5 Ways to Successfully Network with Other Businesses
Networking with other small businesses can hold many benefits for your accountancy firm, whether those businesses are other accountancy firms or companies from a different industry. However, not all accountants focus on developing their professional networks, probably due to lack of time. So here are the reasons why you should invest the time in networking with other businesses – and how to do it successfully.
Why you should network with other businesses?
- It can drive new business
Building a broad professional network can help you win new clients. Trust is a major factor for businesses looking for an accountant, so getting to know you and your business over time, as part of a professional network, can help potential clients make the decision to hire you. Professional networks will also allow your business to get discovered by clients who wouldn’t have discovered your business otherwise.
When networking with other accountancy firms, you can develop a referral system, in which each firm refers clients to a different firm. It may be that this specific client isn’t the best fit for the firm, or that it just isn’t free to take on another client right now. In this, a member of your network can refer this client to you, in which case you get new business and can return the favor sometime in the future.
- Learning opportunities
Each firm has its own expertise that it has developed over time. Some firms also specialise in specific industries and sectors. Networking with other firms holds the opportunity to learn from their experience, whether it’s on an ongoing basis or ad hoc.
By speaking with other firms, you can learn more about the services the excel at – but also about their best practices in other fields, such as HR, marketing, business management, logistics and more. A professional network also means that you can always reach out to other firms and get their advice on clients you’re not sure how to proceed with or services you’re considering of providing.
These are just two of the many benefits of creating professional networks. Here are 5 ways to network successfully:
- Join professional and local associations
Your firm probably belongs to one of these organisations, but just in case it doesn’t, consider joining ICAEW (Chartered Accountants), ACCA (Certified Accountants), CIMA (Chartered institute of Management Accountants) or ICAS (Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland). These organisations not only offer training and other valuable programs, they also give you the opportunity to meet other accountant and forge professional relationships with them.
Local organisations also present good opportunities for networking. If your city or area have a Chamber of Commerce, you can join and leverage your membership for professional networking. This kind of organization and other local business organisations can help you discover other local businesses and partner with them.
- Attend professional events
Summits, conferences, meetups and other professional events are excellent opportunities for networking. It’s where professionals from your field and from other fields go to learn and listen to interesting speakers – but also to forge partnerships, look for clients and find service providers.
Come prepared with digital or printed business cards and a short introduction about you and your business. Some events have dedicated time slots for networking, at others you can just start talking to people you’re interested meeting. Networking can be done at annual summit with thousands of attendees or at a more intimate meetup, with 20 people listening to one speaker. The important thing is coming with a networking mind set.
- Create or join a group on Facebook or Linkedin
Social media is a highly effective way to network. The best way to leverage social media sites is through groups on Facebook and Linkedin.
Groups are where other business owners share their knowledge, ask questions, try to learn from other businesses and create partnerships. By joining groups like UK Accounting, Tax, Bookkeeping & Business Help, you’ll be able to connect to other firms like your own and create partnerships with them. Consider joining groups like UK Small Business Owners, where you can gain exposure to potential clients and introduce your business to them.
In groups dedicated to small businesses, you will often see posts of business owners in search of an accountant or a bookkeeper – and will be able to offer your services. You can also introduce your business in the group and recommend other businesses you’ve used yourself, such as a marketing agency or a catering company.
- Share your knowledge
Taking business cards and joining Facebook groups alone aren’t enough. You also need to build your brand as a reliable, knowledgeable professional. The way to do that is by giving advice and sharing your knowledge.
The members of the Facebook and LinkedIn groups you join will probably post many questions, which you can answer and demonstrate your expertise. Those businesses will appreciate the help and remember you as the firm which came to their aid with valuable advice. This is likely to foster a relationship with these businesses, bolstering your professional network. This is also likely to create trust among potential clients and help them make the decision to hire you in the future. You can also offer advice and share your knowledge with businesses as part of free audits and consultations.
- Host events (virtual or otherwise)
One of the best ways to both to share your knowledge and learn from others is by initiating and hosting events. Those can be online meetups or socially-distant in-person gatherings in your offices.
You can pick a relevant topic for your meetup and invite speakers from other companies, as well as your own. For example, if there is new regulation on the incorporation of small businesses, you can host a meetup on that, illuminating different aspects of this regulation, with different experts speaking about it or discussing it. This kind of professional gathering can solidify your brand as a leader in your field and broaden your network to include more companies and business partners.