Participating in a networking group can be a tremendous boon for an accountant. Not only will you find opportunities for partnerships and meet colleagues, but you’ll also hone your accounting skills and keep your knowledge current. Yet, finding the best networking groups can be a challenge. Some groups may have too broad a focus, while others may simply not have a presence in your area.
Here are some of the best networking groups you should consider – both in terms of specific groups and in types of groups you might look for:
- Local business networking groups. Depending on exactly where you live, there might be a number of small business networking groups you can become involved with. Chambers of Commerce, local SBA meetings, and similar groups let you connect with professionals and business owners in your local area. These groups are wonderful for growing your business, connecting with new clients, and in some cases finding service providers of your own. These kinds of groups also help you connect with clients and potential clients in your local community, and send a message to clients that you’re interested in the community, too.
- State accounting networking groups. Many states have what amounts to an association of accounting professionals in the state. These groups can be good opportunities to connect with others in the field, exchange information about current trends or new legislation, and will probably also be a source of continuing education. These groups are a good place to find accountants that offer services to complement your own, and can ultimately form the basis of a partnership.
- Function-specific networking groups. In addition to local and state groups, there are national groups devoted to specific accounting functions. For example, there are a number of national organizations for tax professionals, such as the National Association of Tax Professionals, National Society of Tax Professionals, and others. These networking groups will have members spread across the country and may offer very few face-to-face networking opportunities. Groups that offer annual conventions or conferences can be a good option, as they give you the opportunity to meet in person. Most of these groups make good use of online technology, such as message boards, email, social media and offer online accounting resources and templates.
- Technology-based networking groups. Because your accounting software package is at the center of your accounting business, you rely on that software to increase productivity, efficiency, and ultimately profits. Depending on the particular solution you have in place, there may be user groups you can join. If your firm uses Drake, for example, connecting with other Drake users can help you make better use of the software, share common concerns, and even have a voice that the company can hear when it comes to issues like bug fixes, added features, or software improvement.
- Alumni groups. Like local business groups, alumni groups are made up of people across many industries. Connecting with people from your alma mater can be a great opportunity for both professional development and sales. Many business owners and decision-makers that are involved in such groups routinely turn to those groups to find service providers. Depending on the strength of the accounting program at your University, there may even be an alumni group specifically for those in accounting.
As you can see, there are plenty of potential networking opportunities for accountants. To take full advantage of these and choose the one that best fits your needs, however, you need to follow a few specific steps to choose the best networking groups:
- Identify your reasons for networking. If you’re interested in professional development, you’re probably going to be involved in a different networking group than if you’re interested in expanding your client base. Your motive for networking should be the single most important factor in choosing a group.
- Be ready to participate. Membership in some of these groups (such as a local Chamber of Commerce) might occasionally spur someone to approach you about your accounting business, but that’s not the norm. If you’re going to join one of these groups, be ready to participate in order to enjoy the benefits. That might mean participating in online discussions, attending conferences or meetings, and more.
- Leverage your existing connections. Reach out to your existing business network, and see what groups other accounting professionals are involved in. This can be a natural and relatively easy way to get involved.
The best networking groups can be a tremendous boon to your business and to your professional skills. Check into your options today. Become a Certified Tax Coach and join one of the best networking groups for tax professionals!