By Sophie Burnett, PA Business Support

Networking… one of the things I was most concerned about when I founded PA Business Support , a virtual business and lifestyle service in April 2010. As a young woman in business I found it daunting — walking into a room at such a young age. However you slowly realise that once you’ve overcome the fear of meeting new people in a business environment it’s a great opportunity to meet different businesses and people.

At 26 I felt a little out of my depth — I would worry why the people in the room would want to talk to someone who didn’t necessarily have as much life experience as them or who wouldn’t know the market well enough. I have taught myself that this isn’t the case. Each and every one of us is a master in their craft, so no one knew my business like I did. I knew I could help other businesses and individuals; I just needed to make sure I was confident enough to show that.

My first networking event was painful to say the least. I knew one person in the room and wasn’t prepared for my 60 seconds speech. Somehow I got through it but from them on I vowed to do my research before the event!

In the past two years I have met some wonderful people through networking, and surprisingly they have not all become clients of PA Business Support. I am a strong believer that networking is not all about making a sale or gaining a new client. It’s about meeting like-minded people who you can connect with. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is keen to gain new clients, but networking is about building relationships — you never know who that person in the room may know, and you never know when you may need their help either.

Networking gives me the confidence and drive to succeed with the business — I always feel rejuvenated after an event that has given me food for thought. Living near a city makes networking even easier and there are so many different types of events to choose from. It could be tempting to attend an event every day if you wanted to. However, time is money, so be selective in choosing wisely as there are many different events and they may not all be appropriate for you and your business.

Sophie’s Tips

If you can view the guest list in advance, make a note of people you would like to talk to and approach them Always wear a name badge and take plenty of business cards Smile, be polite and listen to what others have to say — it’s not all about you!

Follow up with everyone you meet, whether it’s an email or phone call

Have a polite exit strategy to move on to talk to others

Plan a month in advance to balance the attention you give to both current clients and networking events

For further information on using a Virtual Assistant and how it can benefit you and your business, call Sophie on 07740 194 914 or alternatively email sophie@pabusinesssupport.co.uk