Singapore’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) earned almost US$200 billion from approximately 220,000 businesses, ranging from technical enterprises to wholesale trade companies. New businesses open every year, with 2017 alone seeing 62,113 new enterprises bolster the market.
Despite these numbers, small businesses still face a lot of challenges if they want to succeed. These hurdles to success include failure to innovate, cash risks, reputation issues and an increasingly competitive commercial environment. Your small business needs every advantage you can provide if you want it to go beyond surviving and start thriving.
You can provide your enterprise the leg up it needs by building relations with key entities through strategic networking. Boost your company by forming networks with the following types of business contacts.
1. Business Partnerships
Your company will rely on other businesses for goods or services you need to operate. For example, most restaurants count on suppliers to provide them with raw ingredients. You need to build strong and profitable partnerships with these enterprises, so your company has a support system you can trust.
These partnerships could include suppliers or companies that provide logistical support to your activities. Identify which companies can give you the services you need and can offer additional value to your partnership. You should also keep an eye out for companies that actively seek business-to-business relations.
For example, Singapore Delivery Services works with small to medium enterprises, providing them with last-mile delivery. The company also works closely with partnered businesses to achieve mutual growth.
2. Industry Mentors
This refers to individuals who have been operating in your industry sector for a substantial amount of time. It’s crucial to network with these professionals for two reasons: industry insights and connections.
Their prolonged experience operating in your field will have given them the time to accumulate valuable advice and insights regarding the best practices for your type of business. This information helps you build your own stockpile of knowledge and could prove critical to the stability of your business.
Industry mentors can also help introduce you to their own network of contacts. You could reach out to these enterprises and incorporate them into your support network, providing you with experienced and established businesses you can turn to during times of need.
An example of an organisation that can give you both these things is the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise or raiSE. The organisation focuses on providing new businesses with advisory services as well as other practical assistance.
3. Brand Supporters
Successful networking means forming connections with your brand supporters. This final category of contacts includes both businesses and potential clients. Businesses can become brand supporters by marketing your services, but its potential customers you should focus on.
According to industry experts, referrals from your customers are the best way to gain even more referrals. They discovered that 71 per cent of companies with customer referral programs have higher conversion rates, and 60 per cent have faster close rates. People trust the word of authentic customers because it shows your brand can deliver on promises. Although people appreciate efficiency, cultivating a positive relationship with them through excellent customer service and a little TLC in your transactions can convince them to recommend your business.
You don’t have to achieve success all on your own. Networking lets you strengthen not just your business, but also empower others, allowing you to flourish not as an individual but as a community.