Read the ultimate guide to business networking in Ireland, discover essential links that will make your business grow and bold. Irish Edition.
As a small business owner you are called upon to fill many roles. You may well be carrying out professional or trade services one minute and then acting as CEO, strategist, accountant, HR manager or marketing executive the next.
Although it can be tempting to bury yourself in the more obvious revenue generating activities of your enterprise, you know as well as anyone else that networking is the life-blood of any business, large or small, and that you need to set aside time in order to cultivate the relationships that over time will allow your business to expand and grow.
What Networking Opportunities Exist in Ireland?
Once you have committed yourself to networking or ‘putting yourself out there’, as they call it, where do you begin?
Well, luckily, there are many very easy ways to make yourself known in Ireland.
At a minimum, anyone with the goal of moving from relative unknown to ‘highly sought after in their field’ will benefit from thinking about their networking activities in terms of five main avenues of pursuit.
• Trade Shows, Conventions & Expos
• Local Level Associations
• National Level Associations
• International Organizations
• Cross-border (Northern Ireland) Opportunities
Let’s break these down one by one.
Trade Shows, Conventions & Expos as an important guideline to business networking in Ireland
Luckily there is an almost constant succession of these events in Ireland with very many of them taking place in the capital city. While the thought of attending a trade show that has nothing to do with your profession might not seem like the best use of your time, really, nothing could be further from the truth.
Imagine, for example, that you are a freelance Web developer in Dublin, but you have an interest in antiques, arts and crafts, maybe it’s caravans and motor-homes that keep you occupied at the weekends, or maybe it’s health and fitness, whatever your interests, it is highly likely that there is a trade fair taking place near you where all of these people who share your common interest will be together in one place.
What they won’t share is your expertise in for instance WordPress web design and IT. What they absolutely need, however, is someone who knows how to make their websites pop and , their pages rank and their businesses come to life on the Internet. It makes even more sense for them to hire a web developer who shares some of their passion for vintage cars, period furniture restoration, body-building and supplements, or whatever it happens to be.
To find these events is easier than ever. Websites like 10times.com, tradefairdates.com, enterprise-ireland.com, eventbrite.ie and many more, list all the upcoming trade fairs in the country by date, focus and location, so that you can plan your attendance accordingly, research the companies that will be attending and then go in with a plan to meet and greet everyone that you would love to do business . What may have seemed like a chore, could not only turn into real pleasure, but also some real world business opportunity as well.
How Do I Network My Small Business In Ireland? – Use Local Level Associations
I created this guide to business networking in Ireland having one reason – to make your name expand. If you have lived in Ireland for any length of time you will know that your local Chamber of Commerce can be an excellent business resource and if you live in the greater Dublin area then you will have your choice of several of these associations for whom networking is a key reason for their existence. They tend to be very welcoming places and are always looking for new members. At a complete minimum your business should be registered on their website. While the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, for example, does charge an annual fee starting at €550pa, it can be well worth the investment of money and time. At time of writing there are over 1300 businesses registered with them, and all of these have the potential to either partner with you on a project or to need a service that you can provide.
The Dublin Chamber also hosts in person and virtual training events such as Digital Marketing Essentials, Sustainable Dublin 2050, Looking Ahead to Budget 2022 with PwC, all of which will not only educate you on subjects that you may otherwise have missed, but will also bring you into contact with business owners who share your goals, challenges and who may benefit from a service that you can uniquely provide.
Another excellent source of information with potential for networking opportunities is your Local Enterprise Office. One of the best programmes they run is their Mentoring stream. Whether you are looking for mentoring or if you are in a position to help someone else at an earlier stage in their business journey, you will find that the opportunity to work closely with other professionals can be not only personally and professionally enriching, but potentially financially rewarding as well.
If mentoring is not right for you just now, they also run regular events, provide avenues towards grant funding and have over 30 offices nationwide with 4 in Dublin alone and three in Cork, so it is well worth paying a visit to your local office to see what they may be able to do for you and what networking events they may have planned.
National Level Associations
For those of us doing business in Ireland, Enterprise Ireland can be a hugely valuable resource. Many young entrepreneurs have started their journey with advice, grants or mentoring programmes under their sponsorship. While they may appear to be more of a funding and training body rather than a networking hub, the reality is that networking opportunities abound at these training events.
If you are in the early stages of starting your business they have an excellent resource that begins by connecting with their HPSU or High Potential Start-Up team. This can be an extremely high-value way to connect with exactly the right people to help springboard your company to success. However, even if you aren’t a start up, Enterprise Ireland can still be an effective way to network with your peers at a national level and is worth exploring as a potential avenue for new ventures.
International Organizations – an advice for businesses network in Ireland
If the subject of networking interests you at all then you will already have heard of the BNI, one of the world’s largest business networking Organizations. The advantage of BNI and others like them, is that while you will find local chapters, in Ireland alone there are six with one on each side of the capital city, their global reach is also considerable. Worldwide they boast over 280,000 members with 10,000 chapters and claim to have generated over $18 billion USD in referral sales for their members in the last 12 months alone.
The BNI has embraced virtual networking fully and hosts some of the world’s largest online networking events via their proprietary online software, BMI Online™. It is now easier than ever to network not only locally, but at a global level and all without leaving your home office. This is one of the guide to business networking in Ireland that introverts might like. If you are already thinking big and are planning to expand your market beyond your home location, then BNI and other international networking enterprises like them are an excellent place to start. Although Ireland is a small nation, with all of the advantages and disadvantages this entails, it can be easy to forget that the island houses two separate jurisdictions. Business opportunities are often to be found just a short distance from our capital and north of the border.
Many businesses don’t consider the additional market on their doorstep and focus their networking efforts exclusively on southern events and partnerships.
The UK government provides many avenues to tap into this market. For example, the www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk website is a free resource for anyone wishing do business or invest in Northern Ireland and is the official channel for accurate business advice in the province. They regularly host networking events, both virtual and in-person, and staying up to date is as simple as signing up for their free newsletter.
For a relatively small region, Northern Ireland hosts quite a number of resources for entrepreneurs wishing to connect meaningfully into the business community. The Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, the Confederation of British Industry, The Federation of Small Businesses and Catalyst CONNECT are just a few of the Organizations that have a presence in Northern Ireland and all are worth investigating as potential sources of new contacts, partnerships and potential clients.
Business networking may or may not be something that you enjoy doing, but the reality is that in a small country like Ireland and in a city like Dublin where everyone seems to know something about everyone else, this can be a crucial aspect in terms of scaling your business. Luckily, the business environment here is very well developed in terms of embracing this important aspect of life whether you are an entrepreneur or a freelance ‘solo-preneur’.
The possibilities described above, as you will see from the resource list attached, really just scratch the surface in terms of what is available for those wanting to network, but hopefully it has given you some good ideas and starting points from which to begin your journey. I hope this guide to business networking in Ireland will clear your mind and just put yourself on the right business track.
If you have any questions about networking in Ireland in general, about Dublin in particular, or if you are would like to get in touch to discuss any of the above, don’t hesitate to reach out and get your networking journey started today. I provide a free marketing consultation.