The New York Area’s Noteworthy Networks

In my years of running a small business, I’ve found that the contacts I have made have been indispensable in several ways. Networking contacts have led to my introduction to qualified prospects, and some of those have become long-time advertisers. I’ve identified several talented writers who have contributed to the magazine and gotten valuable feedback on our product from readers who happen to be in my networking group. And on a more human level, I’ve benefited from the informal advice and counsel of several other small business owners whom I’ve come to know through networking.

Networking is a form of marketing, and compared to other forms of marketing (such as advertising, direct mail and telemarketing), networking will cost less money but will take up more time. It isn’t just the time spent at the networking meetings, but the time spent with individuals in your networking group and following up. 

It’s important to approach networking the right way. Below are several tips for achieving success in personal networking.

Build relationships

Don’t go to a meeting expecting to make a sale.

Be sure to choose the right group

Attend as a guest first. Make sure that you like the other people in the room, that you can make introductions for them, that you’re confident that the members have relationships with the people you want to do business with, and that you feel comfortable that they will make introductions for you.

Make a commitment

It takes time to realize the benefits from networking because you have to first build a relationship with someone so you can really get to know how you can help them and explain to them how they can help you. In fact, it will often be only at the second or third meeting that you will really have an understanding of each other. This process cannot be rushed.

Build social capital

If you make introductions for others first, they will try much harder to do the same for you.

Make solid introductions

Make an introduction only when you really think there is potential for both sides to benefit. When you do introduce people, make it meaningful by providing information to each party that will lend perspective and context. Insist on the same when others are trying to help you.

Make it fun

Networking will often require either getting up early, skipping lunch with your friends or coming home late. If you don’t enjoy it, you will be miserable.

Don’t overdo it

If you become involved in too many groups, you will find it difficult to make introductions for others.

Finding the group that’s right for you involves taking stock of what you want from a networking group and what you can bring to the group, looking into what different groups have to offer and attending a gathering or two as a guest to meet members. There are two large categories of networking groups we have not included here. Space doesn’t permit us to list the networking programs and events offered by various chambers of commerce in the New York metropolitan area; look for coverage on those opportunities in a future issue. Peer-to-peer advisory groups were also excluded from this survey; they can be valuable but are useful for different purposes than classic networking groups.