Like so many other words in our rapidly reinvented language, networking isn’t a word, or at least network isn’t a verb. But it is hard to imagine a more important single word in the business universe, certainly in the franchising world.
Franchising is a business development model. And business development has to happen from the ground up for it to be successful. You can buy all the advertising you want, but you are only a voice in the wilderness if you have not built a network of reliable contacts to help you locate sources of product, vendors, employees, distributors and ultimately customers.
I belong to an organization called BNI, which is, ironically, a franchise. Attorneys historicaly are loathe to network. For many years we were subject to rigid restrictions in terms of advertising and promoting our services, so networking in the broadest sense was not even an option. But those requirements have been loosened by the powers that be. The slowing of the economy in recent years and a glut of attorneys in the marketplace have made self-promotion a necessity. So it came to be that this writer decided not too long ago to investigate networking groups. BNI as a platform was suggested to me by another attorney who had joined a group downtown. My group meets Tuesday mornings at 7 midtown.
The group has been very helpful to me for a number of reasons that are not relevant to this blog. What should be of interest to the readership of this blog is one side of networking that I had been ignorant of until recently. I had thought of networking groups as places to promote one’s services and hopefully find clients. But my BNI group has proven even more useful as a resource for compatible business services. The group is comprised of individuals active in a wide variety of professions and industries: insurance, business consulting, business promotion, websites and internet, design and marketing, architecture, financial planning, estate planning and business succession planning, real estate brokerage, attorneys, printing, construction, mortgage brokers, moving and storage, title insurance, payroll, accountant, engineers. These individuals offer a rich array of resources to my clients and to any prospective businessperson who is looking to advance the development of a business.
From a franchising point of view, the connection works in two ways. For the franchisee, whether a prospective first time single unit owner or an operator of multiple units, a BNI or similar group offers access to individuals active in many fields that a start-up business would find invaluable – accounting and marketing, to name just two obvious ones. From the perspective of a developing franchisor, those basic services are invaluable, but in addition there are business consultants, attorneys and real estate based professionals to advise on location and construction of sites, plus numerous other experts in promotion, design, marketing, branding, sales and delivery.
Those active in the franchising field, both franchisees and franchisors, too often limit themselves to marketing activities that have the word “franchising” in front of it. But if you’re involved in franchising you are primarily a business person and the resources to be found through one of these networking groups could prove invaluable as you develop your venture. Think about it.