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Growing your business network as a new Canadian

By ATB Financial 19 August 2020 3 min read

A vast majority of small business owners — 82 per cent to be specific — say their main source of new business is referrals, according to software company Constant Contact. In addition, a recent report from the Economist Intelligence Unit says informal professional networks are more important for entrepreneurial success than highly-structured entrepreneurial efforts such as incubators and accelerators.

When it comes to building and growing a new business, a strong business network is a must. So for new Canadian entrepreneurs starting out in Alberta, it’s critical they spend time networking and investing in building connections.

“In any business setting, you will go further if you have a strong network," says Ricardo Flores, Entrepreneur Strategist at ATB. “As a new Canadian, you’re new to the country and need to build up your connections. Oftentimes, opportunities arise because you know somebody.”

How much time should you spend networking? Ivan Misner, who founded the world’s largest business networking organization, known as BNI, says you should try to dedicate 6.5 hours a week to growing your connections. Flores adds that it’s not always about quantity of time spent or connections made, but rather, it’s about the quality. “One good connection can be worth its weight in gold,” he says.

“When it comes to networking, there are many different avenues that you can take. New Canadian entrepreneurs have to be smart with how they spend their time because time is limited. So, for any event, be sure to do enough research to understand who is likely to attend and then you can set a target for who you want to meet and the number of connections you want to make,” Flores recommends.

Here are 5 ways for new Canadian entrepreneurs to grow connections in Alberta:

  1. Business networking events: Local organizations such as the Alberta Chamber of Commerce, Calgary Chamber of Commerce or Edmonton Chamber of Commerce have events and are a great source of like-minded individuals. Even some small cities and towns have a local Chamber of Commerce. Also, look for local chapters of your industry’s association then research what events might be a good fit for your stage of business growth. Websites like MeetUp.com or EventBrite list local networking events by category too.
  2. Entrepreneur organizations: “There are local organizations whose mandate is to help startups,” says Flores. These include Business Link, Start Alberta, and Startup Calgary among others. “Many times there are services and events that are free or low cost that provide a wealth of knowledge and resources — and can help you build connections. It’s a no-brainer to connect with those organizations. If you’re in Alberta, take advantage of our ATB entrepreneur centers.”

  3. Professional development organizations: One great way to build your network while growing other skills is by joining a club like Toastmasters or Rotary. “I belong to both and can attest to the value of each,” says Flores. Toastmasters is about developing your public speaking and leadership skills while Rotary brings together business and professional leaders for humanitarian causes. “People in Rotary tend to be well established and highly networked. If you’re looking to connect with other business owners, definitely consider your local Rotary club,” he says.

  4. Volunteer: Giving back to your local community or faith-based organization can help you grow and deepen your local network. This can be particularly rewarding if you can share your knowledge or skills with people looking to learn, says Flores. It also showcases the value you deliver in a tangible way, which may increase how often someone makes a referral to you.

  5. LinkedIn: Don’t forget digital networking. A recent survey from Forbes found that 58 per cent of small business owner respondents take part in business-oriented social networking groups on global platforms such as LinkedIn. “LinkedIn is a great way to grow your professional network,” adds Flores. “It gives you that ability to extend your network beyond your geographical area.” Be sure to follow these 20 tips from LinkedIn when setting up your profile, such as adding a photo and crafting a strong headline so you stand out online.

If you are looking for advice on how to grow your professional network as a new Canadian, our ATB Entrepreneur Strategists would be more than happy to connect you with fellow entrepreneurs, industry partners and other helpful resources to help you grow.

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