J Kelly Hoey
Credit: Lisa Tanner Photography

Victoria native, networking expert, business columnist, angel investor and startup mentor Kelly Hoey

As a business owner, you’ve likely heard the phrase “get out and network” more times that you care to count. And you’re likely doing a whole lot of networking already. Perhaps you’re a member of a local chamber or trade association, or you regularly attend industry conferences or perhaps maintain an online presence for your business (such as a Facebook page or Instagram account).

But have you ever paused to think about what “get out and network” means from the point of view of efficiency? If you’re a business owner, every minute (and dollar) counts. Rather than thinking of how you’re going to get out and network more, [added comma] why not start focusing on the many small ways you can network your business more effectively?  As Tom Peters shares in his book The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence in reference to fixing a poorly recorded or worded voice message:

What other little things might you do today to make a big difference in your business?

Networking (just as how you decide to conduct your business on a day-to-day basis) comes down to how well you do the routine, little things well. No, networking is not an activity that simply focuses on memberships in organizations or clubs, and it definitely is not limited to tactics on how to work a room during a cocktail party. Rather it’s focused on daily human interactions—and doing those really really well. In my book Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships in a Hyper-Connected World, I outline what I think networking really is:

Successful networking requires understanding the immense power of regular daily activities to connect with someone else.

These are all networking activities:

  1. Your email signature line
  2. The wording of your out-of-office autoresponder
  3. Your voicemail message
  4. Your profile on a website (including the trade association you’re a member of)
  5. Your headshot
  6. Your invoice
  7. The music that plays when a customer is on hold

 How you present yourself in any of these “networking encounters” is as important as a VIP invitation, a solid handshake or a slick elevator pitch

So the next time you heed the call to “do more networking,” pause and take a look at the ways you’re already connecting to your customers and the greater community that fuels your bottom line. Which activities are amplifying your business reputation and which are dragging you down? A new business card or updated FAQs on your website (or simply keeping a spotless bathroom for customers) may be all the “do more networking” your business needs. As no one has been able to hack more hours in the day, the most effective networking you can do is the activities you’re already undertaking (just better).

A native of Victoria, B.C., now based in New York, Kelly Hoey is a networking expert, business columnist, angel investor, startup mentor and the author of Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships in a Hyper-Connected World.