Networking – The Importance Of Finding The Right Group

I’ve been pondering the significance of being a member of a successful networking group since Platinum Point, a small independent and unique group of which I’ve been a member for the past 4 years, won the SME Herts Best Networking Group award this week.

When I set up my PR company in 2010 I came from a background solely in entertainment and travel PR, so clearly had a lot to learn about the business arena. I also knew nothing about social media so started networking in a group that was set up to teach people about LinkedIn. Although it was flawed as a networking group model, I am still in touch with some of the prominent business people I met back then.

I soon realised that as a very small fish (minnow) with big ambitions (whale shark, without the mean personality) my best course of action was to get to know as many local business people as possible and do my own ‘PR’. It’s a strategy that has really paid off and most of my clients have come through referrals of people who ‘ know, like and trust’ me.

I threw myself into networking and tried out a lot of the old favourites – various BNI chapters, not my style at all, too pushy and formal; 4N network, not delivering on its promises; Business For Breakfast , incompetently run by a rep who only wanted to make money for himself; Athena, too girly and part time housewifey, plus various others.

I heard about Platinum Point from some members who I’d met at my very first networking group and was keen to join the small but selective bunch but couldn’t because someone else had the PR slot. As soon as he moved on I met the members, got voted in (phew) and have been there ever since. It’s grown to almost 30 members but will never become a franchise or grow too big because at its core are three important factors: business, education and camaraderie, with all three getting equal billing.

Those looking for the ‘low hanging fruit’ don’t stay long at PP and don’t get the benefits of tapping into a massive wealth of expertise and developing long term business relationships that can make your own business – and theirs – much more successful. I know I can ring up any of the Platinum Point members, both past and present, and they will give me any advice I need or try to support me.

It’s vitally important to find a network group that suits your personality. I’ve been to informal network groups that meet once a month and still attend a few, I regularly go to events set up by the St Albans Chamber of Commerce (a very good, well run and pro active C of C); I attend an all female London networking group that has occasional events set up by a friend I met on holiday; I go to any events organised by June Cory of My Mustard digital advertising agency because I know they will be brilliant – she runs A Little Bit of Networking once a month and it’s not like any other networking group I’ve come across because June is so creative.

The right networking group gives you a chance to interact with other business people, share your pain if that’s your thing, or share the love if you’re more inclined to be positive and cup half full. As a sole trader I would feel too isolated if I didn’t network and it’s also a vital part of my business education. I have learnt so much from other business people over the past 7 years and while in some ways I feel I’ve been very lucky to connect with some truly great business people, I have put in the time, money and developed my networking skills and endured many false starts/ups and downs to achieve a networking strategy that suits my business.

So, massive congratulations to Platinum Point and all of its 27 members – we’d like a few more so come visit us (for free) as a guest – you won the Best Networking Group award because you deserve it.