Since moving to France the opportunity to network face to face was massively diminished, and much of my networking is done online. The impact of that has been enormous for which I am grateful. I have virtually met many people and forged many successful professional and personal friendships because of it. That said, you cannot gauge what a business owner is about so easily on line. You need to see the white's of their eyes, ask questions, tap into your intuition. Human interaction is largely based on what you can see, hear and feel. Not just the words that are used. How many times have we read and email or text and thought what?! Only to assume that the words used have implied a different tone. When the reality is that at the time of sending the other person may have been smiling, sitting relaxed and conveying a tone that was not how we received it. Human interaction, our ability to assimilate quickly helps eliminate unnecessary assumptions.
Why networking in person still matters?
You cannot beat face to face, human interaction. We can assimilate information about people much quicker than online. In a short space of time you know more about someone than you might have had if the interaction was online. Sometimes asking a variety of questions online is so much less personal than when asking in person. The one being questioned can be put at ease with body language, the style of questions, the questioners response. Trust is built much quicker with human interaction, and trust is important when doing business with someone.
Why it's important to network locally with other businesses
The life of an auto entrepreneur or micro entrepreneur as we are now known in France can be lonely. Particularly for the expat. From setting up to dealing with the bureaucracy which is never ending can be frustrating at the best of times. Especially when you get used to doing something then everything changes. Which it often does and France's answer to many things is, well you need to know and it is up to you to find out.
For many, the language is a barrier, so you might have scraped by asking easy questions, but when things get too technical many feel out of their depth. Some are happy to find our more, by visiting establishments face to face or using support services. Others may bury their head in the sand and hope that at some point they will be bypassed and just carry on.
It is important to feel comfortable to talk about concerns and issues that concern your business. We have all been through situations that can be of benefit to others. We can all learn from mistakes, we can all learn new ways of doing things. The power of plenty, means that we do not have to feel isolated, we do not have to blunder our way through a situation. I am of the opinion that worrying about it uses up important energy and time. Sharing it or tapping into a network of people will more often than not provide either words of wisdom or help. You can deal with things quickly and move on.
Networking pushes those traditional boundaries a bit, as you are talking to different people. It is easy to remain in a comfort zone. By talking with a variety of different people, you are placing you and your business in front of a different audience. When people know more about you it is easy for them to talk about you and your business in their circles. Relationship building takes time, as with all other forms of promoting our business whether that's local advertising or using social media. But what a great feeling when you receive an enquiry because someone in your human network has recommended you.
How did Oui Chef come about?
Setting up a local networking group was something that I wanted to do quite some time ago, but as with many things, you can't rush the future, you have to wait for the right time. And the month of March felt like the right time to launch Oui Chef – Boutonne Business Networking Group. Oui Chef – meaning Yes boss! As we are all bosses of ourselves. Chef Boutonne is a large market town in the Deux Sevres. This market town and surrounding area has a huge expat community, many of whom are working. There are business owners who have venues and by using these venues frequently, their business will get exposure and support. I am passionate about supporting self employed people, I am one, I am married to one. It's precarious when both of you are self employed. We work hard, long hours. Income needs to come in. Knowing that there is a human network of support out there to share in the successes and the frustrations is extremely beneficial when you think your back is against the wall. There is no need to try and survive alone, the power of the pack can be supportive and motivational. We all deserve to be able to push beyond the survive and thrive successfully.
Networking isn't always about talking shop. Social networking is just as important as business networking... and I along with many others would prefer to do this face to face rather than some virtual facebook party. Many prefer to 'network' in a more relaxed atmosphere than one that is deemed more business like. It is important for members of Oui Chef to be able to have a variety of events in order that everyone can participate when they can. There will be a number of workshop events to share information that is relevant to us all along with plenty of opportunity to muse over self employed life in France over a glass of wine.
If you are an auto-entrepreneur or the newly named micro-entrepreneur and live and work within 50km of Chef Boutonne, please feel free to join the group Oui Chef.