‘Crossover’ care

We usually have no problem accommodating those who wish to join our clubs but sometimes, especially when we are concerned with the more popular business categories, it can be difficult to find an opportunity.

The whole point of exclusive referral networking is to ensure that the member’s position is protected and that he or she does not have to worry about competitors taking business from within the networking group itself. So we need to be very careful to ensure that we do not allow problems to arise by the ‘back door’.

Occasionally, a business owner may be particularly anxious to secure a place in a particular networking club and if their business sector has already been taken, that can result in an attempt to distance themselves from it and focus on other areas which may form part of their offering and which can be distinguished from the types of activity under review. This might be perfectly legitimate, especially if the products and services an individual deals with are wide ranging. It might be fine to have, for example, two solicitors, if one dealt exclusively with civil litigation and the other restricted him or herself to conveyancing. Or it might be that one person is regularly involved in completely separate activities, with two quite different areas of business. Increasingly, this is something we see nowadays as people find they need more than one string to their bow.

There are also times when a member may be entirely happy to admit someone from another business where there is some small degree of ‘crossover,’ as it may be possible for the two to exchange leads and mutually benefit from a close association.

We would have to exercise good judgement however where there is an attempt to describe goods or services by another name in order to try to join a club when someone else has beaten the applicant to the seat. Most people would not want this to happen anyway as it is likely to prove to nobody’s advantage. Where it is clear that a business provides mainly services which would result in a conflict of interest, it is incumbent on us to resist any approach based on an area of minor activity, especially as it could lead to difficulty and confusion for other members.

A turn up for the books

If you bought a new car, would you leave it sitting on your driveway?  No and you wouldn’t buy a new armchair and then sit on the floor either.

So, if you join a networking group, it naturally follows that you’ll want to make sure you go to meetings regularly. It is of course true that by joining you have secured your category and it can’t be taken by any of your competitors but this is only part of the story. The most important aspect of networking is about getting to know your fellow members and developing the trust between you which will eventually lead to confidence in business exchange.

Unlike some other networking organisations, we don’t insist on 100% attendance and officially operate a 75% attendance policy. This is one of our selling points and is doubtless a contributory factor for some people in making a decision to join us. But, that said, we’re under no illusions about the importance of being at meetings. Of course, there will be occasions when you genuinely can’t make it due to a clash of appointments or some family circumstance but feeling you ‘can’t be bothered’ or don’t want to get up is not a valid reason.

Being present on a regular basis is the way that you develop relationships with your colleagues, the way they get used to providing you with leads and to the idea that you might have something to pass on to them. It’s also true to say that by taking a membership category you have a responsibility to yourself and your colleagues to make the most of that opportunity.

So just turning up is a fundamental building block to enable you to get full value from the investment you have made. Don’t leave your badge in a cupboard or on your desk. Make sure you’re at the meeting venue and wearing it. Your networking is one of the most crucial aspects of your business and arguably, more important than the new car or the chair!

What price the venue?

One of the biggest potential headaches for the organisers of any networking event is to get the venue right. It needs to be in a suitable place, have a car park, be open at the time your event is to be held, able to provide suitable food and drink and also to actively want the continued custom of a networking group.

Networking is, or at least can be, somewhat cyclical and there will be times when the meetings are exceptionally well attended and others which can best be described as fallow periods.The aim is of course for the former situation to prevail but the owners or managers of the chosen venue need to take a long term view of the arrangement and not just work out the pounds, shillings and pence on a week to week basis.

The networkers will want to feel that their custom is valued  and be happy and confident in inviting their guests to the venue. They won’t take kindly to too much change or the idea that they are of less importance than other customers, especially if these are not regular users of the facilities.

So, it’s as well for the organisers to keep the relationship ticking over nicely. These days it is actually surprising how many restaurants and hotels don’t really seem to want networking business. To us it seems strange that this should be the case but perhaps it has to do with the alternative uses to which the room could be put. At the end of the day though, networkers are pretty loyal people and if things go well they will stay put. Why look for difficulties where none exist?

What we all want is a good sense of association with the place we have chosen and value for money in terms of the regular meeting fee.

At TLGC, we are fortunate to have found some excellent venues with whom we have a great relationship and where we have kept our business for lengthy periods.  So if you have a restaurant, hotel or pub and receive an approach from a networking club, treat it with enthusiasm as it could really pay off in the long run, even if it starts in a small way.

The secrets of success

It’s a new year so time to start thinking about what you do and how you do it. That applies to your networking activities too.

We are constantly saying that networkers need to be in it for the long haul and great results will take time to achieve because networking is all about trust of course. Hopefully, that message has really been taken on board now and everyone accepts that the results they want will be delivered from consistent attendance and adding value to the relationships developed.

What are the important things to think about and decide whether you are giving them the best attention you can?

Turning up early – Be ready, be enthusiastic – have plenty of business cards with you. It doesn’t matter if someone ends up with several of yours; perhaps that will encourage them to hand them out to their contacts too.

If you take someone with you, make sure you don’t just stick together -one occasion when you can divide and rule!

Make sure you speak to everyone in the room – don’t leave having ignored anybody completely.

Shake hands firmly and confidently – limp, ‘wet fish’ handshakes send the wrong message about you as does a vice like, crushing grip which leaves others massaging their fingers!

Make sure your one minute introduction is interesting and compelling whilst at the same time sounding spontaneous.

Don’t ‘elbow your way in’ to conversations. Wait for your chance to take part. ‘Pushiness’ is not popular.

The meal is not the primary reason you are there so don’t devote too much time to that at the expense of conversation and relationship building.

Stay until the end. People will often still be around for quite some time after the official meeting has completed, so try to make the most of those additional opportunities.

By following the fundamentals, you will make networking work to your best advantage.

 

 

 

It’s never too early……………

You probably think it’s still too early to be thinking about 2015. After all, the Christmas parties have not really got going yet and we haven’t enjoyed the best that the festive season has to offer, including the chance to take a well earned rest, at least for some of us.

But if you think it’s much too soon to be planning ahead, you’d be wrong, certainly from a networking point of view. Now is just the time to set your networking goals for next year, so that you can hit the ground running on January 5 at the very latest.

If you’ve not yet secured your seat around the table of an exclusive membership networking club in your local area, what are you waiting for? We’ll admit that things sometimes go a little quiet in December but come January we will be getting loads of enquiries as people realise that pushing their businesses ahead through networking is a ‘no-brainer’ and clamour to make sure they have ensured their participation in a suitable local club for 2015. So beat them to it by joining up before the end of 2014.

To be a successful networker you will need to make sure that you fully participate in the activity of your club. Remember that the principle behind all that we do is to ensure that everyone helps everyone else and this can’t be achieved unless members work together and really try their hardest to help each other. After all, networking is not something which just happens without effort; nothing in business ever is and this is no exception. The hardest part of any business growth effort is just getting through that door in the first place and networking can help you do that. But first you will have to work at it and that means ensuring regular attendance at meetings, arranging one to ones with fellow members and ensuring that you are passing any and all the referral leads you can so that as much as possible comes back to you too.

All this requires pre-planning, so make sure you have your networking effort straight in your mind in time to get going as soon as next year kicks off. The longer you leave it, the less likely you are to achieve your goals fully and the most successful clubs are those where all the members ‘get it’ and work hard together continuously to grow the group and maximise its advantages for everyone.

Good luck with putting your ideas into practice; don’t forget we’re here to help our members. We hope everyone enjoys the holidays and rests up ready to go next year!

The Advent of Christmas

At this time of year, all our thoughts inevitably turn to enjoying ourselves amidst the festive round of social occasions, parties, Christmas ‘dos’ and general merriment.

This inevitably means that attention can be taken away from business issues and sometimes from networking too. It’s great to have Christmas-themed meetings and perhaps some extra functions enabling members of the various local groups to get together and meet each other in a relaxed, informal session with the emphasis on everyone enjoying themselves.

After that, of course the focus turns to home and family and as it gets nearer to Christmas, enthusiasm for turning up at networking meetings can lessen. The actual seasonal holiday period also seems to get longer all the time, although this year, in theory at least, everyone should be back at work for 5 January. This often means that networking takes a break for an extended period, particularly if meetings are usually held on a fortnightly basis.

We’ve reflected before on the necessity to be certain that, as members, you keep attending regularly but it’s even more important to make sure that not too long a period goes by without keeping up the relationships you’ve spent so much time building. Long holiday periods which could perhaps lead to the best part of a month without the group getting together will do no one any good and will certainly derail the momentum of the club. It’s definitely best to try to ensure that the interval between meetings is as short as possible and ideally, no longer than usual. Where that isn’t feasible, it may even be a good idea to arrange an extra meeting as soon as possible after the festive period, perhaps with an extra one coming along hard on its heels.

At TLGC, we recognise the fundamental importance of this and our Regional Managers and Directors work closely with local committee members to try to make sure that things are kept as normal as possible whilst people are still enjoying themselves and letting their hair down a bit!

It’s not about spoonfeeding

Sometimes, people seem to think that networking is a straightforward matter and that all they have to do is join a club and then all the business they want will miraculously flow from a magic fountain without them having to do anything at all other than pick up a note with the details on. Such people do not always see the need to do anything which might cause them marginal inconvenience, so they often don’t even bother to turn up for meetings either.

Unsurprisingly, they are the first to tell their club manager ‘its not working’ for them after a few months or perhaps even sooner than that. The answer they get is invariably the same: they’re not putting any effort in and aren’t showing any commitment to the group or to other individual members.

So how can anyone make the most of their membership? It is often said that a referral networking club membership is one of the most important items in the toolbox of any new small business. But what the member is buying is not a cache of hidden business leads which can be opened randomly and at will; rather it is the right to sit around the table with a group of other people and to have the opportunity to make that cache work for them. Of course the price includes a lot of other things connected with organisation, profile, management, marketing, publicity etc. but even this does not mean that the member can just sit back and expect it all to happen around him or her.

Any such club needs 100% commitment from its members. They need to turn up regularly (our attendance policy allows reasonable leeway for most sets of circumstances) and make sure they get to know their fellow members both at meetings and also by arranging one to one sessions outside the formal structure in order to promote mutual understanding in greater depth. Only from this will the level of trust necessary to ensure exchange of referrals to trusted contacts fully develop.

Come to every meeting armed with a lead to pass, a one to one to arrange or to talk about, or take along a visitor. Then everyone else will see how serious you are, will come to understand that you are reliable, professional and trustworthy and start seeing you as someone they would be happy to introduce to their family, friends and clients or customers.

It isn’t just the responsibility of the club manager and the committee to bring in guests and visitors but it is also a task which every single member must share in order to bring the highest possible level of success, not only for themselves but also for every one of their fellow members.

All on the same page

It’s often worth thinking about the reasons why people do things. Perhaps you really don’t know why things that annoy you actually appear quite logical and harmless to others. That’s particularly true in business where understanding customer and competitor motivation helps you to develop your own plans to provide customer satisfaction and increase market share.

It’s worthy of consideration in networking too. Experienced networkers tend to assume that everyone else has the same ideas that they do but inevitably, that’s not always the case. If you actually ask people questions and invite them to write down their own personal answers, the results might be quite surprising.

You might want to know, for example, why people come along in the first place, why they consider regular attendance to be important (or if they do) and how they expect the group or groups to grow. The seasoned networker will be anticipating answers along the lines of a) growing the business, b) developing trust and relationships and c) bringing along visitors with a view to getting them to join. However, these may not necessarily be the answers that you get. Sometimes we think that people have read all the material available which explains the way an organisation works but in reality, perhaps they haven’t and perhaps they didn’t hear things the way you intended when you put forward your take on it in the first place!  It’s often remarkable the way different individuals can place entirely separate constructions on one set of words they all hear at the same time.

Part of the extra benefits gained from membership of a networking organisation is of course aspects of a learning process and it’s well worth taking the opportunity to revisit the basics sometimes to make sure everyone is ‘singing from the same hymn sheet.’ When that’s achieved and any misunderstandings ironed out, it may be easier and quicker to move forward to the position you all want to be in.

 

A practical examination

Do you manage to listen attentively the whole time other people are speaking even if you don’t find the subject very interesting?  Do you concentrate fully and take in everything that is being said or do you find that afterwards you can’t remember much and wish that you had paid attention properly or at least feel guilty because you didn’t?

Well, if you don’t listen carefully, it’s likely that you’re very far from unique. Most people find it very easy to take in their favourite TV programme or film but show them a documentary on a subject that they’re not passionate about and they’ll probably fail to recall much of the content. You can have a similar problem when you try to read a ‘heavy’ book; following the plot (if there is one!) will be much harder than keeping track of the latest top ten thriller.

With this in mind, it’s a fair bet that when you come to present your business in detail at a networking meeting, you won’t find everybody absolutely enthralled by what you have to say.  You’re going to have to make it different and interesting.  One way of doing this is to provide a practical demonstration of your skills or services.

This idea seems to have taken off amongst members of the groups we have visited recently. One of the most unexpected events was a demonstration of acupuncture techniques (by an acupuncturist of course!) using another member rather than a dummy. This was a risky strategy in a way because almost anything could have gone wrong but thankfully, nothing did and the ‘patient’ was impressed that the procedure was painless and left him feeling very relaxed.

A less adventurous , but still important, set of tasks was implemented by the owner of a cleaning company who showed her audience exactly how the mirrors in the meeting room should be cleaned.

Another interesting idea is to actually give your listeners something which they take away and use to their advantage. We saw an accountant do this recently with a worksheet to enable members working from home to use a model which would show exactly how they could maximise their tax allowances. The prospect of saving some money certainly compels attention and most people present went away with something to think about.

Perhaps what you do is not straightforward or easy to understand. The best example of a practical exercise seen recently has to be a neurodevelopmentalist actually donning her gymnasium outfit and showing the club members the exercises which help to retrain brains.

So when it’s your turn, give some thought to how you can achieve maximum impact. Your business may not be one that easily lends itself to the approaches mentioned and perhaps it’s not practical at all but there’s definitely a way to present it in an interesting and attention – grabbing manner ,so it’s well worth giving this plenty of thought beforehand.

 

 

What time is it?

There are of course quite a number of networking clubs apart from ours. We like to think we have the best one but no doubt all the others think the same about theirs. We’re not going to get into that debate!

However, what we can say is that we are growing quickly and opening new clubs on a regular basis. As a consequence of that, we can’t help noticing that no sooner have we announced our intentions than we start to get enquiries from prospective members wanting to consider securing their sector in the newly formed club. These usually tend to be predominantly people who work in the more popular trades or professions, for example, IFAs, Telecoms distributors, IT companies, solicitors or accountants. On occasions, we will find that forward thinking businesses in other categories want to nail down their place but often it is those who have presumably discovered that opportunities tend to disappear fast if they don’t move quickly.

All this must mean that networking is constantly growing in importance as business people realise that it is a great way to market their products and services and ensure word of mouth recommendations. Any club needs to have the right kind of people in it, those who ‘get’ the concept and know how to make it work but that aside, networking is a fantastically successful and regularly proven method of enabling a business to grow.

Many people will go out of their way to find a club with a place for them but it is obviously necessary to make sure that the place where you network is also going to be the right venue to allow you to get leads which are geographically convenient for you to follow up and look after. But what will you do if the TLGC clubs around you have no slots available in your categories?

One solution is for you to come and talk to us about another club in a neighbouring area and you could even consider being the kingpin to help us start one up if it’s not there ready and waiting. If you have the right personal qualities and the contacts you’ll need, we will be delighted to give you the opportunity. You’re probably thinking in terms of breakfast clubs but the possibilities don’t begin and end there. An alternative to going out of your immediate area might be to think about assisting us to start a club at a different time of day. Brunch, lunch and evening clubs are all real possibilities. Picking another time potentially opens up recruitment avenues which wouldn’t otherwise be available.  People who won’t get up early may well take an entirely different attitude to being ‘out to lunch’ or a meeting over morning coffee, afternoon tea or early evening drinks. That makes the chance of starting a club with a completely separate set of people as members a very real one.

If this interests you, give it some more thought and then talk to us.