When looking to grow your business, utilising your existing network is often a quick win. But working with friends can bring its own challenges. Discover how you can leverage your network and transform personal friendships into business ones.
It’s an age-old saying: don’t mix business with pleasure. For some, working with immediate family or close friends is a nightmare. For others it is a bond that cannot be broken, no matter what happens, and you are better working together to make the business a success.
Friends and family is one thing, but what about ex-colleagues? You may stay in touch every so often, but as ex-colleagues move to new companies and climb higher up the career ladder, they can often be invaluable when it comes to new business.
Whether it is an in-road into a new company, an introduction at an event you are both attending or a referral to a potential prospect, maintaining relationships with ex-colleagues and peers is key to cultivating your network and ensuring your sales pipeline remains healthy.
If employees leave your company on good terms, keeping in touch on a regular basis can pay dividends for your company down the line. According to the business networking organisation BNI, 98% of businesses place a significant importance on the value of word of mouth in winning new business, and ex-colleagues can be prime advocates to recommend your company to others.
Read on to discover three ways that you can utilise your existing network of ex-colleagues and transform personal relationships into business ones:
1. Capitalise on the potential within your immediate network
Rather than concentrating all your efforts on growing your network by constantly meeting new people, focus on forging quality relationships within your existing circle of contacts. Ex-colleagues and employees can potentially open a number of doors for you in their new companies, as they can readily and willingly endorse you since they know your background and your work.
Start by keeping in regular contact with your ex-colleagues, to avoid becoming ‘out of sight, out of mind’. It does not have to be a series of constant emails or phone calls. A networking event or industry conference or presentation that is relevant for you both is a great way to keep in touch, while allowing you to expand your network by meeting other professionals. If they have a colleague that is a relevant prospect for your business, ask your contact to invite them along. It allows you to meet them in a non-formal setting.
Make networking at events and conferences a less daunting task by arranging to meet a colleague. Not only will a familiar face give you a boost of confidence to network, but you also open yourself to being introduced to their network.
2. Using social media to keep in touch
We would all love to spend our working day networking and attending various events to grow our business. Unfortunately, in the time-sensitive world we live in, this is simply not an option.
Social media is the perfect platform to keep track of ex-colleagues and their rise up the job ladder. LinkedIn and Twitter are effective platforms for this: allowing you to ‘like’ and retweet ex-colleagues’ updates –whilst avoiding the hard sell at all times. Be sure to share useful content through social media with ex-colleagues to ensure you stay front of mind when they are due to make a business decision in their new role.
You can also use your ex-colleagues as a go-between when looking to expand your network. If they have a colleague that would be valuable to know for new business purposes, ask them to introduce you to connect on LinkedIn.
3. Transitioning a personal relationship into a business one
Why is it that so many of us find it difficult to transition a personal relationship into a business one? Reaching out to friends in a business capacity can sometimes feel awkward, especially if it is out of the blue. Think of your ex-colleagues as a bridge to meeting new contacts, as they can help facilitate a discussion with new contacts and help open doors for you within their company.
In order for your ex-colleagues to do this, you need to champion the principle of ‘pay it forward’. The key to this is to unearth ways that you might be able to help them solve their problems or achieve their goals too. Or, you might also be able to put them in touch with someone else who can help, even if you are unable to.
What have you found to be the best ways to leverage your existing friendships to generate new business? Let us know your thoughts and comment below or tweet us @BlackBerry4Biz