Networking concept image - Growing your business concept

Small Business: The benefits of networking

Networking concept image - Growing your business concept

It’s not what you know but who you know – networking is a tried and tested method to grow your business but are you making the most of it?

Networking, a form of marketing, is about interacting with like-minded individuals and finding mutually beneficial opportunities. In this article, our small business accountants in London share great networking tips to help you get the most out of it.

Key benefits of networking

It is worth mentioning that networking is not a sales opportunity. At its core, networking is about building long-term relationships with minimal cost to your business. From these meaningful relationships, you and your networking friends benefit one another in the following ways:

  • Shared knowledge – networking allows you to share and learn. Through valuable information comes fresh ideas that can help you in many business areas.
  • Opportunities – the most common result of networking is business opportunities. These can range from getting new partners, customers, suppliers to finding investors.
  • Raised profile – the more you are out there sharing and learning, the more chances you have to build your reputation, which can lead to more business opportunities.
  • Increased confidence – when you push yourself talking to people you don’t know, you are building useful social skills and gaining self-confidence in the process, and these attributes are vital to a small business owner.

Where do you network?

Traditionally, networking has been performed face-to-face at corporate events, social events, or networking events. Even in this digital age, the tradition has endured. Many small business owners we speak to find that face-to-face networking is still essential when it comes to getting to know other like-minded entrepreneurs and fostering relationships with them.

In London, there are thousands of networking events available, most of them target small business owners. They are also demographic-specific or location-specific groups, such as a group dedicated to professional women working in Central London.

With the advances of the internet, you can also network online through popular sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. LinkedIn is particularly useful as you can connect with an individual or join a group that interests you. As it is online, you can now build connections that transcend boundaries.

Top eight networking tips

Before you go to a networking session, it is worth taking a minute to prepare yourself. Here are eight good tips which we have gathered from successful small business owners across London and some of them may be useful to you.

1. Researching the event before you go

Not all networking events are created equal. When you are invited to attend a networking event as a guest, find out more about the event first, like who are the people attending, how long does it take, and what is the format. Check with your host if you will be given time to talk about your business to the whole group.

2. Arriving early

If you are going to a new networking group, arrive early as it gives you time to relax and prepare. Get chatting with a few other early birds is a good way of easing into a larger group as more people turn up.

3. Talking about your business

Have a clear message about what you do and why you are different, and you must deliver it smoothly and confidently. If time permits, you can illustrate the problems your business is helping to solve by telling a story or sharing an experience from your customer.

4. It’s about relationships

Networking is about building relationships, and every relationship takes time to foster and requires a good amount of trust and respect to sustain. Networking is also about giving and taking – so get ready to share what you know or even offer to help without expectation.

5. Finding the ideal partners

When you network, keep a lookout for people who know more than you, as well as people with strong networks. These are the people who can really make a difference in your business when they decide to help (usually after you have gained their trust and respect).

6. Be positive and professional

Remain positive and professional. Listen attentively and treat everyone with respect – you never know how they might help you now or where they might end up in the future.

7. Following up

Once the event is over, follow up by sending an email to the people you have had a discussion with or connecting with them through LinkedIn. You may keep in regular contact but avoid spamming their mailboxes.

8. Knowing what to avoid

Smart small business owners know how to avoid things that put them in a bad light. Things to avoid are:

  • Don’t be an aggressive person doing a hard sell.
  • Avoid political or controversial subjects.
  • Avoid probing for sensitive information.
  • Avoid glancing around the room when someone is talking to you.
  • Don’t drink excessively, if alcohol is available.
  • Make sure that your hands are clean (if you’ve picked up greasy finger food) before shaking someone’s hand.

Useful phrases

If you aren’t a seasoned marketer or sales person, you may find it hard to start a conversation with a stranger whom you have just met. Many of our clients, who are small business owners across London, have shared the fear of walking into a roomful of strangers and finding themselves tongue-tied. Thankfully, networking skills can be learnt and here a few useful phrases to help you breeze through any networking event.

When you break into a group conversation: “May I join you?” or “Do you mind if I join you?”

Good openers: “What kind of business are you in?”, “What brought you here today?” or “This is my first time here, is there something I shouldn’t miss?”

If the person has mentioned what they do: “What goals do you have for your business?” or “What does the future hold for your industry?”

If you want to exit the group: “Excuse me, my mouth is dry so I’m going to go to the bar and get a drink,” or “Excuse me, do you know if someone here who is in (industry)?”

The key, according to experts, is to show interest in the person you are talking to. Also, don’t forget to smile.

Business growth advice from Tax Agility

Almost all articles about business growth on the internet mention how networking can help a business expand and grow. While it is true that networking helps, it isn’t a silver bullet and there are other factors at play here. For instance, business growth also relies on strong finances and cash flow, having a reliable supply chain, knowing how to manage business relationships, hiring the right type of employees, providing outstanding customer service, becoming tax-efficient, to name but a few.

At Tax Agility, we are small business accountants dedicated to helping entrepreneurs in London, Putney and Richmond-upon-Thames. Specially, we thrive at analysing financial information and using financial data to identify opportunities for our clients. We have helped many of our clients grow from one idea into the companies they are today. If this is what you are after, give our ICAEW chartered accountants a call on 020 8108 0090.

Accounting and tax services from Tax Agility

The main services we provide to small businesses include:

Management consultancy from our chartered accountants is essential if you have an eye on business growth. Management consultancy is about using financial data, accurate budget, as well as forecasts, to unlock business potential. We strongly believe that once you start to use data-led information to make a series of good business decisions, you will soon discover that the good decisions feed a positive cycle that will yield more favourable results, including increased profits and business growth.

At Tax Agility, our small business accountants are also experienced management consultants. We look to build long-term relationships with you because we believe in growing together – if you grow, we grow too.

For honest, expert advice on how strong finances and cash flow can help your business better and more profitable, give us a call on
020 8108 0090.

Alternatively, you can use the contact us form to get in touch.

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This blog is a general summary. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstance.

Business planning advice with Tax Agility

Small business: The benefits of long-term planning

Business planning

You build a business for the long haul, so it is vital to have a long-term plan that extends five years into the future.

Broadly speaking, all business plans can be categorised into short-term, mid-term and long-term.

Short-term plans focus on immediate concerns and opportunities. For example, you may run a clearance sale to reduce excess stock in a given quarter.

Mid-term plans look at solutions to address both short to mid-term challenges. For example, if fraud is an ever-increasing threat to your business, you are likely to establish stringent internal control, invest in staff training and prevention tools as part of the continued efforts to keep your company safe.

Long-term planning for small businesses, on the other hand, looks at the business strategically and your ambitions for the business. The plans can range from what value you want the company to worth after five years, how the business can be diversified, to who is going to take over and run the company in the future.

In this article, our small business accountants in London look at a few long-term plans that can benefit small business owners and their companies.

Business growth planning

Every business exists to make money, but how much you want to grow and how you can achieve the target set largely depend on what long-term plans you have to fuel that growth.

There are several ways to grow a business, including:

  • Raise more capital – you borrow money to boost resources, leading to an increase in production or offer more services to your customers.
  • Sell online and internationally – the concept here is to grow by selling more products/services to people without the constraint of physical boundaries. For example, you turn your website into a shopfront and run campaign that reaches a large pool of international customers.
  • Franchise – you become a franchisor, attracting franchisees to sell your products or services throughout the country or even internationally.
  • Innovate – you improve or create a new product or service, or you find a new way of integrating technology to disrupt the market.
  • Merger and acquisition – you merge with or acquire another business.

One of the tools that small business owners use to identify growth opportunities is through the use of management accounts, which should be sent by your accountants to you every month. If you’d like help with management accounts, like how you can use the data to your advantage, contact our small business accountants on 020 8108 0090.

Business skills planning

Considering that the business landscape is regularly shaped by global events and new consumer trends are being developed over time, many small business owners know that they can’t afford to stay complacent. Accordingly, they need a strategy to respond, transform, innovate or even to reinvent themselves.

Implementing any strategy that can put your business ahead of the game is likely to require solid business skills planning. This process starts with developing a clear vision of what the business needs to thrive in the future, before identifying the skills that are required to achieve that.

Subsequently, you can choose to develop the new skills or capabilities in house, acquire through new talent or partner with another company which have the skills that you lack.

Long-term debt planning

If you look to grow your business rapidly, chances are you need extra capital from a bank or a group of investors. If it involves a bank loan secured against an asset, it is called debt financing. In this case, it is vital to know to plan and see how your business can generate extra income to pay off the debt.

If it involves investors, they may offer debt financing or equity financing. Equity financing means investors ask for a percentage of ownership in exchange for the money your company requires.

Talk to our small business accountants based in London, Putney and Richmond-upon-Thames if you are considering extra capital. We can help to make sure your company accounts are accurate, something that the bank or investors will look to scrutinise before lending you money.

You may also like to read this article Small Business: How to attract investors in which we share good tips.

Succession planning

Knowing that everyone retires at some point, smart small business owners would kick-start a succession plan once the business has achieved financial stability. This is because a succession plan can help to ensure that the company you’ve taken years to build will continue to operate with minimum disruption should something happen to you.

More importantly, it takes years to prepare and train potential successors – some of them may even choose to leave halfway through the training.

Exit planning

If you have no intention to find a successor, then a good alternative is to sell your business. The best time to sell your business is when the sales and profits are strong – ironically, this is also the period when most small business owners find it hard to let go. Having a plan, however, may help you to detach yourself as it is now your goal is to sell when the time comes.

Other types of long-term planning

Not all long-term goals focus on profitability or exit strategy. Some highly refreshing long-term goals focus on the environment like how to create a workplace that has little or no carbon footprint. It may also focus on the company culture, such as fostering a culture that promotes trust and honesty.

5 long-term planning tips

Long-term planning is undoubtedly beneficial but not every small business owner is ready to embrace it. One of the reasons, we have found from talking to seasoned entrepreneurs, is that some people find the prospect daunting. Also, long-term planning may not work for certain industries who need to adapt very quickly to changing consumer trends.

But if you are keen to give long-term planning a go, you may find the following five tips help the process.

1. Organise into stages

One of the ways to make long-term strategies less daunting is to break them into stages, with each stage having its own mini goal(s) and detailing tasks needed to achieve the said goal(s). Having a timeframe for each task and who should be responsible for it are also vital.

2. Involve everyone when necessary

If the long-term plan is about where the company is heading in five years’ time, then it makes sense to involve every team member. Hear their concerns, discuss any disagreements, use feedback to fine-tune your plan.

3. Acknowledge the unknown

You can plan but you can’t accurately predict the future. Both good and bad things may happen to your business along the way – like nature may throw you a curveball, the rise of the middle class in developing countries may create tremendous opportunities for you, market may swing to a territory that is at odds with your plan at a certain point, to name but a few. This is why it is essential to make use of the scenario planning technique when you are creating long-term plans.

4. Review and fine-tune

A good plan isn’t carved in stone nor sits on the shelf collecting dust. A good plan is regularly reviewed and fine-tuned to make sure that you are adapting. Quite a few small business owners find this part challenging as they juggle with an endless list of tasks daily. The key, of course, is to delegate and engage at the right level.

5. Stay positive

As a leader, you already know that things don’t always go your way. Learning to accept setbacks and focusing on finding solutions will strengthen your leadership skill. So stay positive by keeping your eyes on the ultimate goal.

Small business owners trust Tax Agility

Running a small business takes courage and determination. Successful small business owners also know they need an honest partner like Tax Agility who can work cohesively with them and help to take the business to the next level.

Our services to small businesses in London, Putney and Richmond-upon-Thames include:

Management consultancy is an area often overlooked and must be given airtime here. In essence, it is about helping small business owners like you to unlock business potential based on financial data, accurate budget and forecasts.

At Tax Agility, our small business accountants are also experienced management consultants. We seek to understand your business and your aspirations first. After getting a good grip on your business, we strive to deliver the following three key benefits to your business:

  • How you can reign in financial control by having accurate data
  • How you can make informed decisions that spur growth
  • How the numbers can help you to review, measure and optimise

If the benefits listed above are what you are looking for, then it is time to give our ICAEW Chartered Accountants a call on 020 8108 0090.

Alternatively, you can use the contact us form to get in touch.

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This blog is a general summary. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstance.