Most days I spend at my practice doing massage.
But at least three times a month I put aside the golf shirts and running shoes and don my business woman outfit to join a group of solopreneurs and small business owners to network up a storm.
Why give up the time that I could spend earning money?
Because I wouldn’t dream of missing out on these amazing get-togethers with other business owners in my town and surrounds.
Different people network for different reasons.
I do for these three main reasons:
1. I NETWORK TO MARKET MYSELF
I could be the best massage therapist in town but if no-one knows I exist, I might as well, or in fact, I will inevitably have to close shop.
I network because despite the advantages of social media, I still consider face-to-face encounters the most effective marketing tool. It fosters trust, especially for a service as personal as massage therapy.
And trust leads to word-of-mouth promotion and endorsement. These networks serve as an ongoing referral source.
Sometimes, idealistic people are put off the whole business of networking as something tainted by flattery and the pursuit of selfish advantage. But virtue in obscurity is rewarded only in Heaven. To succeed in this world you have to be known to people. - Sonia Sotomayor
2. I NETWORK TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE HOW OF DOING BUSINESS
Besides being a massage therapist, I am also a business owner.
Running a practice as a business is not my primary focus and my most developed skill. I have had to put in a lot of time and effort to hone it. And I needed to find the right people to show me the ropes.
Networking helped me do that.
From finding a business strategist and business coach to guide me (I can recommend Albert van Niekerk from ABPlan and Karon Wiercx from KW Coaching) to staying up to date with new social media and marketing trends, legal issues and technology (thank you Bettina Horvath, Robyn Lambrick of Word on the Street Media , Gwen Serrotti of Xtraordinanry Women and many more).
3. I NETWORK TO GET AND GIVE SUPPORT
The third reason for putting aside time to network each month, is that I get lonely in my practice.
Don’t get me wrong, I love spending the time with my clients, but they pay to be massaged and nurtured by me, not to advise or support the therapist.
And that support is exactly what I get from meeting people at networking events.
I have been a member of the Massage Therapy Association of South Africa ever since I started my studies in the late 1990s. On a professional, level interacting with my colleagues has kept me informed, educated, challenged and supported. Some of them have even become close friends.
Then there are my business buddies at the two business networking groups I attend more regularly.
From them I have learnt how to turn my love of, and skills as a massage therapist into a thriving practice.
For business owners who spend most days on their own, it is vital having people to bounce off your ideas. You need to have access to someone who knows more than you about accountancy or public relations and who can advise you.
And you need people to link up over coffee and a chat , someone who is going through what you are or who has been there and got the t-shirt.
These women and men stand in solidarity with me, they look out for me and encourage me when my entrepreneurial journey feels like a dead end.
They cheer me on and they promote me. Thank you!
And then sometimes they conspire to push me way beyond my comfort zone like doing video interviews (see below).
And for that I am grateful too ... I think!
LEADING IS ONE THING; DOING VIDEO INTERVIEWS ANOTHER
Earlier this year I was asked to lead the Helderberg (formerly Somerset West) chapter of Xtraordinary Women, a business networking group that leads, inspires, supports and recognises entrepreneurs in South Africa.
As if following in the footsteps of entrepreneur extraordinaire, Diana Rankin of Perfume Power South Africa was not daunting enough, one of my new tasks was to do an interview with the guest presenter after the breakfast event.
Now that was a tall order for a former press journalist used to being in the background, observing, listening and taking notes. But with the coaching and encouragement of fellow Xtraordinary Women chapter leaders and videographer Sarka Svoboda, I did it.
I have now done four interviews and it is getting easier. Have a look!
This is the interview I did with Bev Missing from Rain , the South African bath and body product and hand crafted home ware company known for using using natural ingredients with African origins. Rain is based in Swellendam.
If you are interested in viewing the other interviews I have done with Xtraordinary Women Helderberg guest speakers, follow this link.
I've met so many who have opened doors for me and remained in my life both personally and professionally. After a while, networking doesn't feel like 'networking.' It's both serendipitous and unpredictable, and something that just naturally becomes part of your work life and your personal life. - Narciso Rodriguez
Photographs: Martin van Niekerk | Albert van Niekerk
Banner image: With me is Sam Posselt, social media strategist, blogger, entrepreneur, keynote speaker and Google for Non-Profits trainer.
Body-mind or mind-body? If you are struggling with physical and mental pain and feel that the dominant health paradigm’s dualistic approach to mind and body seems inadequate to explain anything, I want to talk to you. Join me under the tree in my garden for a cup of rooibos tea and let’s talk massage and SomaSense!