Business Networking unlocks significant potential for businesses across all industries. But how do we get started? And what can we really get from it?

Our host Ciaran Connolly chats with Grant Powell, CEO of Central Working, a collection of co-working spaces scattered across the UK. In Grant’s career, he has led several co-working spaces, housing hundreds of businesses.

In this Business Leaders episode, Grant explains how exactly a co-working space can benefit businesses through networking – no matter the mix of industries.

To learn more, watch our interview now or read on for the highlights.

Central working: how to grow your business through networking

Central Working: A Business Boosting Workspace

Central Working is a membership-based co-working space, that allows businesses from a wide range of industries to network and grow together.

growing a business through business networking and connections with Grant Powell

As Grant addresses, industries of any specialism can get something out of what they have to offer.

“We’re one of the premier workplace providers in the UK. Over 3,500 entrepreneurs base their businesses with us – ranging from tech businesses through to scientists, through to scale-ups and start-ups.”

But what separates Central Working from other co-working spaces offered in the UK? As Grant puts it – their determination to see businesses succeed.

“Our focus is on helping growing businesses. We have a sweet spot, generally if you are between 200-100 in size, and you base your business with us, our team will learn about your business and provide you with all the connections you need to scale and grow.”

Central working office aerial
Co-working spaces are the prime place to network and make valuable connections. Image credit:

Meeting the Needs of Many

While every company has its own needs, Grant states that all businesses need the same core thing – a community to flourish in.

“Because we’re agnostic to sector, it doesn’t actually matter the type of business. All businesses need the same thing. They need a place to work, they need to feel included and part of a community, they value human connection.

“That’s where we come in, to provide that infrastructure and support. It is not just an office, it’s an office as a service.

“That’s where we make those meaningful connections that help businesses grow.”

By mixing in a working environment filled with other industry specialists, this gives like-minded professionals the chance to collaborate, create diverse offerings, and therefore grow their business further.

Central Working past and present membership success stories include the likes of Just Eat and CityMapper, all conceived out of industry talents collaborating and combining their ideas.

Reengineering a Sense of Community

As a result of the rise of digital, while we can easily connect with others – this has created a distant barrier of distraction. Our sense of community has therefore suffered, and Grant states that co-working is the best way to combat that.

“We have defining core values within the business, one of those is that we value human connection. We live in such a digitised world these days – even when in the office.

“For us, it is about building rapport, communicating what you need. Not everyone knows what they need, but we try to point people in the right direction.

“Where they don’t know, they can chat to someone who has a completely different business so that they can learn something that they otherwise wouldn’t have known before, from a completely different point of view – that is valuable.”

With the vast amount of people situated in Central Working’s co-space, it offers the ideal opportunity to reach out or lend a helping hand.

“In some of our buildings, we have over 650-1000 people working. So it really is a big network of all different types of businesses who really come together.”

Central Working’s core values is reengineering a sense of community, to get people back in touch with one another and bring fresh ideas and perspectives.

“Reengineering a sense of community is so important. Especially in big cities these days, we tend to get on our train, sit next to strangers, and we don’t talk to them. We go home, and we don’t know the neighbours on our streets.

“For us, it’s about redefining what that community means, and I think in the workplace that’s a really great place to start.

“We spend more time in work than at home with our loved ones – so actually if you’re going to be spending more time in work, you might as well invest in making it valuable.”

Grant Powell Central Working Photo
Grant Powell, CEO of Central Working. Image credit:

Meaningful Connections, Guaranteed

Sometimes, companies can face challenges when it comes to networking and making meaningful connections that can ultimately benefit their business growth. While networking events are valuable, their one-off nature makes it difficult to follow-up, and re-engage with people.

Through basing your business in a co-working space, Grant promises you can increase your networking opportunities and create vital business connections.

“About four years ago – we introduced a money back guarantee – where if you don’t make meaningful connections in your first month, then the founder does not have to pay.”

While this is a bold move to make, Grant reassures it was a worthwhile one – having kept it up now for four years.

“We really wanted to hold our feet to the fire, of not just saying something for a marketing or PR purpose – but actually putting our money where our mouth is.

“That has been a guiding light. Businesses need to stand behind their values, and it redefines being genuine and serious about your work, as we are.”

Through business networking and creating connections – you can grow your business.

This interview is perfect for anyone searching for advice on improving the management of their business, and looking to increase their revenue through working within a strong business community.

For more advice on networking tactics and how to improve overall efficiency of management – check out our full interview with Grant.

To learn more about Grant Powell and his current projects, you can find him on LinkedIn.

Pre-Networking Preparation: Launching Your Success Story

Effective networking starts before you ever walk into an event or join an online group. It’s all about laying the groundwork for meaningful connections and showcasing your value proposition. Here’s a deep dive into pre-networking preparation, ensuring you enter the scene ready to shine:

1. Know Your Strengths and Value:

  • Self-Assessment: Take time to reflect on your unique skills, expertise, and experiences. What are you passionate about? What problems can you solve? What sets you apart in your field?
  • Value Proposition Crafting: Translate your strengths into a concise, impactful statement that clearly articulates the value you offer to others. This will be your guiding light for introductions and conversations.

2. Set SMART Networking Goals:

  • Specific: Define clear, measurable goals for your networking efforts. Do you want to generate leads, secure partnerships, gain referrals, or learn from industry experts?
  • Measurable: Establish metrics to track your progress, such as number of connections made, leads generated, or follow-up meetings secured.
  • Attainable: Set realistic goals that align with your time and resource limitations. It’s better to achieve smaller goals than set yourself up for disappointment.
  • Relevant: Ensure your goals are relevant to your overall business objectives and long-term vision.
  • Time-Bound: Set deadlines for achieving your goals to maintain focus and accountability.

3. Craft Your Elevator Pitch:

  • The 30-Second Hook: Develop a concise, compelling pitch that introduces you, your business, and your value proposition within 30 seconds. Focus on the benefits you offer and how you can help others.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Rehearse your pitch out loud with trusted colleagues or even record yourself to receive feedback and refine your delivery.
  • Be Authentic and Engaging: Inject your personality and passion into your pitch. Make it conversational and avoid sounding robotic or scripted.

4. Prepare Conversation Starters:

  • Go Beyond Business Cards: Think of thought-provoking questions and ice-breakers to initiate conversations and learn about your new connections. Research event themes, speakers, or industry trends to find common ground.
  • Actively Listen and Respond: Pay attention to the other person’s interests and respond with follow-up questions that demonstrate genuine engagement.

Bonus Tip:

  • Dress for Success: First impressions matter. Choose professional attire that reflects your personal brand and creates a positive impression.

By investing time in pre-networking preparation, you equip yourself with the knowledge, confidence, and tools to navigate the networking landscape with purpose and effectiveness. Remember, it’s not just about collecting business cards; it’s about building genuine connections, establishing yourself as a valuable asset, and ultimately growing your business through the power of relationships.

Online Networking Strategies for Growth

The internet presents a vast playground for building a thriving network. Here’s a detailed guide to mastering online networking strategies across professional platforms, communities, and social media:

1. Becoming a LinkedIn Luminary:

  • Optimize Your Profile: Craft a compelling profile that showcases your expertise, achievements, and value proposition. Include relevant keywords for discoverability and utilize rich media like videos and presentations.
  • Engage with Content: Regularly share valuable content like articles, insights, and industry news. Participate in discussions, provide thoughtful comments, and join relevant groups for increased visibility.
  • Connect Strategically: Research and connect with individuals who align with your goals and target audience. Focus on quality over quantity, building meaningful connections with potential collaborators, clients, or mentors.
  • Leverage LinkedIn Groups: Actively participate in relevant groups, contribute to discussions, and establish yourself as a thought leader. Showcase your expertise by answering questions and offering guidance.
  • Utilize Recommendations and Endorsements: Encourage satisfied connections to endorse your skills and write positive recommendations. This boosts your credibility and attracts further connections.

2. Joining the Community Chorus:

  • Identify Relevant Online Communities: Explore online forums, discussion boards, and social media groups focused on your industry or niche. Research their activity levels and engagement to find the best fit.
  • Become a Contributing Member: Actively participate in discussions, share your knowledge, and offer helpful advice. Build relationships with other members and foster a sense of community.
  • Collaborate and Network: Look for opportunities to collaborate on projects, co-host webinars, or participate in joint initiatives with other community members. This expands your reach and builds stronger connections.
  • Showcase Your Expertise: Offer insightful blog posts, articles, or tutorials within the community platform. This establishes you as a valuable resource and attracts potential collaborators and clients.

3. Mastering the Social Media Symphony:

  • Choose the Right Platforms: Focus on platforms frequented by your target audience and aligned with your industry. LinkedIn, Twitter, and industry-specific platforms can be powerful networking tools.
  • Optimize Your Profiles: Tailor your profiles to reflect your professional brand and value proposition. Utilize relevant keywords, engaging visuals, and a bio that highlights your expertise.
  • Publish Compelling Content: Share valuable articles, industry insights, and engaging stories relevant to your niche. Use engaging visuals and relevant hashtags to increase reach and attract potential connections.
  • Join Industry Conversations: Participate in relevant Twitter threads, LinkedIn discussions, and social media groups. Be authentic, informative, and add value to the conversation.
  • Connect with Thought Leaders and Influencers: Engage with industry experts and influencers in your social media space. Offer insightful comments, share their content, and build relationships that can open doors to new opportunities.

Remember: Online networking is a marathon, not a sprint. Consistency, engagement, and authenticity are key. Build genuine relationships, provide value to your connections, and watch your network flourish, propelling you towards your business goals.

Building Genuine Relationships for Lasting Success

The heart of effective networking lies not in collecting business cards but in forging genuine connections. It’s about cultivating relationships built on trust, mutual respect, and a shared desire to help each other grow. Here’s a deep dive into the essential elements of nurturing authentic connections:

1. Mastering the Art of Active Listening:

  • Be Present and Engaged: Give your full attention to the person you’re talking to. Maintain eye contact, avoid distractions, and truly absorb what they’re saying.
  • Ask Insightful Questions: Go beyond the surface level. Ask probing questions that demonstrate your genuine interest in their experiences, challenges, and perspectives.
  • Listen Empathetically: Pay attention to nonverbal cues and emotional undercurrents. Try to understand their point of view and acknowledge their feelings.

2. Providing Value and Offering Help:

  • Focus on Contribution: Always ask yourself, “How can I be of value to this person?” Look for opportunities to offer helpful advice, share resources, or connect them with someone in your network who can assist them.
  • Offer Genuine Support: Go beyond empty promises. If you can offer meaningful help, follow through with your commitments and deliver on your promises.
  • Celebrate Their Successes: Be present for your connections’ achievements. Offer sincere congratulations and acknowledge their milestones.

3. Following Up and Maintaining Consistent Communication:

  • Don’t Disappear after the Handshake: Make consistent follow-up a priority. Send a personalized email or message after meeting someone, thanking them for their time and reiterating your desire to stay connected.
  • Stay Engaged Through Shared Interests: Find common ground and engage in conversations beyond just business. Share relevant articles, news, or updates that might interest them, demonstrating you care about their broader interests.
  • Initiate and Reciprocate Communication: Don’t wait for them to reach out. Show initiative and maintain regular contact. Respond promptly to messages and make an effort to schedule further meetings or calls.

Remember: Building genuine relationships takes time and effort. Be patient, invest in your connections, and nurture them like you would any valuable garden. Remember, the more you give, the more you receive. As your network grows stronger, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a community of valuable connections who can amplify your voice, support your endeavors, and propel you towards success.

Maximizing Networking Events: Turning Encounters into Opportunities

Networking events can be potent catalysts for growth, but navigating them effectively requires strategic planning and focused action. Here’s a detailed roadmap to ensure your event participation yields rewarding connections and propels you towards your goals:

1. Choose Wisely: Curating Your Event Calendar:

  • Target Relevance: Prioritize events aligned with your industry, niche, or target audience. Research speakers, organizers, and attendees beforehand to identify the best fit for your networking objectives.
  • Variety is Key: Don’t stick to your comfort zone. Explore diverse events, including conferences, workshops, mixers, and even industry-specific social gatherings. Broadening your reach can lead to unexpected connections.
  • Quality over Quantity: Choose a few high-impact events rather than attending multiple, low-key gatherings. Focus on quality interactions and meaningful conversations.

2. Bridge the Gap: Connecting with the Inner Circle:

  • Engage with Organizers: Reach out to event organizers beforehand. Express your interest, showcase your expertise, and offer potential contributions. This could lead to introductions or speaking opportunities, boosting your visibility.
  • Identify Key Individuals: Research speakers, panelists, and influential attendees in advance. Plan how you can connect with them during the event, offering insightful questions or contributing to their discussions.
  • Leverage Social Media: Follow event hashtags and connect with potential attendees beforehand. Initiate online conversations and build rapport before meeting face-to-face, making introductions smoother.

3. The Art of the Introduction: Making Every Moment Count:

  • Practice Your Pitch: Craft a concise and compelling elevator pitch that highlights your value proposition and sparks interest. Practice your delivery and ensure you can make a strong first impression.
  • Active Listening and Personalization: Don’t just hand out business cards. Actively listen to others, identify common ground, and personalize your introductions. Highlight shared interests or connections to create a deeper impact.
  • Be a Bridge, Not a Gatekeeper: Don’t just connect yourself. Look for opportunities to introduce others within your network who might benefit from mutual connections. This builds goodwill and strengthens your reputation as a valuable connector.

4. Cultivating Seeds: Post-Event Follow-Up Strategies:

  • **The Prompt ** Send personalized email or LinkedIn messages within 24 hours, reintroducing yourself and highlighting key takeaways from your conversations.
  • Offer Value, Not Just Requests: Suggest helpful resources, share relevant articles, or offer further assistance based on your initial discussions. Remember, networking is a two-way street.
  • Schedule Future Connection Points: Don’t leave things to chance. Propose follow-up coffee meetings, virtual calls, or introductions to others in your network to keep the momentum going.

Bonus Tip:

  • Be Strategic About Business Cards: While still relevant, don’t solely rely on business cards. Capture connections digitally using LinkedIn or dedicated networking apps to streamline post-event follow-up.

By implementing these strategies, you can transform networking events from fleeting encounters into springboards for growth. Remember, genuine connections, insightful conversations, and active follow-up are the golden keys to unlocking the full potential of these gatherings. Start planning your next event and witness the magic of strategic networking unfold!

Building a Long-Term Network Beyond Events and Online

While events and online platforms offer potent networking opportunities, building a truly robust network requires venturing beyond these avenues. Here’s a deep dive into strategies for establishing long-term connections that fuel your professional journey:

1. Joining Professional Associations and Committees:

  • Seek Relevant Affiliations: Identify professional associations, chambers of commerce, or industry-specific committees aligned with your field. Membership grants access to valuable networking events, conferences, and leadership opportunities.
  • Volunteer for Active Roles: Don’t just be a passive member. Volunteer for committee positions, event organization, or mentorship programs. Taking on active roles increases your visibility and strengthens your relationships within the organization.
  • Contribute and Collaborate: Share your expertise by presenting at seminars, writing articles for association publications, or participating in panel discussions. Collaboration on projects can lead to lasting partnerships and valuable connections.

2. Volunteering and Offering Mentorship:

  • Give Back and Connect: Look for volunteering opportunities within your community or professional sphere. Contributing your time and expertise not only makes a positive impact but also allows you to meet like-minded individuals and potential clients or collaborators.
  • Embrace Mentorship: Become a mentor for aspiring professionals in your field. Sharing your knowledge and guidance builds strong relationships, strengthens your reputation as a leader, and expands your network through your mentees’ connections.
  • Seek Reciprocity: Don’t hesitate to seek mentorship yourself. Find experienced professionals willing to share their insights and guide your career path. These relationships can offer invaluable support and open doors to new opportunities.

3. Leveraging the Power of Referrals and Introductions:

  • Nurture Existing Connections: Cultivate strong relationships with your current network. Share resources, offer recommendations, and celebrate each other’s successes. This fosters trust and increases the likelihood of receiving valuable referrals.
  • Ask Strategically: When seeking introductions, be specific about your needs and desired connections. Clearly explain the type of expertise or collaboration you’re looking for, making it easier for your network to identify suitable matches.
  • Go Beyond the Obvious: Don’t limit yourself to direct referrals. Leverage your network’s knowledge of their own connections to expand your reach. A casual conversation with a colleague might lead to an unexpected but valuable introduction.

Remember: Building a long-term network requires consistent effort and genuine relationship building. Focus on adding value, offering support, and fostering trust. By venturing beyond traditional networking avenues and embracing these strategies, you cultivate a rich tapestry of connections that will support your professional growth and propel you towards lasting success.

Measuring Your Networking Mojo: Tracking, Adapting, and Thriving

Networking isn’t just about collecting business cards; it’s about cultivating relationships that drive your business forward. But how do you know if your efforts are paying off? Here’s a guide to measuring success and adapting your strategy for continual growth:

1. Identifying Key Metrics:

  • Leads Generated: Track the number of leads you’ve generated through networking, either directly or through referrals. Quantify this by noting website visits, contact form submissions, or sales inquiries sparked by networking interactions.
  • Partnerships Formed: Measure the number of collaborations or partnerships established through your network. This could include joint ventures, supplier agreements, or client referrals.
  • Brand Awareness: Gauge the increase in brand awareness or social media mentions resulting from networking efforts. Track website traffic, social media engagement, or press mentions generated through connections.
  • Quality of Interactions: Don’t just focus on numbers. Reflect on the quality of your network interactions. Did you meet influential individuals? Build meaningful connections? Did the conversations spark new ideas or opportunities?

2. Analyzing Feedback and Adapting:

  • Seek Feedback: Actively solicit feedback from your connections, asking if your introductions were helpful, how they perceive your value proposition, and whether your networking approach resonates with them.
  • Analyze and Adapt: Based on feedback and your chosen metrics, identify areas for improvement. You might need to refine your elevator pitch, target different events, or adjust your follow-up strategies.
  • Embrace Experimentation: Don’t be afraid to try new things. Experiment with different online platforms, attend diverse events, or explore industry-specific conferences. Analyze the results of these experiments and see what yields the most valuable connections.

3. Continuously Learning and Adapting:

  • Stay Updated: The networking landscape constantly evolves. Follow industry trends, keep up with new technologies, and explore innovative networking strategies. Attending workshops, reading industry publications, and listening to networking experts can keep you ahead of the curve.
  • Embrace Technology: Utilize tools like LinkedIn sales navigator, networking apps, or event management platforms to streamline your networking efforts and track your progress.
  • Be Flexible and Agile: The best networking strategies are adaptable. Be prepared to adjust your approach based on changing circumstances, industry shifts, and personal goals.

Remember: Measuring and adapting are crucial for ensuring your networking efforts yield consistent results. By tracking key metrics, analyzing feedback, and embracing continuous learning, you can optimize your approach, build a flourishing network, and watch your business blossom through the power of genuine connections.

Business Networking: FAQ

Q: How often should I network?

A: It’s more about consistency than frequency. Aim for regular but focused networking efforts. Attend events, engage online, and nurture existing connections consistently.

Q: What if I’m introverted and networking feels uncomfortable?

A: Start small and focus on genuine conversations. Find events with smaller groups or online communities where you feel comfortable. Practice your pitch and conversation starters beforehand.

Q: I don’t have time for extensive networking.

A: Leverage technology! Use LinkedIn, schedule quick virtual catch-ups, and utilize social media interactions to stay connected without major time commitments.

Q: How can I measure the success of my networking efforts if I’m not in sales?

A: Look beyond leads and sales. Track things like increased brand awareness, valuable partnerships, industry collaborations, or knowledge gained through connections.

Q: What are some resources to learn more about effective networking?

A: Follow industry bloggers, attend online webinars, or read books by networking experts. Join professional associations or participate in mentorship programs to learn from experienced professionals.

Business Networking: Conclusion

Building a vibrant network takes time, effort, and a genuine desire to connect and contribute. By implementing the strategies outlined in this article, you can move beyond fleeting encounters and cultivate lasting relationships that fuel your professional growth and unlock exciting opportunities.

Remember, networking isn’t a transactional game; it’s about building trust, offering value, and fostering mutual growth. As you nurture your connections, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a supportive community that will propel you toward achieving your goals.

Start building your network today, and watch as it opens doors to a future filled with collaboration, fulfillment, and boundless possibilities.

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