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Networking is a strange thing – for the success and growth of your business (especially when you are self-employed, or getting pressure at work to bring in new clients), you have to spread the word. The term ‘networking’ pops up a lot in business in New Zealand and definitely via social media, but how is the best way to grow your own network? SoapBox.
I am Sarah Williams, director of SoapBox and I began networking at the age of 19 as assistant Branch manager for an Auckland Countrywide Bank branch and then was seriously put into the hot seat as Branch manager for the ASB at the age of 23. ‘Networking’ was a painful part of the job…
Networking meant standing in a fluro-lit, beige office somewhere, pretending to drink a glass of slowly warming white wine, my power suit getting hotter by the second whilst trying to drum up conversation with lawyers and accountants easily 30 years older than me… and trying to convince them I wasn’t someone’s secretary (or worse their daughter!).
I have started, facilitated and been a member of various other networking groups for other organisations over the last decade and enjoyed helping to make these groups successful within New Zealand and believe through my commitment to a relaxed and fun style of networking, this helped me to become the top sales person in my field for New Zealand.
With all of this networking experience, I knew that there had to be a better way to meet other business professionals, share industry knowledge, build mutual business relationships based on trust and find each other referrals. A “kiwi” style of networking – where it wasn’t all about ceremony and ritual neither was it about a support group meeting for coffee and a gossip or paying absurdly huge fees for the privilege!
Soapbox was born out of a desire to network with other professionals and industries, to meet up with new contacts that eventually become your mates.
We launched the first group in 2011, and in its first 12 months spawned 400 pieces of business for our members. In the second year we started a second group and now we are in our sixth year with new groups starting up all over the country.
What I learnt over time is that everyone’s favourite topic is themselves. And if you actually listen, rather than plan your reply while they are talking, then your new found friend is giving you 100 clues to help continue the conversation. And that’s where the synergies start to emerge. Every conversation is never ending if you are actually listening and that is where real relationships start to develop and grow.
Pay attention, be genuine and sincere and try to remember everything!
So if you’d like to visit a SoapBox group in your neck of the woods, come along as a guest, meet some great people and add SoapBox to the success plan for your business this year.