As your business grows so does your address book, your LinkedIn profile, your networking event invitation list and your lack of free time! And there's always a voice in your head telling you that you need to keep every plate spinning and get your network as big as you can, in case it leads to that one big deal that you know is out there for you.

But just take a minute for yourself and sit down. Put the phone aside, and relax. Now think about the network you're building. I'm sure it's full of people that can help you, but are there many who care?

Your network can be thought of as people you want to be connected to, whilst your community is those that want to be connected to you too. It's a subtle difference with a big impact. Make the connections to those who will be useful and relevant to your business, then work hard to turn those connections into people who care, so that they evolve into your community.

Building a community as well as building a network is the best way to go about growing your business. With a community of like-minded colleagues that share your beliefs, have insight and expertise in your sector and can be there to chew the fat, spit ball ideas and occasionally listen to your anguished cried of pain helps keep you on track, keeps you smiling, and keeps you focused.

The support of your community will improve the ides, products and services that you take to your network looking for business. Delivering consistently for that network will see your profile, reputation and order book grow, and you can share your successes and breakthroughs with your community to help them as they help you. It's a beautiful thing.

So here's three tips to grow your community:

Get social

Use your social media channels to seek out like-minded companies and individuals that share your beliefs and mirror your approach to doing business. Don't just barge into them shouting about yourself though. Listen, comment and build your relationship gently, demonstrating your empathy and relevance and strengthening ties.

Get together

If you're launching your business, or launching a new service or product, hold a small event and invite those you think are more likely to be useful in your community as you grow, those who are on a similar track or have relevance to what you're trying to achieve, and make it somewhere they're likely to want to go. And if you're a lone worker, why not think about inviting potential community colleagues to a co-working space regularly to share ideas and help solve each other's problems?

Get generous

I've made some of my closest community colleagues by being generous in sharing my time, ideas and expertise to help them. Yes it's a busy world and margins are increasingly squeezed across every sector, but there's always good value returns in investing a bit of time to make someone's day with the right words, the right ideas and the right time.

And here's three tips to grow your network.

Be visible

It can be easy to say yes to every networking event, but so often you'll see the same faces that are more interested in thee buffet than the business opportunity. Carefully choose which events will bring you the best chance of making a connection to some solid business. Try and get the delegate list beforehand and target those that you definitely want to speak to. They'll be impressed with your approach and you'll save time sorting the wheat from the chaff.

Be aware

Keep your ear to the ground and your eyes on LinkedIn and see who may be mentioning issues that chime with your skills and services. Try to get an introduction or make a polite direct enquiry with an offer to help. Even if you can't help them this time around you'll be on their radar, and your offer of help won't be forgotten.

Be grateful

Make sure as you grow your network that you keep in touch with them, gently remind them of what you can do to help them, steer other businesses their way that you know they can help, and be grateful when they hook you up with a good lead or an endorsement. What goes around comes around.

In my business life I've seen this work well. A connection I made through networking that displayed similar values to my own has become a solid part of my community; we've been able to refer work to each other, share ideas and discuss issues in a supportive and encouraging environment. Have a look through your LinkedIn list and reach out to those you think have community potential.

Enough relaxation now though, get back to it, and start growing!

Published on: Sep 28, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.