Business Sense: Networking for entrepreneurs is essential

Brad Crowson regional manager for WESST, a nonprofit small-business development and training organization dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs in Rio Rancho and throughout New Mexico

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Human connection and building strong relationships are certainly important and rewarding aspects of our everyday lives.

Whether we’re interacting with family, friends, customers, co-workers or even a stranger at the grocery store, these opportunities for social connection are of vital importance in how we feel about ourselves, our communities and the world around us.

For entrepreneurs, networking can have a huge impact on their eventual success or failure in business. In fact, it is virtually impossible to become a successful small-business owner without this essential skill.

The information shared through personal and professional networks is extremely important, especially for new entrepreneurs, and these networks are often great sources for acquiring first customers. Strong personal and professional relationships can eventually prove to be extremely helpful as long-term sources for new customers and business growth, as well.

Existing customer referrals are excellent sources for finding new contacts that will help you grow your business and are typically the most efficient path to sales growth. Along with repeat sales to existing customers, referral sales are clearly the most cost-effective path to organic business growth, and both are preferable to the marketing and advertising costs associated with locating and selling to first-timers.

Networking is essential for entrepreneurs because it is often through this activity that customers are acquired in the first place. However, a network is not only about the bottom line.

Another important aspect of networking occurs on a personal level when we meet people and build long-term relationships that extend beyond business activities. Networking is a great opportunity to meet many friendly, creative, enthusiastic and like-minded people who we would enjoy spending time with.

This is especially true among the entrepreneur network itself, and this alone makes it worthwhile to discover new networking opportunities now and in the future.

So, where do I start?

Created and frequently updated by Stacy Sacco, director of the Small Business Institute at the University of New Mexico, the following website is an outstanding resource that includes a number of lists detailing the professional and community organizations and opportunities available statewide for entrepreneurs and other professionals: nmnetlinks.com.

In Rio Rancho and Sandoval County, the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce provides many networking opportunities and events, such as Area Business Celebrations, Business After Hours events, the Visionaries group for young professionals, the Ambassadors group, Leadership Sandoval County and the upcoming Rio Rancho Shop & Stroll Street Party scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 21.

See the chamber website for more details: rrrcc.org.

As an integral element of the sales process, time invested in networking and cultivating strong personal and professional relationships is always time well spent.

(Brad Crowson is the regional manager for WESST, a nonprofit small-business development and training organization dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs in Rio Rancho and throughout New Mexico. For more information, visit wesst.org or call 892-1238.)

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