might include connections with others in their field, with the goal of building knowledge, fostering partnerships, and enhancing industry standing.

Professional partnerships might start off as connections and can grow into more productive relationships, often leading to collaborations. In these situations, a person might be able to get more exposure in their field, or they might be able to position themselves for upper levels of management.

In other cases, it might be that you want to build professional partnerships that can align with company goals. For example, an executive may want to connect with others executives to support the company's growth and market standing.

What Do You Want

Like any networking strategy, you will want to begin by thinking about what you want from the partnership. The more you can define the partnership, the more you can identify the best possible people to add to a network.

Start by thinking about:

  • Why the network will help you – Start considering what you want from the network. This might be a specific goal (i.e. developing a system or a product together) or it might be a less specific goal (i.e. working with people you admire in order to learn more about their working style). Figure out what you want so that the other side can understand how they may (or may not) fit into this goal.

  • What collaborations you may want – This is the part where you might have bigger and loftier dreams. For example, if you want to network with a software development professional, this might be due to a larger goal of creating a new system. If you've had this idea for a while, be specific about what you want to create and then focus on those who have the skills to bring your dream into reality, especially when you don't necessarily have that skill set.

  • Your expectations in the relationship – Like any relationship, being clear about what you want from the connection is crucial. You need to understand what you feel should happen in your network (i.e. face-to-face meetings, regular phone calls, frequent emails). The more you can define the expectations, the more reason you give the other person to meet you or to tell you what is more realistic for them.

  • What has worked and what hasn't worked in other connections – If you've already networked with other professionals, consider what has worked and what has not worked. This will help you identify the ways in which this networking partnership might be arranged differently, or not.

The more you can think about the ideal relationship, the more someone will be able to tell you if they're a good fit. Much like dating, you want to define the ideal partner for you, and then seek out those who meet your expectations.


What Can You Give

But since this is a relationship, you need to be clear about what you will give to the relationship. You might want to think about:

  • What your strengths are – Stop and think about what your experience has given you in terms of knowledge. This thought process should also consider how your knowledge might fit into the needs of others. You need to be clear about what makes you unique and what you bring to the professional partnership.

  • What your resources are – Consider the things you have to offer someone else who might need them. While not all of your resources might be beneficial to a relationship, the more you can list as being available, the more you can entice someone to connect with you.

  • What your connections and missing connections are – In addition to resources, think about who you already have in your network. In doing so, you can identify who is missing and who might be a good fit for someone else's network. While you may want to connect with everyone important in your industry, you also need to think about who is missing from your network. Consider the professionals who might be able to help you and seek out those gaps in your network with as much vigor as you seek out those who are similar to you.

You need to be willing in your networking to give to others. When you do, they are not only more open to returning the favor, but they are also more willing to share their resources.

The more you can give, the more it will show you are a professional who is looking at the advantages of a network, and not just someone who is seeking out a favor.


Decide How You Will Collaborate

When you're creating professional partnerships, you need to decide what makes sense in terms of your ability to collaborate. There are often limitations depending on location, knowledge, and placement in the field.

  • How will you meet? – Whenever possible, try to meet up with your professional network, as this will help you foster a strong connection. If you are not local, then you might consider speaking over Skype or other communication systems.

  • How will you communicate? – Because you might have a connection that is busy, and you might be busy yourself, you might agree to communicate over email for most of your communication, but then save more in-depth conversations for phone or Skype.

  • When can you collaborate? – Setting a regular time to talk or to check-in can help to sustain the relationship. Just like any partnership, the more you can count on each other to be there, the more you will trust each other when you need support.

In addition, you need to look at the relationship as one that may need to grow for a while before it can yield benefits. When you are willing to spend time to make things work well, you will create partnerships that are more effective.

If you're looking at longer-term partnerships, it might be wise to build up to that conversation. You can't necessarily expect someone to agree to be a part of your professional strategy when you've first met. Think about how you work together, if you work well together, and if it seems like you are able to produce something.

Even though a person might have all the skills and experiences you want to see in a partner, they may not be someone with whom you can collaborate. Only time will show this reality, so you will want to spend time getting to know each other.

And you might not be the right person for them, which is a consideration to keep in mind. If you are not, then it's time to find someone else who has probably been waiting to hear from someone just like you.

Be willing to let go of partnerships that don't work, as you want to spend your time and your energy on those that have the most promise of success.

Summary

When you're looking to build effective professional partnerships, you need to think about what you want, who you want, and how you will communicate. Professional connections can often lead to collaboration and new ideas, but it takes work to ensure the relationship is strong.
Local and In-Person Networking

Just because you will often seek out connections that are global doesn't mean there isn't value in local networking opportunities. Because local markets are smaller, it makes sense to connect with those people as soon as you can in your business.

In the past, face-to-face connections were the only form of networking, and while that is not the case today, the more you can look at the people who are already around you, the more you can benefit everyone's business goals.

Why Local Connections Matter

The local community in which your business is situated is going to have fewer resources and fewer professionals. This might make it seem less important to connect, but it's actually more important than most realize.

When you build local connections:

  • You keep the profits in the local area – While growing your business in the global market may be a priority for some, if the city in which you live doesn't thrive, then your business may not be able to stay where it is. The more you can build local networks, the more you can keep profits and money in the area, which strengthens the community.

  • You encourage community pride – One of the unrecognized benefits of local networks is how they can increase pride in one's community. When a business shows it is invested in the area, people are more likely to support those ventures, leading to sustained profits.

  • You can help smaller businesses get noticed – If you're a local business, you can connect with contractors and related businesses in your network. As a result, those smaller businesses can get more business as a result, which allows them to grow, which allows them to support you better, etc.

  • You can create a network of trusted professionals – The network you build in your community will be of people you trust and that other local businesses trust. As a result, you have people you can turn to for nearly any business need, and you can count on them.

  • You don't have to spend as much time or money – Since you don't have to reach out to get to the people you want in your network, it doesn't cost as much time or energy. You will get more even as you put less effort into the process.

Local connections are more valued today, as many communities want to ensure the stability of their local economy. By becoming an active participant in the success of your city or town, you can grow your own business, as well as the reputation of your company.

How to Build Local Networks

Building local networks is simpler than you may recognize. Often, there are already groups in place that can help to foster positive relationships, and there are people who are already dedicated to making collaboration happen.

You will want to begin by looking at your local Small Business Association and other related organizations. There, you can meet up with other local businesses, see what they do, and then see how you can help each other. The more active you can be in these meetings, the more you will be able to create connections.

You can begin this process of collaboration by:

  • Gathering information about local businesses – Start by looking at local listings to see what the companies in your area have to offer. You can look to see what categories of business are listed, what they do in the community, and how many businesses have been in place for long periods of time. Look also at their locations, their markets, and their products to see how they might work well with you.

  • Thinking about who you've done business with in the past – If you provide services and/or products in the local area, consider who you have connected with in the past. Think about the businesses you trust, and who you would work with again. These might even be companies that have helped you with personal projects and who have impressed you with their systems or their results.

  • Asking friends and family about local organizations– Talk to the people you trust about who they might suggest as a collaborator. They might have insights into local businesses you have not used yet, and they can often give honest feedback about businesses you may already have considered.

  • Reaching out to these businesses to gauge their interest – Once you have a list of companies that seem to be in alignment with your goals and your interests, reach out to them to see how you can work together. This letter can be a simple question about their interest, and then collect the responses to see who wants to form a new network.

If there are already local networking events and groups in place, see how you can become a part of them. The more active you can be in your participation, the more you will generate interest in continuing such collaboration.

Starting In-Person Networking Events


When your community doesn't seem to have any networking events, or the events are not regular, you may want to begin your own events.

These can look like:

  • Regular meetings

  • Industry shows

  • Charity events

  • Local presentations

To begin the planning process, think about what has worked in the community in the past, what has generated interest, etc. You will gain some of these answers by talking with other businesses, as well as with community members.

Once you have come up with a few events that seem to have momentum, you will want to:

  • Plan and organize the event – Sit down with more than one group to plan and organize the event. This will help to show the community you are collaborative, and it will ensure you are focusing on the bigger picture in terms of community needs and interests.

  • Market the event – To ensure the event is a success, utilize your marketing resources and tap into local venues to see how they can help you with promotion. The more buzz you can generate about the event, the more likely it is to be a success.

  • Connect with community members and professionals – At the event, make sure you connect with as many people as you can. While some of these connections might turn into customers, rather than being a part of your professional network, all of these contacts will foster community strength.

  • Continue communications – Once you have a list of the people you connected with, follow up shortly after the event. This will help to ensure you don't lose momentum, and it will often reveal new ways in which you can serve your local community.

A community event will help to start the conversation about how you can best serve the community – and how all of the local businesses can help. The more often you can put on these events, the more people will attend and the more your company will be seen as a driving force in the community.

Summary

When you want to build local networks, you need to reach out to the community to see what is already in place, talk to other companies that complement your business strategy, and then hold regular events that can help foster community support.
 
 
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