Home Networking

You might work from home, but you still have to get out there and network to build relationships for your biz.

learn more about Ivan Misner

By Ivan Misner • Jul 6, 2005

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I'm often asked these days about how to network and build areferral business as a homebased business owner. Let me start bysaying that I ran two homebased businesses for many years. Duringthe eight years I worked from home, I learned a great deal aboutthe pros and cons of working from home and how it related to mynetworking efforts.

Working from home has its own unique rewards and challenges. Andalthough most of the networking techniques that work for anybusiness work for most homebased businesses, there are at least twoimportant issues that I think apply to a homebased business morethan any other.

The first relates to introducing yourself to others innetworking environments. One important thing I learned while beinga homebased business owner related to how I promoted myself atnetworking groups or when meeting people one on one.

My opinion in this area rubs some homebased business owners thewrong way, but I feel strongly about it: When networking, Idon't recommend you share that you run a homebased business. Ibelieve this characteristic is what I call a"neutral/negative" feature of your business. That is,telling people you meet in networking environments that you"work from home" has either a neutral or a negativeimpact because it either doesn't matter to them, or they'renot impressed that you operate your business out of your house.

When I worked from home, I rarely, if ever, met anyone who said,"Oh, fantastic, you work from home--I must do business withyou!" Working from home was just not something that I foundmade people "want" to do business with me; therefore, whyshould it be emphasized when meeting people through networking?

I open with this issue because it's something that I seedone to this day. Often, when I attend a networking function, I seesomeone stand, say what they do, how people can refer them and thenadd at the end that he or she runs a homebased business. I believethat bit of information will generally have no impact or a negativeimpact on what people think of your potential abilities--it almostnever has a positive impact on people wanting to do business withyou. (Please note that I never hid that my business was homebased.I simply didn't bring it up until after I had a businessrelationship with the individual.)

The second issue relating to networking that I think is moreimportant for homebased business owners than the average businessowner is that it's important to break out of what I callCave-Dweller Syndrome.

I find that many homebased business owners seriously suffer fromCave-Dweller Syndrome. Here is how the non-homebasedbusiness owner suffers from this syndrome:

He gets up each morning in a large cave with a big-screenTV--his home. He goes out to his garage and gets into a little cavewith four wheels--his car. He goes to another really big cave withplenty of computers--his office. At the end of the day, he getsback into his little cave with four wheels and drives back to thelarge cave with the big-screen TV and can't figure out why noone is referring him.

For homebased business owners, it's far worse becausethey don't even leave their large cave with the big screen TVto go to the cave with the computers. They're one and thesame!

And it's even harder for those working from home to get outof their caves. So for you homebased business owners who want tobuild your business through word of mouth, you have to be visibleand active in the community by participating in various networkinggroups and/or professional associations. It's critical for youto join organized networking groups and professional associationsthat will get you out of your cave. These kinds of groups include:Casual Contact Networks (like your local chamber of commerce),Business Development Networks (like my own BNI), professionalorganizations (almost all professions have one), and service clubs(like the Rotary or Lions Clubs).

Look for other ways to be very visible in your circle ofinfluence. For example, be active in your child's school PTA oryour church. Keep your eye open for opportunities to be involved ingroups of people who come together for a common cause.

These opportunities will afford you the chance to buildrelationships, and that's what social capital is all about.Visibility leads to credibility which, in turn, leads toprofitability.

The bottom line is, networking doesn't change too muchwhether your business is based from home or a corporate location.But there are a few key points to remember that are specific toworking from home. The dynamics of developing a strongword-of-mouth-based business transcend your business location. Thecaveat for the homebased business owner is that you'll have tobe even more diligent and focused about finding those networkingopportunities.

Ivan Misner

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Bestselling Author

Dr. Ivan Misner is a 'NY Times' bestselling author and co-author of the bestselling book, 'Networking Like a Pro' (Entrepreneur Press 2017). He is also the Founder & Chief Visionary Officer of BNI (www.bni.com), the world's largest referral marketing and networking organization.

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