In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesswoman, Amanda Rose, decided to start up Small Business Women Australia. Why? Because she could see women were being told they had to network to start their own business and she knew this hype can often discourage a lot of women who could potentially be highly successful business owners, when all they need to do is learn how to ‘strategically connect.’
“Not everyone has the confidence to get out there and do a whole lot of networking to start their own business,” says Rose. “But if you’re keen on starting your own business, this shouldn’t stop you. If you have the right guidance you can succeed. I want to show women it doesn’t matter who you are or what your skill set is – there are ways around it if you’re really passionate about starting your own business.”
“I don’t like the term ‘networking’ – I prefer ‘connecting’ because when you connect with people, it has a strategic angle to it. You can connect with someone just with one phone call – or an email – and it’s a win win. They need you and you need them. You’re building a relationship and it’ll pay off,” she adds.
Rose points out women can be their own worst enemies, often feeling they don’t have what it takes to start their own business: “They think they’re shy and they’re more comfortable focusing on things within their own sphere, rather than being gregarious within crowds or groups.”
But Rose emphasises, not feeling comfortable networking is a common feeling and while it can be looked at as a negative trait in business – there’s a chance it could, in fact, be an amazing quality for building relationships and succeeding in business.
Not being the best ‘networker’ can be an ‘amazing quality’ in other ways
“I say this because you’re more likely to be focused on where you’re headed and what you need – and less distracted by the superficial ‘noise’ around you if you’re not ‘out there’ networking all the time,” she adds.
“Women often need to stop letting the world around them convince them that building strong relationships in business requires them to be an extrovert. Some people are good at networking and selling but can they deliver?
“That’s what you need for longevity in business. So I’d rather have a woman who knows how to connect within her own areas of strength – which are different for each person – and then they’re able to deliver,” says Rose.
“I’ve worked with a lot of women who don’t want to go to large events and functions and I don’t blame them because let’s face it – it’s quite aggressive. Yet, these same women have succeeded purely by connecting with people on LinkedIn and then having a one-on-one catch up with them,” she adds.
It’s important not to listen to all the hype
Rose says there is a lot of hype and marketing about how good it is to network but at the end of the day she adds: “Success is if you’re making a profit – end of story. If you’re not making a profit, you’re losing money and you’re not running a successful business. You need to be able to make the tough decisions so you can make a profit.
“What I find works is when a woman is comfortable and how she’s working fits within her comfort zone. I say to them – ‘Go with what you’re comfortable doing and then build from there,” she adds.
Top Tips for Building Relationships and Strategically Connecting
As the founder of Small Business Women Australia, Rose has put together her Top Tips for “… building relationships and strategically connecting when networking doesn’t come naturally — or even worse, you loathe it!”
Small Business Tips
1. Build a strong online presence
This is THE easiest way to build a network and have a profile without having to constantly be out and about networking. For business professionals, you should be aware of all mediums however focusing on a handful and doing it well will reap benefits. LinkedIn is a necessity for anyone in business and shows people that you’re a professional. You’re LinkedIn account needs to be a living, breathing version of you. Others which are beneficial are Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
This may sound weird as a recommendation but it is often easier and more comfortable to video yourself and have it edited, then distribute it in a controlled environment than to deal with strangers face to face. Also, when you make videos, you don’t have to look directly into the camera – the video can be of you doing something and you can add a voice over the top of this later. Further, the messages and pitches you polish for video will actually make it easier when you have to network face-to-face at some time because people feel they know you if they’ve already seen you on a video.
3. Leverage media (print & online)
There are many websites that will accept your content without you having to leave your laptop. Content is king and distributing that content is queen. So ‘get your writing on’ and produce quality pieces of educational information in your area of expertise. You can also respond to media call-outs, contact media outlets and offer yourself as a commentator on an areas you are passionate about and experienced in. Once you’ve created content it can be leveraged multiple times – on your website and on your social media.
4. Network in small groups/informal events
When life and network groups get back to normal, keep your networking to small groups or one-on-one meetings. If you don’t know of any, create your own. Invite a handful of people out to lunch. The smaller the group, the more detailed and immersed the discussions are — and the stronger the connections will be.
5. Buddy up at large events
Large events can’t be avoided; and if you go, they need to be leveraged. If you are uncomfortable in large crowds with whom you’re expected to mingle, take a buddy along. Someone who can help you work the room, support conversations you have and help you connect with new people. Remember that everyone in that room is there to meet you and everyone else in that room. Enjoy the process. Learn what you can about the people you engage with. If you are uncomfortable talking about yourself, ask questions about them!
6. Master the follow up
Don’t fall into the trap of the follow-up freeze. You stare at people’s business cards and start overthinking whether you should be following them up. And if you do, what do you have to say? Do they care? Will they even remember you? Stop this! For starters they would not have connected with you at an event if they didn’t care about what you had to say or offer. My advice is until they say ‘no’ you keep following up.
Some added tips for small business:
In conclusion, Rose says it’s important to always make it as easy as possible for someone to work with you: “Remember, you are an expert in what you do so help others understand that by educating others on ways you can help them, including examples of what you have done before,” she says.
Say ‘no’ to an event or catch up if it doesn’t fit in with your strategy
And also, Rose stressed the importance of women learning how to say ‘no’ more often: “Women are notorious for feeling guilty if they say ‘no.’ But they need to learn how to delegate and to say ‘no’ to things if it doesn’t fit in with their strategy. Just because you’re invited to an event it doesn’t mean you have to go. It has to be a part of your targeted strategy to be worth your time. Keep in mind, a man says ‘no’ without any apology,” she adds.
What’s Amanda Rose’s background?
Rose started in business 15 years ago and has worked for large corporates and small businesses. As she says: When I first started in business I didn’t have any connections and now I know a lot of people. That’s after 15 years of reaching out to people and connecting. I call it the Shawshank Redemption strategy – and it works,” she laughs.
“People don’t realise that while I can speak to 6000 people in one go or I can network a room of 300, most of my business is done one-on-one. The more targeted you are with your connecting, then the higher success rate you’ll have. Networking is more of a brand awareness thing like PR or social media but the actual business is made by building connections with people,” she adds.
As well as helping women to see they can start their own business and flourish, Rose was driven to start Small Business Women Australia because: “This is a passion of mine. Small businesses hold up the economy and pay a lot of the taxes and yet they’re not really supported in a lot of ways.”
“So I started Small Business Women Australia and we’ve been connecting in small groups and one-on-ones online and we’ll do larger groups later on. We can offer a lot of help to women out there who are wondering if they have what it takes to start their own business,” she adds.
If you think Small Business Women Australia could help you, visit their website and join the group. You’ll find there are a lot of resources available on the site and business mentoring available. Take a look here.