Networking is essentially mixing with and talking to as many people as possible. But there are definitely certain people you should look to.Jennifer Schramm is an adviser in training and development at the CIPD: "It's important for new businesses to get as involved as they can in their professional area through local networking groups.
"Meeting people who are doing the same kind of work can help you to learn on two levels: from professionals in the industry and from other small businesses who might be experiencing the same thing. It can also be a useful source for mentors and ultimately employees, when you're in a position to recruit."
Sophie Brown of Marmalade Cards, Cambridge, spent time ringing up people from the Yellow Pages in her industry, both competitors and complimentary businesses. "Everyone I spoke to was happy to offer advice and it helped me learn about practical issues such as what mark up to put on. I've even teamed up with someone who makes wedding hats - we're able to share mailing lists and leads."
Jon Howes of chip design company NEuW looked to a friend when he needed a technical manager and couldn't find the right person, "I knew any number of people who were more than technically qualified. But it wasn't until my friend's suggestion that I found someone who would also fit in personally."
You can benefit also simply from discussing with people who they rate and trust. You're not going to build a business deal solely on trust but it gives you a starting point for which suppliers to go to, for example.
And remember, as with any team, networking is a process of give and take - the advice people offer you will be paid back when you interact with them. You might know of a good supplier or have a marketing idea to recommend.