The basic idea behind the topic of network building and maintenance is that it is often easier to achieve benefits or goals together with other people, companies or institutions than alone. For example, if you join forces with other companies to form a purchasing cooperation, you will benefit from better prices and conditions. Those who regularly exchange information with other companies or institutions often find out earlier and/or faster where there are lucrative orders and who exactly needs to be approached, or gain faster access to the latest industry trends.
1. Improved access to information
Anyone who is serious about networking and
- care should be aware of the fact that in many cases, at least in the short term, it is difficult to achieve economically countable successes. On the contrary: it often takes months or even years before you can benefit from a direct recommendation, e. B. in the form of an additional order or when hiring staff. Exceptions apply at most to mergers where one can benefit immediately from lower procurement prices, for example.
Therefore, at the beginning of networking, another aspect should be in the foreground: the exchange of information with other partners. The aim should first be to get to know the partners better and to present one's own achievements and merits to others in order to be remembered there "just in case". There are many opportunities for personal exchange, such as events organized by regional business development agencies, in-house trade fairs, business clubs or regional or local entrepreneurs' get-togethers.
Example: You would like to introduce yourself and your offer and also learn more about other companies in the region. You contact the relevant chamber of commerce and ask for appropriate opportunities. The Chamber recommends membership in the Regional Entrepreneurs' Roundtable. Regular breakfasts are held there and the members present themselves and their range of services in turn. This increases the level of awareness and offers the opportunity to ask about further possibilities of cooperation and to exchange knowledge and experiences.
Practical tip: In business networks on the Internet, such as B. Xing or LinkedIn, there are virtual groups that are composed according to region, industry or other interests. Here, too, the group moderators sometimes invite you to "real" meetings, which - depending on the group - can be compared with business meetings. However, the virtual network has the advantage that you can get an idea of the group participants beforehand and thus prepare more specifically for the meeting (e.g. who am I talking to? Is it worth it, if necessary with one or the other beforehand To get in contact with group participants to discuss details at the meeting?).
Particularly in business networks, training and information events are often held free of charge, for which money would have to be paid elsewhere or which would be less practical. In most cases, all partners are asked to present, for example, field reports and solutions from everyday business or innovations from the industry.
Practical tip: To find out what events are taking place in your own city, you can ask the chamber of commerce, the association, the business development agency or even a business friend. Research on the Internet is almost always worthwhile.
2. Kooperationen sichern monetäre Vorteile
Directly countable successes often result from joining forces with other companies, for example, in order to obtain a higher volume in purchasing and thus the chance of better prices and conditions. Very often, price advantages of at least 10 % compared to the current situation can be achieved together with several buyers. But it is also worth looking for cooperation in other cases, for example in the area of product development or sales, when network partners recommend e.g. qualified development laboratories, good sales representatives or export agents. The recommendations should not only focus on price considerations, but also on the quality of the service.
At a network meeting of industry entrepreneurs in your city, you will find out that many networkers have come together to form a purchasing cooperation. Compared to the listed prices, the cooperation partners receive an average of 20% discount. So far, you could negotiate a maximum of 10% discounts on your orders.
Practical tip: If contracts are required for a cooperation, these should always be checked or drawn up by a lawyer. It is important that all rights and obligations are regulated for each participant in the cooperation, e.g. prices, method of payment, additional costs, if any, for the person who takes over the orders, modalities for complaints and returns.
3. Cooperation leads to better capacity utilization
If you are part of a well-functioning network, this offers the following advantages in particular when the order situation is good:
- It is much easier for them to award contracts or partial tasks to third parties and have them completed than to have to go through the hassle of looking for suitable companies first.
- Conversely, you often receive orders from other network partners and can ensure a consistently high workload by completing smaller jobs.
Example: A tool manufacturer has been working at the limit of capacity for a long time. He does not want to invest in an expansion of the production facilities because he cannot accurately assess the further market development. He therefore assigns peak orders to two companies that are members of the regional business network. Conversely, the company has already received orders from other network partners several times without having to advertise his offer.
Practical tip: This also applies to orders in the network: Contracts should be drawn up and concluded in order to implement the smoothest possible cooperation. The contracts should always be designed in the same way as is otherwise customary with "regular" customers or suppliers.
4. Ten tips on network building and maintenance
If you want to build a good and functioning professional network, you should at least consider the following basic points:
- Create a list of existing and other desired partners.
- Formulate expectations that one has of the partners and enumerate advantages that one can bring in oneself.
- Determine who you want to communicate with and at what intervals (in person, by phone, by e-mail).
- Collect as much information as possible about the partners to tighten the network (e.g., birthday, children, hobbies).
- Check whether the expectations have been met (who was reliable, who less?). Derivation of measures, e.g. intensification of cooperation or loosening.
- But: Avoid a “cost-benefit calculation” according to the motto: “I placed an order with X for a total of € 20,000, but he only gave me an order for € 5,000”.
- Recommendations should only be made if one is sure that the recommended person can meet the expectations. Otherwise, there is a risk that you yourself will also suffer a loss of image.
- Don't make promises that you can't keep. Here, too, there is a risk of damage to the company's image and loss of confidence.
- Don't be too clumsy or direct when making contact. Those who approach a partner only because of possible orders will have little success, because this is quickly seen through.
- Show willingness to help the other network partners as well. Those who are newly accepted into a network should also contribute something first and only then expect something in return.