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Distributors' Perspective: Reaping the benefits of networking

August 19/26 2013; Volume 27/number9

By Michelle Miller

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 10.59.19 AMNetworking is defined as “a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.” There are many platforms today that help facilitate networking.  Social media—including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter—and even texting have emerged as networking tools and can support the sharing of information. Yet, while these methods are becoming increasingly popular, some individuals still prefer a face-to-face venue.

The sharing of information can be facilitated through a social activity, traditional business meetings, online social tools and conventions. With all these venues available, how do you define networking and measure the success?

Let’s look at social networking such as LinkedIn or another popular site. If you have a challenge and want your industry peers’ feedback, you can pose a question to a group and you’ll get opinions and suggestions in no time.

When it comes to your business, it’s easy to think you’re the only person who has faced a particular concern or question, but that’s hardly ever the case. Online and in-person networking is a smart business practice because it allows you to talk with others in the industry about how they’ve handled challenges. It reaffirms that you’re all in the same boat and it reinvigorates you. The colleague you admire who runs a successful business? He faced a similar challenge a few years ago and can offer some suggestions.

Industry conferences and other events that bring together industry leaders are prime opportunities to network. Connecting face-to-face with your industry peers will leave you with a few nuggets of information that can easily be incorporated when you get back to the office. Moreover, one of networking’s greatest advantages is shelf life. When you make connections at events, they’ll provide insights, suggestions and alternative ways of thinking for years to come.

This fall, the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors’ (NAFCD) will co-sponsor the Annual Convention & Executive Networking Forum with the North American Building Materials Distributors (NBMDA).

When the NAFCD began planning this year’s event, networking was a huge consideration. We were determined to be sure our event would not fall into the traditional trade show format; it is an intimate and focused event with opportunities to build relationships between distributors and manufacturers and learn about what others are doing to run their businesses effectively. We aim to provide a unique venue that allows attendees to network with industry leaders in a tabletop format and an opportunity to share challenges, solutions and best practices with peers. Additionally, business meetings are conducted by appointment, guaranteeing productivity.

The Annual Convention & Executive Networking Forum encourages networking in great part so its attendees can build their network of business partners. To facilitate this, the event features booths that offer a private and comfortable setting in which to interact with others, providing the ideal environment for establishing and strengthening partnerships.

So next time you’re at a conference, don’t be shy—ask your fellow attendees a question about their business experience. You might just find the answer to your question and make valuable business connections.