When it comes to running your business smoothly and efficiently, it’s safe to say that the networks you build are essential to your success.
This seems like a big claim and, in truth, one that isn’t quite backed up by fact. Networks are important to a business, but essential? That seems like a stretch – but in reality, it genuinely isn’t. Below, we’re going to discuss the multiple meanings of the word “network” when applied to your business, the importance of the concept, and – most importantly of all – how you can strengthen this area to the benefit of your business overall.
The basic term
For the most part, if you ask people what comes to mind when they hear the term “network”, they will imagine something like this:
Essentially, interconnected components that link to one another. In business, the most common type of network you will need to build is a very literal one: your IT network.
It is fair to say that IT is essential for the health of any modern business. We live in a digital age, where technology and connectivity govern the success of any enterprise, and where falling behind the times can be a blow that a business fails to recover from. As a result, your business’ IT network is an area that requires extensive examination, whatever size of business you run.
So what happens if you do not establish a network for your business? We’ve said they’re essential, but what are the consequences if you overlook this area? Well…
- A business operating without a reliable IT network will struggle for productivity, especially in larger organisations where efficiency between departments is particularly essential.
- A lack of a viable network can compromise the productivity of your employees; communication is more difficult without a reliable network, as is task assignment and employee monitoring.
- Without a sufficient network in your business, project and time management is incredibly difficult. A good network allows you to obtain an overview of the overall business processes in a matter of moments; a bad network makes this impossible, which can mean that you become reliant on guesswork rather than basic, statistical fact.
- A poor network can also make modern options, such as allowing your employees to work remotely, next to impossible. It will also make life difficult for employees, who may have to deal with network issues – such as connectivity problems – as part and parcel of their everyday working life, which distracts from their ability to actually perform their roles. On a wider scale, this can make staff retention very difficult: if your IT network is continually malfunctioning, employees will feel frustrated throughout their working day, which has a negative effect on overall employee satisfaction in their role.
- Put together, the issues above can become severe enough to directly harm your ability to generate profit in your enterprise. If the operations and employees of a business are not sufficiently connected to a suitable network, overall productivity will fall, expenses will be incurred, and your business may struggle to reach its full potential.
So, in summary, a bad IT network will make it difficult to retain good staff, damage your overall business output, and ultimately reduce your potential profits – calling your IT network essential to your business success is clearly not overstating its importance.
If your network is not what it should be, then rectifying this issue as quickly as possible should become your number one priority. It may be that you need to make a few tweaks to increase efficiency or reliability; a process you may be able to manage in-house. However, if your existing network is severely compromised (or does not even yet exist in the true sense of the term), then you may want to consider outsourcing to one of the many tech companies who are capable of creating a workable, reliable network from scratch. Given the benefits your business will enjoy when your IT network is functioning well, the cost of outsourcing will almost certainly be offset by profit gains in a relatively short period of time, so this is definitely an area to investigate.
So, we’ve discussed the most important of the networks your business has, but your IT network is not the only network that you need to build.
Your local business network
In many ways, modern business has removed the local element from most businesses. You can now buy supplies from countries that are thousands of miles away; your customers may live in another hemisphere; and even your marketing and advertising strategy will be aimed towards non-local customers.
However, there is still something to be said for finding your place in a local network of businesses.
First and foremost, there is the familiarity angle. Let’s say that you run a printing business. While much of your business can be found and serviced online, with you dispatching finished prints via mail, it is still hugely advantageous to appeal to other local businesses. If your work is a familiar presence in the businesses you share geographical space with, then you will become each business’ first port of call for their printing needs. In many cases, familiarity is a far more important consideration for B2B relationships, and other businesses will like that they can discuss their print project with you in person if required. While 90% of your business may come from further afield, the local business is likely to be highly reliable, consistent, and mutually beneficial.
By working together and forming a strong network, local businesses become stronger and more powerful than the sum of their parts. For example, fighting back against unwelcome legislation that will impact your business is very difficult as a solo entity, but is far simpler if you are part of a network that seeks to work as one to ensure a pleasant working environment for all. There is still a place for local businesses banding together, even in a world of multinational corporations and monopolies – in fact, it could be argued that the need for a strong local business network is more important than ever as a result.
If you do not have strong connections within your local business community, then this is an area you will want to rectify. For most areas, there will already be established groups and services that can help you achieve this: networking events for local businesses, for example, are a great way to strengthen your connection to the local business community. In the unlikely event that there is no such organisation in your local area, consider starting one; not only does this create the spark for a beneficial future relationship, but it also places your business at the centre of the network right from the start.
Your support network
Thus far, we have focused on the two types of networks that can be genuinely beneficial to your business; now, we’ll switch focus to the third network that all entrepreneurs need: their personal support network.
In some ways, this may seem like an odd conclusion: if you want to further your business, then what does your personal support network matter? Surely that is entirely separate from the health of your business?
However, while some entrepreneurs do entirely separate their personal life from their business life, this is rarely the case. Entrepreneurs are passionate people; they are governed by an entrepreneurial spirit, which tends to mean that they put their heart and soul into ensuring that their business is viable and successful. As a result, most businesses – and particularly small businesses – are inherently linked to how the entrepreneur is managing in general.
Take, for example…
Musk is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the past 50 years. Over the last few months, the world has watched with horror as Musk has become increasingly erratic. He is being sued; he has announced he barely sleeps; and in every way, he seems to be a troubled individual… and that will impact his companies. Musk is a workaholic, and the perception of his businesses is being damaged by his personal penchant for picking fights on Twitter and slandering a man who was part of the Thai cave rescue effort. If the last few months have made anything clear, it’s that Musk’s personal life and behaviour is directly harming his businesses.
Musk is an extreme example, but his case does make it clear that an entrepreneur’s personal life can directly intersect with the health and perception of their business efforts. As a result, your personal support network is absolutely vital to both you and your business.
Essentially, you need to build a support network of friends, family members, and even mentors who can support you in your business efforts. You want people who could, using a shocking example from Musk’s recent problems, tell you that doubling down on calling a heroic rescuer a “pedo” really isn’t a great idea. By ensuring you have a strong support network in your personal life, you will be all the more capable of achieving the entrepreneurial success you desire.
If you can piece together the three support networks above, your business should be able to move from strength to strength. Good luck!