Building a professional network can lead to increased opportunities for you—and for your independent community pharmacy.
Although the concept is simple, it’s often difficult to find time to build and maintain a professional network. And with multiple platforms to create connections, it can be difficult to know where to begin to form meaningful relationships with other pharmacy professionals.
Here are four tips to help you build a strong professional network that will yield positive results for you and your business.
1. Develop your professional network
Building a strong professional network means more than adding colleagues, physicians and other professionals on LinkedIn or Facebook. It requires investing your time and effort to foster meaningful relationships.
Keep in mind that quality is better than quantity. If your online professional networks consist of hundreds of individuals, how many of those would lend a helping hand, or feel comfortable reaching out to you for your professional opinion?
While it’s okay to have hundreds of connections online, focus on building mutually beneficial partnerships with a couple dozen individuals.
Once you’ve identified these individuals, keep in touch regularly. If they’re not individuals you correspond with frequently, but you see them as professionally beneficial, reach out to them every few months. Maintain the connection by asking how they are, and sharing a bit about your latest endeavors.
2. Engage with groups to expand your reach
Professional organizations not only keep you knowledgeable and up-to-date on industry trends, but they also foster the opportunities to meet and network with other industry professionals.
You might be able to glean advice from another independent pharmacy owner who overcame a problem that your pharmacy is currently struggling with. Here are some recommendations of pharmacy organizations to join to grow your network.
Also, consider joining your local chamber of commerce. Monthly networking meetings allow you to keep up with happenings in the community, so you don’t miss out on any events that your pharmacy should be a part of.
Local chambers frequently have new attendees and guests who aren’t members, so you’ll always have new opportunities to freshen your network connections.
3. Create and maintain social profiles
Creating social profiles is essential to retain network contacts. Think of social profiles as virtual business cards where your colleagues and connections can review your credentials and areas of specialization whenever they need to.
Once you’ve created your profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or other social media platforms, remember to keep them current.
Update your profiles with continuing education courses you complete, and share useful industry-specific, or small-business related information and articles—tailored to the kinds of things the network you’ve created would like to see.
Diversity is important in a professional network, so don’t limit yourself to only pharmacists and health care professionals. Other small business owners, entrepreneurs, educators and local officeholders can make valuable additions to your network.
4. Dedicate time each week to network
Networking should not come in spurts every now and then, but should be tended to daily, or at least weekly. If you don’t set aside time for maintaining your network in your busy schedule, it could easily be forgotten.
Create reminders of which contacts you’d like to reach out to in a given month, and create schedules for posting on your social media accounts. You can schedule tweets and Facebook updates to post at a future time and date, so you can create a week’s worth of updates in just one sitting, rather than being tied to your devices.
Social media is an essential communication tool, but don’t forget to pick up the phone, or meet with members of your network face-to-face. Pick a day weekly or bi-weekly to take a connection out for lunch or coffee, and drop by other local businesses periodically.