Despite the word having gained so much prominence in the modern world, entrepreneurship is still a lonely journey for most. Most of the people in our immediate social circles are either already employees or aggressively looking for jobs. It is therefore unsurprising that most active and aspiring business people are always eagerly looking for similar minded people; not just for support, advice and mentorship but also for connections which can be turned into paying customers or business partnerships.
There are many places where entrepreneurial individuals can meet others of their kind. These range from the obvious and commonsensical to others that are much less so. Networking, as the practice is affectionately known, may at times elude some of the people who need it the most, so in this piece, I am going to list some of the places where entrepreneurs can make these beneficial connections.
Whatever your opinion of this sport, it has become the game that most professionals and the affluent bond over (probably because it is one of the least physically exerting outdoor sports). Learning the sport and joining one of your local golfing clubs can prove to be a boon for your business or career. You will probably meet some of the most influential people in your town or city at your local golf courses.
Golf is not the only sporting activity that can help your networking activities along. There are various sports leagues that may exist in your town, city or workplace which you can be part of. While most sports leagues in towns and cities are usually semiprofessional and predominantly filled with younger people, there may be some that exist solely for the purpose of letting otherwise busy people blow off steam during weekends.
Other sporting activities which may allow you to meet new people include the competitive darts and pool games that are held in some bars.
Conferences and dinners
Every week there are dozens of conferences across the country that attract the kind of people that you may wish to associate with. These range from trade conferences to ones specifically organized to facilitate networking among attendants.
Several organizations have also been known to organize fundraising dinners for various charity efforts. This usually means that everything from that evening will be grossly overpriced, from the bottled water to the entrance fee. If you can, however, afford a table at these, you should definitely try to attend. You can make very valuable connections at these events. Individuals from both the public and private sector are usually in attendance.
Gyms located in city centres (particularly exclusive ones) attract people who can afford to simultaneously gain weight and pay for a gym membership to get rid of it – in other words the people most likely to be invaluable mentors and potential clients. Obviously the best of these gyms are those which are regularly attended by health-conscious people instead of just bodybuilders.
A significant number of entrepreneurs come from various professional backgrounds. If your profession has any associations, you can use these to your advantage. By joining and actively participating in these professional associations you can build mutually beneficial relationships with your peers.
People in your profession will usually come from different organizations and will have wide ranges of invaluable experience, sometimes spanning multiple industries. These people can also help you gain access to their respective organizations and their decision-makers should you ever require this in the future.
Professional development and other educational programs
By making an effort to further your education you will meet others who are doing the same. If you have joined a continuous development program you will meet others in a profession similar to yours. As discussed above, these people usually have knowledge and experience gained from various organizations. The mistake that many entrepreneurs make is underestimating the amount of help and advice which can be offered by their still employed peers.
You can also enrol in other educational programs, courses and seminars which are more likely to put you in the midst of fellow entrepreneurs.
Bars and other drinking spots
Drinking is a very common and popular activity in Zimbabwe and drinking spots come in many forms, with many of them not possessing the most stellar of reputations. However, because of the large number of people who drink, you are more likely to find spots where the people you are most likely to want to network with are regulars. Drinking is inherently a social activity which means people are usually at their most accommodating. Try to visit places which are more discerning in their clientele (snobbish, some might say). Of course, this entry in no way encourages nondrinkers to go into these establishments.
Nowadays churches are more than just places of worship. Churchgoing is not just a religious activity but has also become a social one for some. You can, therefore, use your own church as a place of networking. Some churches specifically encourage and foster business activities among their congregants. Econet is one of the companies whose founder has acknowledged that some of the early investment came from fellow church members. In no way am I encouraging anyone to exploit religion for profit.
Remember that it is very important that in your endeavours to grow your network that you try to stick to activities that interest you and which you are more likely to enjoy. Do not take up an activity for the sole purpose of meeting people for business. Not only will everyone see right through you but you may also come across as a stalker.