The subject of whether networking is an effective business development strategy comes up regularly in conversations with business people. I enjoyed reading a couple of articles from Andy Lopata and Warren Cass on the subject last week.
Both Andy in 'Why the Entrepreneurs' Champion could lead them to disaster' and Warren in 'Online Spats… Handbags at Dawn!' were responding to a column in the Telegraph from Lord Sugar and the discussion and comment it provoked.
It was the following comment from Sugar that caused most controversy, "I am sick and tired of hearing people asking what to do, going to networking meetings and seminars expecting to glean some gems of wisdom. These events are money-making exercises and benefit one party and one party only: the organiser. They have become an escape for people to justify sitting around wasting a day bullshitting with each other while they should be working. You will learn nothing other than that there are another load of people in the same boat as you."
The idea that all networking events are for the benefit of the organisers only is patent nonsense. That is just as silly as claiming that any business is only for the benefit of its owners. A good business succeeds when it provides great value to its customers. There are plenty of networking organisations that succeed because they put the interests of their members first.
Where many people fail to make networking productive is they seem to believe the activity of attending networking events is all that is required. The people who make networking really work have people advocating them when they are not there. They get a constant flow of business, support and opportunities through these 'Advocates'. Like anything worthwhile, networking takes time and application. You need to be committed to investing the time to develop relationships and create a network of advocates.
That means more than just attending events.