Networking and B&B’s in Kwa-Zulu Natal
by Emma Jacobs
B&B Owners are usually “social butterflies” by nature, so one would think that networking comes naturally to us. This is not necessarily the case. Networking like Hospitality, is an Art.
In this blog, I shall focus on real-life networking as opposed to digital networking.
- How do I find Networking groups to join? Believe in the power of Google. Ask your successful entrepreneur friends if they belong to any organisations that they would recommend. Once you start attending a networking session, ask your new connections if there are any they would recommend. You can go Industry-specific or more general.
- How do I know which one is right for me? The best way is to try. Most organisations allow visitors to attend as non-members for a couple of visits. Keep going until you find a good fit. In Durban and surrounds there are BNI Chapters, The Business Women’s Association (BWA), KZN Women in Business, the Durban and Pietermaritzburg Chambers of Commerce, the Umhlanga Women’s Achievers, to name just a few. If you are in the Accommodation industry, try the National Accommodation Association (NAA), your Community Tourism Organisation (e.g. DWCTO), your local B&B Association etc.
- How do I know if it is working? Networking is not a magic wand. It takes time for you to get to know people, for others to start noticing you and your business, and for business to start coming your way. You must work it.
- What are the other benefits to belonging to such an organisation?
- It’s not always just about networking. Being a B&B owner can be a lonely job once your breakfast guests have left, so networking with other one-man / one-woman business owners can be extremely beneficial, even inspirational. It helps us to focus on working on our business, rather than just the day-to-day operational functions we need to do.
- You raise your profile and your business’ name
- You make new friends, and build supportive relationships. You don’t feel so alone.
- You listen to guest speakers who often can share their lessons.
- What about Leadership roles within these networking organisations? Especially for people who have come from a Corporate background, and those who would like to “give back”, volunteering as a Committee member is a rewarding way of growing your scope and raising your profile, while doing a useful job. Remember that your business is still your key focus.
- Is there a way to make my organisation stand out? Yes of course! Some networking groups allow expo tables, gift sponsors, raffle sponsorships, guest speakers, and so many other ways to stand out. Many networking groups support local charities. This too is a very rewarding way of giving back and building your contact base.
- Is there something that we really should not do when networking? Don’t spam contact lists! Networking takes time and you will do more damage if you send unsolicited emails without the recipient’s permission.
- What are some of the basics of making new contacts? Always try and sit next to someone new. We so often want to sit with someone familiar, within our comfort zone. Then you might as well go for coffee. Networking is about widening your sphere of influence. Suck it up buttercup and go and introduce yourself to someone new! Make sure you leave your function knowing the names of everyone who sat at your table. Give them each a business card.
- How do I take the networking beyond the meeting? If you find a contact whom you believe you can have a mutually beneficial relationship with, then arrange for a follow-up. I for example, love to invite Trainers or Coaches for a Tea & a Tour of Westville B&B. Not only do they get to see our beautiful establishment, but it allows us to further bond and build a relationship. If you focus on this, the sales will automatically come, even if it is through a referral from that person to someone else.
- Networking is about consistency: I belong to KZNWIB and I make a point of having Member News at every single meeting. I love to let people know if we have won another award, if we are celebrating 14 years in business, or if I have had a special personal triumph. Every time my news is announced, my name and Westville B&B are mentioned. Another opportunity to shine. I attend almost every single meeting and my committee-member status also makes me visible. Consistently attend, consistently shine, and you will be remembered!
Happy Networking everyone!