Strategic Networking: The Ultimate Power Move

July 1, 2024
Building your network in a way that works for you.

When you hear the words “meeting” or “conference,” do you get the urge to jump into the bay, shut your office door, or simply drive away? If so, you may want to stop, because attendance at select meetings and conferences can actually help your business thrive. 

“Look at strategic networking at industry events and conferences as a source that can expose you to best practices in your field and valuable new technologies,” says David Suk Brown, president of DSB Leadership Group, an Austin, Texas-based company that offers leadership training and executive coaching. 

Perhaps best of all, networking gives owners an opportunity to engage with other leaders in their field, so nobody has to make the drive solo. 

Get Out and Talk Shop 

Small shop owners oftentimes make the mistake of trying to operate their quick lube businesses in a silo, Brown observes. 

“There’s this sense of, ‘I’ve got to build the business and grow it, and I don’t have time for networking and meeting other people,’” he notes. 

But when that’s your mindset, you’re missing out on the chance to learn from other leaders, to compare and contrast ideas, share resources, and build friendships and a support network. 

“Networking at industry events gives owners a chance to focus on systems that are working and on repeatable business,” Brown notes. “Maybe you only have time to be a part of one group or organization’s networking event, but it’s worth it.” 

He adds, “In fact, you must network to survive in this day and age.” 

Here are just a few of the areas where a business can get a tune up from its owner’s networking efforts: improved ROI, reliable intelligence on CRM options, for instance, and important referrals that will pay off when you least expect. 

“It’s about meeting the right people, those who can introduce you to people who can help you,” Brown notes. “You might meet the right coach or the right vendor to support your growth.” 

Map Out Your Route to Success 

If an owner wants to reap the benefits of networking, however, they have to do more than simply show up. 

As Brown puts it, “People tend to forget that they have to prepare and plan for success. When I teach conferences and talk about networking, I ask people, ‘What do you want to get?’” 

Maybe you want to meet two-to-three people who will become part of your business network. Or maybe there will be a speaker or a company at a conference that you respect and would like to talk with. Or perhaps you need to figure out what industry trends you’ll need to adapt to in order to be successful. 

Whatever it is, Brown notes, “Set a goal before you go, and it will help you keep on track.” 

What about owners who are introverts? 

“Remember that nine out of 10 people don’t even know you’re nervous,” Brown says from his experience coaching business leaders. 

If you’re more comfortable keeping your hands busy and at work, Brown suggests using simple grounding techniques that can help you feel a bit more in your comfort zone: “Grounding techniques like putting your hands together and doing a light squeeze can remind you you’re here and with other leaders who are looking for the same things as you. Other techniques include incorporating breathing exercises and integrating personalized affirmation statements.” 

He adds, “Most of my clients are introverted, and I also tell them to find a way to decompress after a networking event.” 

Make Community Connections 

Brown says that when he goes into his local pizza shop, he’ll look at the walls to see if they’re supporting the community, such as their schools or the little league. 

“It makes you feel like they care,” he says of businesses in his Texas community who display what they’re doing in the community. “You have to engage with the community and show you care enough to help them do well—and then you’ll do well, too. It’s brand awareness, and it generates word-of-mouth and referrals.” 

Remember, he says, “Reputation takes a lifetime to build and only a moment to destroy.” 

Within a shop owner’s local community, attendance at local chamber of commerce meetings may become part of the smartest strategic networking efforts. 

“You can’t be at every event, of course, but you have to go into the ones you can with a plan,” Brown reminds. “What’s the ROI you want to see? Who do you need to meet? Plan it from the very start.” 

Enjoy the Ride 

Ultimately, the effort shop owners put toward networking will help them grow their businesses and themselves as leaders. And this can only lead toward success. 

“At the end of the day, you’ll get fresh perspectives—and you’ll make allies,” Brown reminds. “You’ll stay ahead of the market if you invest in networking.” 

About the Author

Carol Badaracco Padgett

Carol Badaracco Padgett is an Atlanta-based writer and NOLN freelance contributor who covers the automotive industry, film and television, architectural design, and other topics for media outlets nationwide. A FOLIO: Eddie Award-winning editor, writer, and copywriter, she is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and holds a Master of Arts in communication from Mizzou’s College of Arts & Science. 

Courtesy of Aleisha Hendricks
Illustration 158502469 © Mykola Nisolovskyi |
Photo 159601790 © Andrii Yalanskyi |