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By Bill Snow, Owner, Rad Air Complete Car Car and Tire Centers in Wickliffe

As a small business owner it can be tough to do it all.  You are always juggling to keep employees happy, keep customers happy, pay the bills, network, grow the business, handle the day to day.  It’s tough, right?

I’ve owned my business for almost five years and early on found it tough to make time for some important items that I needed to be involved, mainly networking.  How can I open the shop, get the day ready and still attend a breakfast networking event?  There would be many times that I thought it wouldn’t work and would bail on the event.  Excuses like we are too busy or only I can manage this particular client became very easy to say.

After I attended one of our membership lunches I realized that I was missing out on many business opportunities and valuable networking by not attending more chamber events.  When I got back to the shop after that lunch I also realized that the shop was still standing, cars were getting worked on and my team didn’t skip a beat.

Here are the steps that I take to make networking events a priority:

  1. Schedule.  Each month I look at the chamber’s website and review the events that are scheduled.  I choose the one to two that I want to attend, register, pay on-line and then schedule them in our shop calendar.
  2. Communicate.  I advise my team of the days and times that I will be away and let them know that they need to cover for me.  This also helps them hold me accountable.  Yes, there’s been times when they’ve said, “Don’t you have a lunch today?  You better get going.”  Awesome!
  3. Plan. As we schedule our client’s appointments I pay attention to the times when I’ll be out of the shop and plan accordingly.  I make sure that I won’t overwhelm the team with appointments while I am out.  This way, they don’t feel stressed and our client’s still see everything running smoothly.
  4. Invite.  I will commonly share the chamber events that I am attending on my social media channels.  I’ve noticed that if I share the event now my friends know that I will be there and perhaps they will attend as well.  Sometimes friends will hold me accountable with a text…”C U 2nite”.  Plus more people equals better networking and having a few familiar faces in the crowd is always nice.
  5. Attend. Networking only works if you attend and participate.  Follow through with your commitment.  You’ve told your team and your friends that you were focused on growing your business – so go and grow your business!  If you bail, what does that say about your commitment to your business and your customers?

Whether you are a business owner or an employee charged with growing sales and promoting the brand, making networking a priority is easy to do when you follow these five, easy steps.

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