Networking and connecting can be incredibly rewarding.  And as you get the hang of it you may determine that the time has come for you to start your own networking group.  While many who choose to will succeed, the risk involved should be measured against the potential reward before jumping in.

There are many rewards for starting your own group should it succeed.  You may be in a highly competitive field like banking, insurance, or real estate and all the positions in the established closed groups are filled.  Starting a group would provide you with an opportunity to participate in a closed or exclusive group.  Of course when you start a group you have the added luxury of determining who will be allowed in the group.  And by starting your own group you can determine when the group meets, where it meets, and virtually all other logistical aspects of the group.

While there are many other benefits to starting your own group, one final benefit is that you have the opportunity to demonstrate your leadership skills.  This will make you instantly more likely to receive leads and referrals.  Everyone wants to associate with a leader.

With benefit we often find risk, and the risks are many when it comes to starting your own networking group.  You may not succeed and those you attempt to bring into a group will be disappointed.  This may lead to fewer leads and referrals.  You may alienate a friend or networking partner if you do not invite them to your new group.  There may be power struggles and difficulty moving the group to action from time to time.  And if you choose to charge a fee to be apart of the group you will have the headache of maintaining the books for a new business venture that will make little if any money for some time to come.  If you don’t charge a fee you may find it harder to get participants to take the group seriously.

While the risks are many the reward in many cases will outweigh the risk.  You should choose to jump in if this is the case.  But you should do so after careful examination of all the factors that will impact your success.  The most successful launches of new groups always begin by identifying a core group of key participants that will bring excitement to the group.  These participants should be people you know well but don’t network with as often as you would like.  Once you’ve identified a core group, choose a day of the week and time that works for everyone and stick to it.  Have an initial meeting to get the group going and to determine the other business categories you wish to fill.  Then plan a launch party with at least four weeks notice.

Begin with a bang by inviting more people than you need to fill the group.  Each person in the core group should invite at least ten people to the launch party.  Make this truly a party atmosphere full of fun and excitement.  Plan this meeting well and invite more than one person from each business category.  What should result is a competition for the open slots between the invitees.  This creates buzz and desire to participate.  These newly drafted members will add excitement and enthusiasm to your group.  Do this as many times as it takes to fill the group.  Don’t be overly ambitious about membership.  Most closed groups function best with between six and twenty members.

You may notice we have made no reference to open groups in this discussion.  We believe there is an abundance of open networking groups and no need to create more.  If you’re looking for an active, powerful, open group, look no further than your local chamber of commerce.  If it isn’t functioning at a high level, volunteer to super-charge the networking for them.  You will have an instant audience and you will be more likely to succeed.

Starting a group is typically the last resort or only necessary if you cannot find what you are looking for in another group.  It is an option if your category is filled in all the exclusive groups or if there is a lot of competition in your industry.   You can set yourself apart by starting a group.  Be sure to identify the potential risk involved and measure it against the potential reward before jumping in.  Starting your own group can be fun and rewarding so long as you know how to do it and what you hope to accomplish.