Business Networking

Business Networking is as old as guanxi, and as new as LinkedIn. Wikipedia defines Business Networking as “a socio-economic activity by which groups of like-minded businesspeople recognise, create and act upon business opportunities”, and remarks that “a business network is a type of social network that exists for the development of business activity”. So, 180 million LinkedIn, Viadeo and XING members, a similar number of guanxi practitioners, and many more millions networking, rubbing shoulders and schmoozing in various traditional and modern ways are all pursuing the same goal of building business through connections.

In a modern society, where most economic activity is the sale and delivery of imprecisely differentiated services, the purchase decision often comes down to trust, which is in turn gained from a trusted referee or from a network connection. So, a networker seeking business opportunities, jobs, referral sources or alliances aims to build profile, credibility, empathy and trust through the networking process. Many networking organizations exist to fulfil this purpose, generally wrapping a continuous learning or community service dimension to the base activity – the Chamber of Commerce is a well-known example.

For generations of businesspeople, their main networking activity has been that of participating in voluntary associations in what is now termed the Third Sector (outside the Market and the State). Working for a voluntary organization benefits the whole of society as well as the particular charity, institute, school, club, lodge or church; and enables the volunteer to contribute in an altruistic way to the group’s goals without seeking personal profit. Through working genuinely and effectively for the association, the volunteer can demonstrate his/her calibre and character, and thereby impress fellow members. The social capital formed in this way is of a depth, longevity, sincerity and quality that the online networks cannot match. Conversely, online technology delivers reach and publicity without embarrassment or effort. My reading and observation suggests that most service providers and professionals are pro-active in numerous networking activities, associations and groups.

So, which method, if judged alone, achieves the best results? The researchers say ”That depends!” The more intimate, crucial or central the service required, the more necessary it is for the purchaser to meet the provider face-to-face and frequently, and to conduct an informal but extensive interview / due diligence. So, the provider of governance, legal, strategy, business improvement, architectural, medical, investment banking, IT systems, personal coaching, or counselling services (etc.) will probably do best by focusing on the traditional face-to-face route, supplemented by an attractive informative website and database marketing. (Since my offered services are of this nature, I have after three years withdrawn from LinkedIn registration.)

This famous whakatauki tells us the secret of success……….

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!