Network, how? perceptions of business people on networking practices
De Klerk, Saskia
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Purpose : The purpose of this paper was to contribute to literature on networking from a South African perspective. Literature on networking is mainly concentrated on the European and American contexts with homogeneous groups and traditional divisions. The business landscape of South Africa thus requires more investigation. Problem investigated : Literature regarding networking in an South African context with its dynamic business environment is limited. This article addresses the concerns of how South African business owners and managers perceive networking in their businesses and specifically focus on the South African perspective. Therefore, the focus is on the perceptions of business owners and managers on current networking practices in South Africa. Methodology : A qualitative research design to uncover the rich underlying feelings of business owners and managers was used. The qualitative enquiry consisted of five focus group discussions (n=41 participants) among prominent business owners and managers in the Gauteng Province, South Africa. The Gauteng Province was selected since it is the economic and innovation hub of South Africa. Findings and implications : The main findings showed the following main themes of networking that emerged from the data, and included (1) networking as a skill versus a natural ability; (2) the motivation behind networking; (3) the loci of networking; (4) the type of relationships that determine the character of the network; and (5) the relationship characteristics of successful networking. The main contribution of this is that there seems to be different networking situations and applications for different circumstances. According to the participants, it seems that networking in the South African landscape appears to be either relationship or business based. Originality and value of the research : The value of these findings lies in the fact that they contribute to networking literature from a South African perspective and that networking skills form an important part of management and entrepreneurship. The conclusion is that this research supports the notion that networking skills are important and should be developed on a wider basis. Formal courses on networking or incorporation in existing management training and development courses need to be implemented on all levels by educational institutions and government.