The first entrepreneur I interviewed is Ria van Erp, who owns a real estate agency in Heemstede. She has owned the business for twenty five years. The real estate market is one where networking is extremely important, also because people don’t buy a house very frequently, so finding new customers is a continuous process in which networking plays a major role. A big challenge in this sector is that you once a customer had bought or rented a house through you, it is not expected that this customer will require your services in the near future. So in order to maintain a steady source of new clients, it is key that people spread the word about you in a positive way, since advertising can only guarantee a portion of the publicity. Improvement on this topic is made by keeping up with customers after they have obtained a house, in this way a positive bond is created that can be of importance in the future. In order to create an ever expanding network she is joining meetings and party’s all the time, a large part of the time she puts in the business is devoted to networking. A challenge for her is how to create a network of high quality without letting anyone down that you actually don’t really want be part of your network. In the real estate sector, reputation is very important, and the quality of your network had a big influence of the rating that customers give to your reputation. Because she has been working in this business for so long, implementing the new media was quite a challenge, but she is trying to update her website with new houses on a regular basis. Facebook and Twitter are not used by her because she is of the opinion that it is not a professional way of networking in her area.
Maikel Driebergen is the second entrepreneur that participated in this survey, he sells stuffed animals and is a taxidermist himself as well. Since this business is relatively small in the Netherlands, a big deal of his current client base is kept up with networking. There is just a small market for these animals, and knowing people in the business is a crucial step to becoming successful. Since advertising is not really an option in such a small sector, most of the customers base their decision for purchase on the reputation the provider has. It is not an easy task since everyone knows one another so a mistake can cost a lot. Building such a reputation can cost years, which is why Maikel relied on the existing network of his father when he started the company. After proving to be a reliable actor, he is now running his business with a network he created himself. The network actions that he undertakes are for instance the hosting of taxidermist workshops, in which he teaches potential new clients and existing customers how to create a stuffed animal. Since his company is very young, social media can be an effective way to becoming more known in the sector. He actually launched his Facebook page this week, on that he has pictures of the existing items that are on sale and he tells something about the company. For Maikel this is a big step, as he is also a full time student, as does this on the side, therefore not much time was left to promote his company outside of the network meetings he already attends. For him the biggest challenge is to keep up his network and creating time to do that. Taxidermy is a very small world so you have to show yourself to maintain a significant position in the market.
The biggest difference between the male and female entrepreneur I interviewed was that social media is very important in the eyes of the male entrepreneur but that may have to do with the fact that he is much younger than my female entrepreneur. Another difference is that the female is more concerned about the quality of her network than the male entrepreneur. This difference is maybe due to the big difference of the sectors they operate in but still it is worth mentioning.