Stepping into the civilian world, I would always have people inviting me into different networking events or functions. In the beginning, I stayed clear of them. I don’t know if it was because I had felt intimidated by them, or just the way I was asked when people wanted me to go. From the outside, it just appeared like it was small groups of people that were in a “special club” where I didn’t know if I would fit in, especially in this new civilian life.
I finally caved and attended my first networking breakfast. It was put on by the local Chamber of Commerce. People were very friendly, and the majority were welcoming! I did get the feeling from a few that I was “invading of their turf”, but I did not care, as this networking event was open to any profession, and did not limit how many professionals had to be in a certain field. Out of the 50 or so people in attendance, there was at least 5 different career fields that had representatives from different businesses attending.
We all went around the room with a given 30 sec intros about yourself and business, after that we had some time to eat and make some conversations with others while the presenters got set up. The presenters had 30 min to talk about their business, and after, they would answer any questions from the group. Once the presenters were done, the floor was open again for anyone to conversate, but the majority of people were quickly out to their cars.
I had liked the overall feel of this networking group and soon found myself making good connections and visiting other networking groups as well. I quickly found out that I was seeing the same faces and hearing the same pitches. I would also find that when I would want to hear about other people’s business, they didn’t quit care what I had to say, they just wanted to know if I was going to buy their product. I wanted to go to these events to find some sort of supportive community and encouragement amongst each other. While I did see that on some occasions, I was looking for more, and that’s may be where being a veteran and having that type of camaraderie while in uniform, is what I was missing.
The VRV was started as solely just as a networking group (which obviously grew into so much more), but I wanted to create a group that truly focused on veterans, did not feel intimidating, had a supportive base of each other, and was open to all! Little did I know at the time on how big this would get within just a year. The amount of positive influencers, resources, and connections being made is incredible!
Veterans connect with each other on a different level. I believe there is always a greater amount of trust between us! Our online community has grown through Instagram and Facebook substantially since our conception, and not only have we been able to get consumers in contact with these businesses, we have created a networking platform in which these businesses have been able to help each other!
Networking is an absolute must for any business owner, its just a matter of trying to find the time! That’s where we try to find that “white space” on when and where we can hold these networking events that enables the small business owner to participate, as well as the local community. While networking amongst business owners or their representatives is great, we did not want to forget the consumers. I wanted our networking events open to all! We have also see numerous active duty, and veterans in the middle of career changes, coming out to our events to see what we are all about! These have been a great resource to them as they are able to speak to the Veteran business owners on a different level, not where someone is just trying to sell them a product! We have already had multiple success stories of individuals who have been hired because of the face-to-face interaction that took place at our events!
If you are not involved in a networking group, I strongly suggest you go and check one out near you. You will find many people that are willing to give you free advice (good and bad!), and you are able to expand your sphere of influence, and get people talking about your business! You never know what connection you are going to make next, or who they can connect you with!