Entrepreneurs: Networking Is A Must

Networking is not a novel idea. However, it takes many professionals a while to master. 

Having been around RALAcademy during the early years of growth, I witnessed first hand the benefits of community within the industry and connection amongst all the different business owners. If I hadn’t known better, I could have easily believed that everyone has community and everyone has a strong network.

The truth is, business owners do not always have the luxury of trial and error when it comes to networking, as time is of the essence. 

Time spent away from the business is time lost if the benefit is not more significant or impactful to the running of the business.  

What does this mean?

Keeping with my experience in residential assisted living, professional networking for the entrepreneur is vital but there is a strategic alignment that is essential. In RAL, staying current with the number of regulations, changes in legislation, equipment adjustments, resident and family demands requires professional networking to be strategic.

The stakes are too high for anything otherwise.

It is beneficial for proper professional networking for organizational advancement, innovation, and strategic alliances.

What Is Professional Networking?

Specifically, what is a professional network, and how does it foster growth and development in the assisted living homeowner?

Simply put, professional networking is focused on networking among like professionals. It is not the all-encompassing business networking (think BNI), which fosters collaboration among multiple business disciplines to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. Professional networking takes on a different flare.

Professional networking might well be considered a closed loop. Specifically, professional networking builds collaboration amongst industry-specific professionals.

As a result, it strengthens the individual businesses as well as the industry internally. 

Knowing this to be the case, I have been privileged to be a part building the Residential Assisted Living Academy as well as the Residential Assisted Living National Association. Both of these serve as strong, premier professional networking organizations for the RAL industry.

Professional organizations like this foster camaraderie amongst assisted living homeowners and lead to building networks within networks. 

The organizational structure ensures alignment amongst professionals and builds a powerful national coalition with the potential to shape and frame policy.

The benefits of professional networking are immense. 

Benefits of Professional Networking

Professional networking is powerful because of its concentrated attention and effort. Here are the most common benefits.

The power of professional networking is in its focus. It is purposefully non-interdisciplinary – this means you will always get information specific to your line of business.  

Industry Expert Access
Most small business owners would never have access to the subject matter experts of their industry. Finding the premier networking organizations for your industry grants you personal access to leading experts. RALAcademy and RALNA both facilitate this type of connectivity among members.

Industry-Specific Legal Expertise
Lawyers may be a dime a dozen, but good lawyers are a rare commodity. Finding a lawyer that is well-versed in the nuances and legal cases relating to your industry can almost feel impossible! But with professional networking organizations you discover the rare practitioners intimately aware of the needs of your business.

Regulatory Knowledge
If your industry isn’t heavily regulated, consider yourself lucky. Because residential assisted living intersects health care with real estate with housing, it can feel heavily regulated. The regulations governing the industry are immense and can be overwhelming for some. Within your professional networking organization you have more readily accessible guidance to navigate the murky regulatory waters. Additionally, regulations change, and members are updated as to these regulatory changes in real-time.

Marketing Specific Knowledge
Learning about marketing strategies might be exciting, but if those strategies are not proven effective in the assisted living industry, learning and time spent might be in vain.

Legislative Advocacy
While not all organizations take on an advocacy role relating to legislation, many do. Being a part of a professional networking group playing an active part in advocacy means two things for you. First, they can literally advocate for you to lawmakers and governing boards. Second, they can help you understand how to work within the regulations, having often played a part in the legislative process.

Friends for Life
While building a thriving business is phenomenal, nothing trumps the company of like-minded friends. Relationship building is perhaps the most powerful benefit of professional networking. It is an essential part of the entrepreneurial journey that is often overlooked. It results in building and supporting the entrepreneur, which ultimately builds and supports the business.

Who Is In Your Professional Networking Group?

Professional networks are focused groups. Those associated with a professional network join with a goal in mind: to be better at what they do. 

That’s the heart behind what the Residential Assisted Living National Association has started to build through their RALNA Monthly Meetups. RALNA and RALA are strategic alignments for assisted living homeowners to help them become better and owning and operating assisted living homes.

Membership to Residential Assisted Living National Association is free and available here.

Professional networks may also include paraprofessionals that support and undergird the assisted living home. 

These professionals include:

  • Social Workers
  • Public Health Departments
  • Religious Leaders
  • Local governmental officials
  • Healthcare Professionals

While these people are not intimately aligned with your industry, they can offer significant support. Having them on speed dial is just as crucial for many businesses as the professional networks themselves.

What Should You Do Next?

Professional networking is a purposeful endeavor. Unlike business networking, which happens quite commonly in communities throughout the nation, professional networking requires research. 

It is specific and often comes with personal responsibility.

Those who network professionally are very intentional – they are focused and diligent about executing the intricacies of their businesses. 

Four questions you should ask yourself as an entrepreneur should include:

  1. How intentional are you?  
  2. Do you intend to position yourself as an industry expert?
  3. Can you see yourself growing into a mentor within your industry?
  4. Do you want to shape the industry in which you operate?

By answering these questions with clarity and conviction, you align your professional networking endeavors with your broader business objectives. Remember, the effectiveness of your networking is not measured by the quantity of connections, but by their quality and relevance to your mission. Engage with intention, seek out strategic partnerships, and embrace the opportunities that professional networking presents to not just transform your business, but to make a lasting impact on the assisted living industry as a whole.


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