Build Your Business by Building a Professional Network
By AHP Staff
There's no denying the power a strong professional network can have over your career success. Whether you own your own salon or barber shop, or you’re an independent hairdresser or barber, networking with like-minded colleagues will help you develop new ideas, stay on top of the latest trends in the beauty industry, and lead to referral opportunities.
Expanding your contacts in the industry can open doors to new opportunities for business, career advancement, and personal growth. Exchanging information, advice, and support on challenges, experiences, and goals is a key benefit of networking because it allows you to gain new insights you may not have otherwise thought of. Discussing common challenges and opportunities opens the door to valuable suggestions and guidance. By continually putting yourself out there and meeting new people, you’re effectively stepping outside your comfort zone and building invaluable social skills and self-confidence you can take with you anywhere.
How to become effective at networking
Look for the right people. Your network should include anyone who can help you grow professionally. It can include past and present coworkers, bosses, colleagues from beauty industry associations, or alumni from your beauty school. One great way to meet these valuable professional contacts is by attending networking events. Your local chamber of commerce is a good starting point. The chamber’s website lists upcoming events. Making those face-to-face connections is a great way to meet people and get more knowledge about who they are and what they do.
You can also look for a career-centered networking group that limits the number and kinds of professionals who are allowed to join. Your ideal group may include other stylists and barbers, estheticians, nail technicians, massage therapists, and other beauty professionals. The idea is to meet regularly and let them know what you offer, where your business is located and what kind of clients you’re looking for. They will share the same information with you, so you’re helping each other out. You may have clients looking for an esthetician. Estheticians in the group may have clients looking for a hairdresser. It can be a very reciprocal relationship. Again, your local chamber of commerce can help you find these groups, or you can do an internet search for “networking groups” in your area.
Mix and mingle. When you attend a networking event, don’t be a wallflower. Remember, you are there to network. However, you also want to make quality contacts, which means you don’t just walk around frantically handing out your business cards. The best course of action is to start a conversation with someone, ask about their business and their background, and if it’s a good fit, ask for their business card and ask if they would like yours. You’ll find that many of the participants have the same goals you do and will be glad to exchange business cards.
Another option for a networking hub is Meetup (meetup.com), which draws individuals together online with the goal of arranging in-person local events based on what you’re interested in. At last count, more than 140,000 Meetup groups garner more than 2 million RSVPs to their events every month!
If you’re a bit shy to start in-person networking, get your feet wet with online industry forums. It’s not as personal but casts a much wider net. There are a couple of social sites, like Hairbrained (hairbrained.me) and Bangstyle (bangstyle.com), that are specific to hair professionals and are thriving. They allow users to engage in conversations with others in the profession, post and comment on each other’s pictures/work, read blogs, join subgroups, and read industry-related news. Joining moderated Facebook groups is also a way to connect with fellow professionals online.
Expand your horizons. When you think of networking, you may only think of those in the hair/beauty industry. Expand your horizons and look for other networking opportunities, such as geography. For example, if your salon or shop is in a strip mall, you might partner with other businesses in the mall to promote each other’s services. You can work with these businesses to cross-merchandise items or services. Maybe you can offer your clients a treat from the coffee shop next door after their cut and color, and coffee shop customers can enter a drawing for a complimentary haircut or shave you provide. It’s a great way to cross-promote.
It’s never too early or too late. These tips will help to make your efforts successful and help you build relationships and networks. A good, reliable network can bring in new clients, potential partners, business and career opportunities, and seasoned mentors. It's never too early—or too late—to invest some time and energy in your network. The best way to improve your networking skills is to put yourself out there and give it a try.
How do I start a conversation when I’m networking?
If you don’t know what to say when meeting new contacts, ask them about themselves. Focus on them and what matters to them. People love to talk about themselves, and it opens the door for further topics.
After the networking event, then what?
Follow up the next day with a phone call or text, or invite a new contact out for a cup of coffee. Focus on the people you really connected with.
Any other networking tips?
Avoid jargon. It’s fine to say, “I’m a hairstylist, and I specialize in highlights for natural-looking, sun-kissed hair color.” However, saying, “I’m a balayage, foilyage, and bowliage specialist” may be confusing and meaningless to people who don’t live in your hairdresser world. Also, be careful of your time. Some people only want to sell you something and aren’t interested in developing a mutually beneficial relationship. Avoid them and avoid being one of them.