By Matt Wilson

People are always asking me where my business comes from. I always answer that we have a very diverse stream of business; I have never been one to put all my eggs in one basket. However, my place that my business comes from is my networking group. I really should refer to them as my “networking family”. These are the business owners and salespeople who I entrust to know all about my business and vice versa. Having a great networking group can not only increase your sales (I typically generate about $3-3.5 million in sales from my networking group each year) but also save you money and time. I’ve also found that a networking group can enrich your life through friendships, helping others, and teaching leadership. Here’s what I have found that will help you to get the most of out of your networking group.

1. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Networking with a group takes a lot of time and perseverance. Trusting one another is so important but it takes time. Other members must get to know you, your business, your work ethic, your value proposition and your personality before they may trust their referrals with you. The same way you must invest time to get to know the other members before you can confidently refer them. Fully investing your time and energy in your networking group is the only way to make it work for all the businesses in the group. Thus, sustaining the future and future success of the group.

2. It’s a 2-way street.

Once a relationship, like every relationship, is formed it must be nurtured. It cannot be a one-way street or it will never work. You must share things. Share what works for you and on return you can find out what is working fir them and apply it to your own business. You can share books you have read, ideas from classes you have taken, a process that you learned years ago, or any advice you have acquired through the years. Leads are the most important thing you can share. You MUST find ways to give leads to others in the group and you may have to get creative every once in awhile.

3. Form synergy groups of like businesses.

Synergy is the formation of a whole that is greater than the sum of its individual parts. My networking group all comes from different industries but we can work better as a whole due to our commonalities. For example, I am a realtor and my group consists of a roofer, advertising and marketing agency members, a mortgage banker, insurance agents, an accountant, and many more. We are able to use each other in our businesses as well as refer each other to our clients. When looking for a networking group, be sure to find other business owners or salespeople whose interests, goals, and industries align with your own.

4. Leverage your group!

This investment in the group can also save you time and money as a business owner. Utilize the other members of the group for the services their businesses offer. If I had a client that needed a roof quickly I am confident that the roofer in my networking group would jump through hoops to help me and my client get it done on time. Not only are you giving them business but you are leveraging your time and time is money!

5. Give back together.

Help get your networking group involved in community services. This is the community that supports all your businesses so don’t forget to give back! We get involved in at least 3 different service opportunities each year. Some things we do are local summer school lunch programs, coat drives, food drives, food pantry help, and meals on wheels. Each member must also do a certain number of community service hours; we allow this to be monetary donations if there is limited time or a certain cause we are particularly interested in. It feels good to give back to the community that supports our businesses!

6. Grow as a leader.

Get involved as a leader of your networking group. Be a presenter, practice a sales pitch, learn your value proposition, or teach something you learned or read about. Your group should be a comfortable place to learn and grow as a leader. Ask your group for honest feedback. Lastly, encourage others in your group to lead! These only make you a better business owner and member of the community.

Now go find your networking family and happy networking!