The term “networking” gets a bad rap. It conjures up images of sad events with dry canapes and cheap wine and making small talk with some guy who is desperately trying to sell you something you don’t want. Spoiler alert: that is not what networking is—and if you’re avoiding networking because that’s been your experience of it, then you could be doing yourself a massive disservice.
In this article, we’ll look at what networking is, what it looks like in the automotive aftermarket in Australia and New Zealand (including how we approach it at Capricorn) and how getting involved can help you solve your business problems and supercharge your success.
What is networking?
Any time you’re having a conversation with someone, in person or online, where you exchange information about your business, you’re networking. This is true whether you mean to do business with the other person or not, and whether you’re in a formal or informal setting. When you meet other technicians at a training day and swap advice on tools or techniques, that’s networking. When you chat to other workshop owners at a Capricorn Gala and compare your struggles finding qualified staff, that’s networking. When you meet a stranger at a barbecue and they tell you all about their business building websites and you ask their advice while you’re turning over the sausages, that’s networking.
Any time you’re exchanging ideas and information with anyone who shares a common profession or special interest— whether they’re more experienced, less experienced, have something to sell or not—that is networking. You’re making a connection with someone who, whether it’s obvious at the time or not, might one day turn out to be someone who is really useful to know. The important thing is, you’re making a connection with someone you feel you can trust
Why is networking important?
Networking is about forging mutually beneficial relationships. While that can be about generating income, it certainly doesn’t have to be. It can just be about having a mate who understands what you’re going through, someone who you can call in a crisis.
When you expand your network of people in your field, or with whom you share common interests, you’re expanding your ability to solve any problem that emerges. Here are three ways networking truly matters in business.
Networking builds your reputation
Whether it’s in your local community (for example, your local Lions Club, footy club or Chamber of Commerce) or within the automotive industry itself, becoming known by people is the best way to build your reputation. If they see you being active, supportive and reliable, or generously sharing your expertise with others—whatever it might be—you will begin to be seen as a leader. That can open up opportunities for you and your business. The keys to a good reputation are to be a good listener, and to offer help and support when you can, however you can. It’s through building a good reputation that amazing opportunities arise.
Networking strengthens your support network
No matter how great you are as a technician or a business owner, at some point you’re going to hit a problem you need help with—whether that’s a tricky diagnostics problem with a customer’s car or a difficult predicament in your personal life. Who do you turn to in that moment? Having a network of people who understand what you’re going through, who’ve maybe been there, done that, can be crucial to you successfully navigating the same waters. It certainly can’t hurt, right? Everyone wants a champion in their corner.
Networking helps grow your business
There are a myriad of ways networking can help you grow your business. Getting involved in your community raises awareness of your business, which can lead to more customers through the door. It can be as simple as that. But, having a network that includes operators you respect, admire and can lean on for advice can lead to you having insights and knowledge that will put you ahead of your competitors and improve your service and help you make investment decisions, seize opportunities, boost your bottom line, or grow your business.
How we approach networking at Capricorn
At Capricorn, we believe that we’re stronger together. We understand that many Members are operating small businesses where, day-to-day, they feel isolated from other workshop owners and colleagues. It’s one reason we provide opportunities like our Galas and Conventions for Members to get away from the workshop and get together. We have found at our Escapades, for example, that many Members like to take advantage of the welcome and farewell functions on the first and last nights as an opportunity to chat with like-minded people. It’s a time to meet other Members who know what they’re going through and understand the issues. Great friendships are forged at these events—and no one feels like anyone is putting on the hard sell!
When Capricorn hosts our Gala Dinners, Trade Shows and our Regional Member Nights, we like to think we’re helping foster our community of Members. We’re bringing people together who have shared interests, with no expectations of anything more than having a good night. Whether you think of it as networking is up to you, but we know the benefits of the relationships forged at these events are huge.
If you’re keen to come along to a Capricorn event, you can grab your tickets through the events section on myCAP. We look forward to seeing you there. Visit cap.coop/events