It would be lie a to say that organising an event such as a Conference isn’t hard work. It’s the hardest work! It’s frustrating, it’s filled with a hundred things you’ve never thought of before (having never organised a Conference), it’s late nights, lots of pleading, creative thinking and continuous motivation. And out of all that what do we get? We get personal growth, professional growth, professional development, free (ahem) training, stronger allegiances with local businesses, more business relationships, endless learning opportunities. Who wouldn’t want all of that out of a job?
One of the most exciting things about putting together a conference has to be working together with a myriad of different businesses. Big ones, new ones, small ones and established ones, so many have joined in and been part of the bigger picture.
That is essentially what Networking is about in a nutshell. Getting stuck in, seeing the bigger picture, looking for collaborative opportunities and working together supporting people in business, supporting people in business in your local areas.
Believe You Can is about being part of the bigger picture. It’s about being part of something happening in business, for women in business, that puts you and your business on the map. We’re proud, very proud, to be part of this bigger picture and you never know, we might even do it all again next year! In the meantime, see you on the 15th September 2011.
There is little else more daunting than setting up your own business even if you are not quite fully aware of this at the time of idea conception! It’s your first year and you probably aren’t aware of this right now, but you are about to embark upon one of the most learning experiences of your life. You are now going to become a PR and Marketing Team, Human Resources Department, Payroll, Web Design, Book Keeper, Copywriter, to name a few (and that probably doesn’t include the day job!) You are also about to be exposed to several ‘experts’ who know exactly what you need to do, how you need to do it and what you need to spend. They are likely to have the perfect service/product/knowledge for your business which will catapult you to the top. Oh yes….I’m afraid so.
For the mothers out there, it’s rather like when you’re pregnant with your first child and thereafter. Everyone else knows what’s best and everyone has an opinion. My most vivid memories were being told that I fed my baby to much and I was preventing him from sleeping and I also recall a seemingly endless stream of elderly women coming up to me while I was out shopping because my baby wasn’t wearing socks. I was infuriated! Did they honestly think I hadn’t put socks on his feet? Did they think I was purposefully being cruel? Did they not know I had put socks on him fifteen times already in the last hour just to watch him take them off? How do I stop over feeding my starving baby (who looked 3 months at birth?). The ‘experts’ are everywhere.
When someone new comes to one of our meetings, and we get lots of new people, many who have never been to another Networking Group before, we are aware of all of these factors. Any initial advice given, would probably go a little like this….
- Go to as many Networking Groups as money, time and your patience will allow. Find your space, stay there and commit to that group and be consistent. If you don’t know what your ‘space’ is yet, you soon will. It’s the place you feel most comfortable, most safe and most able to be yourself (in a nutshell).
- Don’t rush into any decisions about anything you need until you are in your ‘space’ and you trust the people around you. I would be very rich indeed if I had a penny for everything I have had pitched at me to purchase as a ‘need’ since I started running a business four years ago. We’re all different and so are our businesses. When you are looking for services, use people who are recommended. Not just once or by one person but get to know people who are used by lots of people in your Network. Be a smooth operator and watch people and how others interact with them. Are they consistent? Do they turn up regularly? Do they do a lot of business in the local area? We all have reputations, so generally people will protect them fiercely by providing a good service and rectifying any mistakes quickly and giving excellent customer service. I would also say as a general rule, avoid ‘experts’ and go for people who are experienced in their field and are in a constant state of learning themselves so they are up to date on their particular business knowledge.
- Join on-line networking groups like Facebook Business Groups. In a good one, you will be looked after, trusting relationships will develop and you too will benefit from being recommended. Banbury Business Networking is a fine example of a localised Facebook Business Group really working for the benefit of its members.
- People are people and they are no different to deal with than when you were employed. Human beings will always have opinions about other human beings. Meet someone for yourself and make your own judgement call. After all, we’re all different and one person’s hell is another person’s heaven.
- Finally, try and enjoy yourself and understand that everything will be in a constant state of change. The baby will sleep again. You will sleep again. As you grow, you’ll end up getting rid of some of the many departments you’ve become and you’ll be happy to have virtual PA’s, Book Keepers, Payroll. Being a person who finds delegating quite difficult, I never thought I’d have a Virtual PA, but I do. I’ve not met anyone yet who doesn’t say that their business evolved in completely different ways than they had thought it would. I never meant to set up a Networking Group with a friend….but I did!
For more information about our Groups, our Development Days and our Conference in September please have a peruse through our website or give us a call on 0844 870 9287
One of the questions you’re often asked at networking events is “What do you do?”
I used to say “I’m an alternative health practitioner” but recently at Networking Women meetings I’ve been saying something like “I help women recover from the symptoms of stress, anxiety and exhaustion.” I’ve noticed it really makes a difference to how people react to me … instead of their eyes glazing over with boredom or confusion, they start asking me questions – how do I do it, who can I help, can I help them with their stress please?!
That got me thinking, and I realised that introductions are like most forms of marketing really, aren’t they? In those few seconds when you first meet someone, you’re marketing yourself – so instead of selling the features of your business, promote the benefits it offers to your potential customers!
It’s common sense when you think about it, and we can all apply this to ourselves, whatever our business. For example, an accountant helps save you taxes. A life coach helps you fulfill your dreams; a sales expert helps you double your turnover; a car mechanic helps you stay on the road. One of the best introductions I ever heard was a guy who said, “I can make your reputation soar!” Who’s not going to want to find out more with a hook like that?!
So have a think about your business and the benefits you give your clients – and then turn those benefits into a one line introduction. And next time you’re asked, “What do you do?” give people a good reason to want to find out more!
Business networking. That’s where you put on a suit, visit a room of strangers armed with a ton of business cards, and flog them your services, isn’t it? Scary stuff!
If that’s what comes to mind when someone mentions business networking, then either you’ve been doing it all wrong, or going to the wrong places! In fact, networking is not about sales at all, not in the beginning anyway. It’s about creating a network around your business, and building relationships with other business owners. It’s about getting to know people, finding out about them and their business, and becoming friends with them. And then, when you’ve developed a strong relationship with them, it can be about selling your services – or buying theirs – but you’ll both be doing it because you like and trust each other, not because you feel you have to.
The secret to successful networking is all in the way you approach it. If you go to a meeting with one aim in mind – to sell your services and make money – then I’m sorry, but it’s not going to work! Very few people like to be pressured into a sale and in fact, you’ll be pushing people away rather than engaging with them!
Networking is not a quick fix solution with instant success; it’s more a slow burner that takes time and effort and commitment to work. Going to one meeting is not going to win you business – you need to stick at it, go back to meetings regularly and get to know people. It won’t be long before you start building relationships and developing your network. Then, when the time is right and people need what you can offer, you’ll find them coming to you – not because you’re the cheapest, but because they understand your business and they like and trust you.
So next time you go to a business networking event, don’t go thinking about making sales. Go with an open mind, a smile on your face and a desire to meet new people … and then sit back and watch your business network grow.