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Only people can

Does anyone care to imagine how the new business ‘entrepreneur’ grew the businesses prior to the advent of the internet? Before digital?

Give me just a minute …

With the consolidation of in-person networking during the mid 80’s ‘word of mouth’ established itself as the preferred tactic of obtaining new business introductions.

People recognised the value of the professional, informed connection and face-to-face interaction.

Prior to 1990 the business start-up had the choice of advertising through a very different media landscape to today … there were market-focussed magazines, local newspapers, and community ‘rags’ were abundant. 

Specialist sales-people, those who had people skills, the experts in their field who were engaging the prospects and (potential) new customer were a valuable asset to any company.

No doubt, word of mouth, and business by recommendation are still recognised as the best form of business.

Although today, the use of digital media has brought about the spectre of the ‘redundant salesperson.’ The soft skills that were so important thirty years ago are often lost on the potential impresarios of today. 

What value is the educated connection? The business landscape continues to change alongside an ever-evolving digital influence and it is proven that those who don’t adapt, are lost.

Ambitious individuals can evolve in step within the forward-thinking company. Although, the one thing that cannot be overlooked is that people buy from people. You may have the best product in the market although if you cannot personally relate to the prospective customer you may be lost.

There will always be a special place in business for those individuals who are able to develop meaningful relationships, and trust.

In-person networking continues to support the organisation that values the soft-skills, those personal experiences that only people bring to ‘the room.’

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Be surprised.

Looks can be deceiving, life tests us each day, dares us to raise a smile and still, I often never see it happening.

I’d like to share a short story with you. Not particularly linked to business, with only the merest reference to the practice of networking … although … well, you’ll see.

Our son moved out recently, taking his cat with him. Since then, I’d been looking out for a ‘mouser’ to join the remaining family menagerie of four chickens and one black and white dawg …

So, when a friend coincidentally called to ask whether I’d be interested in adopting her young male cat named Dave I was listening.

Christine explained that she had been recently diagnosed with a long-term illness and with a ‘needy pet’ in the house, she was finding life tough. Dave though was fully vaccinated and in good health … without hesitating I agreed, “Yes, of course. No problem and thank you!” 

I put the ‘phone down. “You’ll need to have him sterilised you know?” Came a shout from a learned, listening ear.

It wasn’t long before I was on the way with ‘our Dave’ to the local veterinarian.

“Pop him up on the examination table please.”

The next few minutes saw me grappling with Dave’s ‘front end,’ as my lovely assistant qualified the rear area for the possible procedure.

 “Excuse me, she said, I’ll need to collect a torch. Would you take hold of him for a minute?” 

Returning quickly with another assistant and the required illumination, a further investigation ensured my assistant was finally satisfied.

You can put the pet back in the carrier please, there’s nothing we can do for you today.” 

I could see Dave was happy as I looked quizzically at my nurse …  “Your cat is female.”

Dave … is Davinia?

Needless to say … my quarter-hour journey home with Dave/Davinia provided reason to be happy for the little beast – he/she wasn’t to face ‘the knife after all.’ I’d also saved some cash and decided to maintain the boy-blue collar and the name Dave.

All in the name of the unexpected and of course a gentle nod of affirmation to the local profile of LGBTQ+ awareness.

Dave had done ‘her bit.’    

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Go tell …

During the course of these past ten years, I am constantly reminding myself that I could be better. I’m happy ‘where I am’ with the business, sure, although these days I’m driven to consider how I could improve. 

Business is good. Recommendations are coming my way and while I’ve never been one to rest on my laurels, the stories I’m asked to develop on behalf of my clients are qualification enough for what I provide as a service. 

Stories have a wonderful way of reminding me there is so much more around us than what is in front of our own eyes. Stories for me, enable me to dive deep, dismissing my own needs and focus on … how I’m able to make the experience better for my client?

We all have a unique level of experience. Successes, challenges, and of course, the odd failure and I’m not saying treat these milestones as a ‘badge of honour’ but if we don’t go out and try, we won’t experience the highs and lows, right?

My own life experiences combine to form a melting pot of stories that I’ve learned to bring together. Great things happen when we take time to encourage our stories, reflecting perhaps … on life experiences. I’m not talking solely about ‘my job’ either, the production of a memoir or novel, sometimes takes years to complete. 

Tell the tale, inspire the imagination …

By engaging in-person, through groups such as the Weeklybiz, connecting through stories based on personal experiences, we’re creating opportunities. We’re also offering insights into the possibility of further collaboration.

Unbeknownst as we deliver the tale, we conjure pictures to go with the story. We’re encouraging comparisons, the possibility of solutions emerge, something that may not have been possible prior to conversation.

We’re developing a far richer association via stories. Each time I’m reminded to do better I now look at how I could make it better for my customer, I reflect on my own journey and how far I’ve come through collaboration.

Today’s business is not so much about what we know, it’s how we relate that set’s us apart from the competition. Go and build, tell your story, because ultimately, reputations matter.

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Who’s that?

We make plans, and we picture the goal and the path to success as dictated by the plan. There is a preparation for action within our ability and that is complementary to our skills which will see us benefit from that plan.

Then we step forward … 

Alan is a new acquaintance I met recently. He’d had heard that networking was, amongst many other things, a great sounding board.

He was looking to introduce his ideas to the Weekly Business forum and of course, he was welcome to join us for breakfast.

“So, Alan thanks for joining us, what is it we can help you with?”

Sadly, for the most part that day Alan was invisible amongst us and continued to be so for the next couple of weeks until I decided to sit down and see if he might benefit from a conversation.

Like many who step into a new environment for the first time, there can be a sense of unease – even dread. The ‘what if’ … or ‘what if they don’t?’

We may have the best-laid plans (Robert Burns) but if we cannot see the way to communicate ‘the plan’ we can become lost. Even with the confidence of knowing precisely what it is we need and with the steps toward success being obvious there is still one thing that is overlooked.

Learning to trust.

Do we have the faith in our own ability?  Am I able to recognise genuine support, will I be able to keep up the pace … and how do I trust??  

Alan was coming across as a little uncertain, he was worried, nervous, and lacking in faith in the plan he himself had laid down. He wasn’t able to relate and so went unseen, unheard.

Alan soon realised that running a business is a leap of faith. There is rarely an end game, the spirit of reason and enterprise that led us to start in the first place is not necessarily going to be with us after the early years of success. Learning to trust in the influences and changes as our business grows is important as we adapt and initiate the change within ourselves.

Such as the change we face today, Alan.

You have a plan, you know the route to success and now, stepping out – here before you, here is a room of people following similar paths with stories that may inspire, influence you, or at the very least keep you from becoming the invisible man. 

People buy from people because business is personal.

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Time away from the job

How do I spend my leisure time?

If the weather isn’t good and I’m all caught up with the business follow-up, then I have a garage with long-term projects to keep me busy. Otherwise, I like to stay occupied with any tasks that need attention, and I’m never sitting for long.

When the sun is out I’m likely found in the garden. I enjoy the open space and exercise. It’s a diversion that comes through caring. Planting, supporting, watching for growth, pruning, growing on.

I’m no professional gardener or arborist, my patch is small, but it ‘does for me.’ There’s no fuss, I’m seeing what develops and I find the garden is definitely cathartic. Whatever may be on my mind at the time, I’m able to ‘think things through. It’s time away from the day job. 

Sometimes. 

I can’t help thinking how much alike gardening and networking are. I use the comparison often when asked ‘what’s so good about the morning meeting?’

It’s a regular happening seeing new people visit The Weekly Business. It’s where everyone ‘wins.’ We learn from each other. Affinity develops, opinions are sought and insights are found through different stories. Enlightenment … conjured up during the conversation.

Away from the regular meeting, we look to share with the wider circle what we learn from one another and by doing so we find out how where we’re able to help.

 We’re sharing those new stories, looking out for one another.

It’s gardening! We’re helping each other grow, cultivating relationships through trust as we thrive.

Business is personal because people buy from people.

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Catch of the day!

Not all are successful when it comes to networking.

An open mind helps, and the willingness to engage in good conversation also.

Craig was the type of fellow who was only with us to pick up the business (aren’t we all.) He wasn’t interested in the benefits of any long-term mutual collaboration. Craig was hunting for the business, ‘the catch of the day.’

“I’ll give this meeting a couple of weeks Charlie, see how we go. If it doesn’t produce, then I’ll move on …”

My response?

I’ll tell you a little later, first though, let me describe what happened when I agreed to share my time.

This was long ago, in the days when I was the owner-manager of a busy design and print company. 

We saw our suppliers daily, there was a regular need for expertise in ink, chemistry, other press consumables, plus of course … paper!

One particularly busy time I opened the door to Terry (our paper merchant) who was in full flow, announcing:

“Charlie! Would you be able to attend a paper ‘mill visit’ at the end of the month?

We have a new line of eco-friendly papers produced in Switzerland. You’ll (only) be away Thursday, returning Friday evening. Charlie, if you can do this, it would help me, the boss is looking to impress the new producer, I’m sure you’ll also make some good contacts?”

Impossible I thought, before responding that he’d best ask another, someone with a little more free time … “I couldn’t afford time off from the business Terry.”

Terry was persistent. He explained that, apart from my time away from the office, here was an opportunity. Fights, transfers, food, and accommodation were all ‘taken care of.’

Before long I ‘saw sense’ and surrendered to Terry’s persistence. With the necessary delegations in place, a few weeks later I boarded my mid-week flight. I and a healthy delegation were on our way to Zurich.

As I made my way toward my seat I couldn’t help but notice a rather large gent., sporting a mop of dark hair and a beard. He (Geoff) greeted me with a cheery ‘hello there’ as I took the seat beside him, just in time, as we were on our way …

Geoff, I learned was Creative Services Director with Glaxo Pharmaceuticals …

 ‘So, what do you do, Charlie?’ he asked.

Geoff and I learned a lot over the next few days. Not least the benefits of a good Bavarian lager and of course, non-chlorine bleached print materials! In fact, we were both so content being away from the routine, we rarely ‘talked business.’ We did though, returning to London, exchange contact details, while thanking Terry, our host before continuing our separate ways …

I dropped both Geoff and Terry handwritten notes in the post over the following days, thinking no more.

It was several months later I received a telephone call from Geoff. He wanted to know whether we could use a little more business?

In fact, it was the beginning of several good years of trading with Geoff. He was someone who understood the importance of common ground, strong relationships, and trust.

So, returning to Glenn, I suggested to him that it was unlikely there would be any takeaway business in the room today. If he wasn’t prepared to sacrifice time networking in support of better relationships … he’d likely find himself forever looking for the incidental business, the ‘order book fillers.’

You may have the best products and services in your sector …  but if you aren’t prepared to engage your prospects, and learn from them, you’ll be disappointed.

Business is personal because people buy from people.

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It’s cash in hand!

It was at the regular Weeklybiz network morning session I’d been introduced to Thomas … 

Thomas had left Uni a few months beforehand with a decent degree in Engineering and was now finding it tough to find work. His ‘careers adviser’ suggested he talk with Sara Eke ** and join The Weeklybiz for conversation.

Leaving Uni., like most young students, Thomas was hopeful of finding a position in his favoured sector, but so far he’d had no luck. Four months on, he was wondering when he might see the fabled green ‘shoots of opportunity.’

‘It’s tough for everyone now Charlie, I understand that. The trouble is, I’m not sure how to go about applying for ‘a regular job’ … I’ve never spent any significant time in employment.’ 

I understood his predicament. More than 50% of graduates fail to find their preferred posting right after leaving school. Post-Brexit/Covid pandemic, the job market still finds itself in shock.

Employers are wary. There are more opportunities prior to lock-down, although generally, this is a result of those taking early retirement and the booming home-working economy.

Thomas looked to enjoy our meeting. He made a few decent contacts and I left him deep in conversation with those who knew the jobs market along with my friend Sara Eke. **

As I made my way home to the ‘office’ I couldn’t help but think how fortunate I was when leaving school aged sixteen.

I found myself ‘graduating’ from the ‘paper-round,’ to stacking shelves at the local supermarket during evenings. I washed cars and began cutting grass at the weekend for an elderly neighbour as well …

The extra cash was useful, (spent before I received it!) I wasn’t aware of the magic ingredient – life experience – that was unfolding. I had no idea there may be a ‘career path’ to follow. “What’s a career path, anyway? This is it, isn’t it?”

I had cash in my hand but had no idea.

Until …my ’employer’ (the elderly neighbour) suggested I consider starting an apprenticeship … I was oblivious of course, but with a nod of affirmation, I accepted the handful of coins offered for the grass well cut and made my way … thinking nothing more. 

That is, until a few days later I found myself at my first-ever ‘interview!’ The result was a four-year assignment with a national newspaper, it was the beginning.

For me, nothing beats the word-of-mouth life experience. I never underestimate the people we engage and interact with along ‘life’s journey.’  

Thomas would take a little while to find his own ‘magic referral.’ Although by sharing a smile during conversation and acting on qualified advice … it was clear he had taken the important first steps toward improving his current situation.

Thomas had reached out through a friend.  

** Sara Eke, produces marvellous Aromatherapy remedies. Check her ingenious ‘roller-balls’ here.

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Being there

‘You know Charlie, it’s tough for me to take time off work to attend these breakfast meetings.’

I used to hear the above phrase a lot during the early days of the Weeklybiz. 

Taking time off work?

Another popular version was:

‘I can’t afford to spend time away from the job for the sake of an early breakfast.’

An early breakfast away from the job?

This was commonplace as well … once upon a time:

‘I have a presentation I need to complete by the morning …’ 

Casting my mind back, there was a time when this type of response was commonplace whenever I extended a genuine invitation to develop new business. ‘Nowadays the response is more like … 

‘It’s difficult for me to commit.’

Too busy for more business? Is this the message we wish to deliver?

Time is valuable, I get it. That’s why we schedule the morning meetings – to be less onerous, 7.15-8.45 am – engagement before the day starts. 

I consider my preferred networking date offers the perfect time to engage as we listen out for business. Because, networking is not only about you. Networking is about how we inform and educate colleagues, this starts by being there.

Being there for the conversation, opinion, and observation. Being reliable.

By being there for others we’re showing empathy while enhancing our own reputation. By working on our reputation we’re making a real difference to the possibility of new, meaningful referral business. Being recommended by others is a wonderful thing …

… the stronger the relationship, the more suitable the referrals.

Not forgetting, for more sensitive referrals, (those including family,) we’re a little more discerning about where to place our business. The same principles apply to our colleagues. We all ask, ‘who do we trust?

Time spent networking is not taking time away from the business – it is the act of developing your business. through the introduction, by referral.

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Being lucky

‘It was only a matter of time, David.’

We were discussing the referral my friend had collected during this morning’s meeting. 

David had spent the past twelve months working on his presence, his persona, and the business. His input was now rewarding him with some important work for his company. David of course was happy, we all shared his delight.

It’s so good to see someone enjoy their work and reap the rewards. One of the many benefits of networking is sharing in the success of friends.

I’m sharing the joy with you here because not everyone is able to experience the success that David has worked so hard to achieve.

There are lots of people who cannot commit to regular networking, for a whole host of reasons.

` life commitments

` no time

` no patience

` or they’re too busy for more business.

David has attended our meetings on a regular basis for twelve months. He’s worked hard to achieve clarity during his presentations and the ‘after meeting’ one-to-one meetings have also helped others understand his business.

Importantly, through these developed relationships, David has gone out of his way to help and support his colleagues.

By doing so he’s found out – first hand, that it’s not about what you have, it’s about who you know.

By ‘being there,’ on a regular basis for your fellow networkers … when the opportunity arises, we make ourselves … irresistible.

This is why networking has worked for David because David has worked on his networking!

‘people buy from people’

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to ‘have a go’

I was having a conversation with an esteemed friend recently.

At 84yrs of age he’s the senior ‘kid on the block,’ someone who is quite ‘well-off.’ His family estate being considerable, he wants for nothing. Although today, I found him in a reflective mood.

He considers himself lacking’ in certain areas of his life.

At times, don’t we all?

As a former investment banker, he had spent only a short while in the role until the death of his father decreed that he was ‘the one’ to control and manage several thousand acres, including farms, numerous dwellings, and … a mine … not forgetting the mine …

Yes, I’m in a lucky position I suppose Charlie. Although. For the past 200 years, my family has existed to maintain the well-being of tenants residing on the estate. As responsible custodians, we also safeguard the rich legacy that surrounds and supports us.

So, why so wistful?

I would have liked to have ‘tried my hand’ at developing a business from ‘the off’, Charlie. That would have been for me, a challenge no doubt, but to build from nothing would be a dream come true.

One’s own destiny defined by your own hand?

“In part, yes Charlie, correct. The excitement of launching, from scratch, a new enterprise? Something to be sought out by others … a business sampled and enjoyed. That appeals to me, it always has. It must be deeply satisfying for you.

On occasion, yes. Like everything else, it’s great when things are going well. Although remembering the ‘early days?’ The unwary may find being a ‘solopreneur’ a minefield, full of highs and lows.

Wonderful stuff, Charlie, but you have your network to support you, have you not? To be in charge of your own enterprise, you answer to no one…

Our customers. Yes, my own network often points the way forward but it’s down to each of us to steer the course. Ultimately we answer to no one but our customers and ourselves.

I left my friend with a distinct feeling he would have enjoyed, and, most likely, made a great job of the challenge of life as a self-employed proprietor. Entrepreneur.

Not to be …

I also gave quiet thanks for our conversation as it confirmed my own ambitions are part way now fulfilled.

Because I had faith and took the first steps … I ‘had a go.’

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Gone fishing …

“You may call it networking Charlie, I call it fishing.”

My wife was highlighting how much time I spent networking (6-8 hours per week.) Sue compared it to being a ‘golf widow’ or ‘fisherman’s wife.’

She had a point. I do enjoy the opportunity of meeting up with my regular group. We share so much, there’s plenty of common ground, being together now for more than ten years and I’m not the only one to enjoy the occasional enquiry. 

“Fishing. Put it this way, Charlie … You prepare the night before. Checking the ‘tools of the trade,’ you leave the house as dawn approaches to be at the preferred destination for an informal chat and pre-meeting coffee.

But …

In quick time you set up prior to the arrival of friends and guests, the same as you would when fishing. Preparing the scene, ‘the burley,’ assembling the lures, you’re in preparation.” 

It’s what I do Susan, this is how the flag for my business is flown.

There’s more. You offer encouragement to attendees, as you do when fishing, you vary the lures and, depending on the conditions … there’s every chance that you aren’t going to catch anything anyway – it’s right isn’t it?” 

Correct. I’m never expecting to come away with business each time we meet up.

“Yes, so you say. I’m witness to your optimism, I see long stretches without any interest in what you do. Just like the riverbank, time goes by and there’s not a bite … correct?” 

Yes, (she’s right again.) That’s true, although once you do experience episodes of success …’

“They’re few and far between, aren’t they? You’re not always catching the fish that is going to feed the cause, are you? I get that …” 

Susan, once you experience the validation of your skills and are rewarded … you learn a skill for life. You understand that not everyone is in the market for your business at the same time. Like fishing, there are many different contributing factors to the time for success.

If we do something right enough times we start to influence the marketplace (or the fishing hole) and people (or fish!) take notice …  our skill is rewarded as our reputation is enhanced. 

“So, what you are trying to say is …

What I’m saying is the many rewards of networking, like anything else of real value, are realised over time.

“And along the way?” 

Along the way, long term, helping others for a couple of hours per week can be very satisfying.

“O.K., I’ve learned a little more about networking and about fishing. Tonight we’ll stick with the pizza.”

Marvellous. Fish and chips next week!

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What’s your excuse?

Hi Charlie. “Sorry, I’ve had a call from a client who needs to see me tomorrow morning, so I can’t make the meeting.”

For as long as I’ve been networking, this is the ‘stand out’ explanation I’m offered when someone calls to opt-out. They’re faced with choosing to replace one appointment with another.

They choose to be elsewhere.

Of course, I’ve heard many different stories, some that merit mentioning here:

* A flat tyre on the ‘spare car.’ (Don’t ask what happened to ‘the original car!’)

* Sorry, I slept through the alarm. (I do get it!)

* The kids were giving me trouble. (Hey, who’s the boss here?)

My all-time favourite ‘bestest’ excuse for missing out?

* Mosquitos kept me awake all night, I was exhausted by the morning … (it’s true!)

All good, valid (creative) reasons for not ‘being there.’

So I may sound terse when I say that ‘my client needs to see me tomorrow morning’  … is not a ‘valid reason’ to miss your networking.

After all, we schedule meetings, don’t we? Diaries are commonplace (even customers have them!) That’s why the networking breakfast meeting is an early start, so to avoid impacting the daily routine.

It’s a routine that works for most.

More importantly … in my view, as we reflect on the messages we’re sending to our fraternity, whether we like it or not, we’re suggesting ‘something or somebody is more of a priority just now.

I like to keep my appointments. The regular routine is not only good for my own well-being, it’s great for the continuity of the business engagement also. If I do have a request to be with someone early, I’ll make sure we reschedule to avoid a clash.

Make sense?

Call me unreasonable if you wish, it’s plain diary management. To me, the routine of Networking is exactly as it sounds. We’re working on a network of contacts. We’re practiced at being there for the opportunity,  to offer help and advice. We’re working on becoming dependable, for reliable makes you referrable.

Word of mouth travels. It’s the best form of advertising and no one can afford to let their reputation slip by disappointing their close network.

People buy from those who they know, like, and trust.

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Accountable

Accountability is such an important quality. There’s not a lot to maintain, we start by respecting the value of time while doing as we say we shall. 

I help clients write the story of their lives. Sometimes the project lasts only a short time, other works take a little longer. The business network forum I host also witnesses similar timelines.

Some of those attendees are blessed with quick returns on their investment in engagement. For other friends, those with particular niche skills, success sometimes takes a little time.

It depends on how often we’re heard.

However it is we gauge our success, I’m a believer in the time which we ‘put in,’ the conversation, together with the attention to detail.

To see any change in business prospects, we should understand that our intentions should be clear. Developing trust, to enable the fulfilment of our goals. 

Here’s an example of how not to ‘work a room.’

I’d met Harry first time this morning when he asked me what my current spend on PPE was?  I suggested was quite a minimal figure.

I’m working from home Harry, so the public presence is minimal.’

‘Oh, ok.’ Do you know anyone else who has a need to buy these items regularly? I thought for a minute and suggested he seek out conversations with the rest of our forum contingent. “Meanwhile, I’ll have a think about your question, thanks, Harry.”

Harry was gone in quick-time. During the thirty minutes he was with us I noticed he’d be dutifully handing out cards, seeking the opportunity.

At least Harry was ‘working on it.’ I did wonder though … whether he would be following up?

It takes all types of people to make an effective network. From the variety of organisations present, the personalities, and products. All sorts of people bringing plenty of ‘possibility’ to the room.

Some are, of course, hunting for the quick-fix, others content on working at educating the room on the aforesaid ‘niche skills’ they may bring.  Accountability is all about clarity and ownership, going the distance.

Rarely is credibility displayed with a quick introduction and an exchange of business cards … unless you are following up, to become referrable.

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The world keeps turning

Who do we believe? We’re delivered ‘news’ daily – hourly – or by the minute(!) if , like the majority, we’re ‘geared-up.’ Fake news or otherwise – who do we trust?

Nothing is certain unless it’s personal, seen.

Is it me, or does it seem that as business owners we’ve been navigating these past few years far too gingerly? As barefoot navigates broken glass? Just when C-19 seems to fade we’re confronted by another global threat … yet the world keeps turning.

It’s tough enough concentrating on setting up, planning, and running a business, let alone earning a living. Everywhere we turn there are calls for help. Some at a very personal level, we’re distracted each time we see/hear the ‘latest news.’

So how do we keep the focus, stay the course?

We act as we always have done, don’t we? Anyone who is alone, incapacitated or challenged. ‘So, we don’t listen?’ I hear you say.

No, listening is good. ‘Turn the dreaded machines off?’ Yes, a good idea.

Better still … we go and seek the opinion of trusted others …

Personally, I’ve found reaching out and talking with other like-minded businesses continues to help me. Especially during these past few years of fakedom & scaremongery.’ Conversation is good.

By listening I hear support and solutions that I’ve known would be useful at some point. Perhaps not right away … it’s a top-up of the storage tank, my mind-map … by listening to peers we pick up so much affirmation/support.

Within the right network there develops a kind of symbiotic relationship. Over time each person (each business) grows, we mature through the regular conversation.

By engaging we learn to know what it is that may be useful to others in times of need and that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

Other oft-overlooked benefits? An underlying feeling of being on the right side of the tracks. A sense of solidarity that you don’t have to be on your own – even though you ‘work for yourself.’

Not least. Over time, what becomes crystal-clear is that as a business owner you gain the testimony of peers. That, to me, is a wonderful asset.

Networking is so much more than a quick-fix breakfast or order-book management. Networking is about helping others grow, as you prosper yourself.

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Make them smile

George and I had been friends for over 30 years.

I heard he wasn’t well so I made the call and you know, we picked up the conversation as if we were still in the same room. It was good to speak with him.

I even had the chance of telling George how much I missed him, his conversation, the common ground, his dubious sense of humour and the general ‘craic.’ 

I came away from the call feeling grateful for the time we’d spent together. I also realised that it was the only occasion I’d told him how much I appreciated our friendship.

It’s important to show our appreciation don’t you think? Even for the smallest of things. How often do we make a point of appreciating the companionship, advice, and guidance of our peers?

We share the bulk of our time with friends and family, we spend a good deal of time with business colleagues also and gratitude is an important part of any organisation, any network of like-minded people you care to mention …

After all, business is built on word-of-mouth, isn’t it?

You know, as much as we all persevere, putting in the work, sharing stories, the challenges, and successes … it’s important to understand that none of us are self-made. We meet many people along the path, supporting us in many unseen and different ways.

We also learn a lot as we’re influenced by the actions of others.

George? He made me smile. More though, his legacy resonates as I am now aware of the need to show a little more appreciation to those who help me along the path.

I’m grateful I was able to speak with George before it was too late.  

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What’s your experience?

There was a time of course when I wasn’t considered an ‘expert’ in anything – least of all publishing. Sure, today the thirty+ years in the industry offer a kind of qualification, reassurance to potential clients. Although I’d never agree to be deemed an expert. Why? Because we’re always learning … and being an expert may be misconstrued as meaning, ‘one who knows all.’ 

Not me, no, I do not know all.

My industry (yours?) is subject to daily developments in technique and process. No matter how much knowledge or experience I gain developing skills, there will always be another. Someone who is better versed in a particular niche or style, program, or application.

The difference? Each of us has different strengths developed through experience and you could say I am very experienced although … no, never the expert.

I prefer to be the eternal student of life.

What about you?

Look at this another way. I’m pretty good at attempting jobs around the home. Basic tasks, maintenance is something I’ll tackle. I wouldn’t attempt any tricky electrical tasks though. The risk is too great. I’d call in an electrician.

In the past, I’ve been useful at predicting a useful investment opportunity. Although I’d consult ‘those who know’ before parting with any of my hard-won cash. (I wish!)

Likewise, if the car needed a wiper blade or bulb – I’m your man!  Anything major to attend to under the hood? I’m be calling the garage, that’s their action zone.

Life experience gives us all kinds of peripheral skills don’t you think? We get by, ‘we have a go’ because we’ve learned by doing already. 

But.

When the big decisions need addressing and the risk of making the wrong choice has worrying implications … wouldn’t we be better off calling in a qualified professional?

Professional. It’s a better word than expert, don’t you think?

Besides. Like me, I’m sure you find that quality time has become increasingly scarce. Do you have the time? Time to spend on the distraction that takes you away from your core business? Or even the precious home time??

No? Me neither.

I’m a professional at making my clients happy by developing their messages. What’s your professional calling?

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Engaging

‘How many will be there, Charlie?’ Mari asked.

‘A good mix of men and women no doubt,’ I replied.

‘Oh great, I much prefer lots of people, it makes for better value‘I’ll see if I can make it.’ Came the reply.

Contrary to the claims of the paid-for member-driven organisations … networking is not about how many cards you collect, followers gained, or even, who ‘likes’ you.

Results come from authenticity, how we engage and deliver the message.

The reality is, most people attending events spend time with only a small number of people. These usually are the contacts they already know and feel comfortable with. Know why? Because the most important buying decisions come from multiple meetings.

Multiple meetings. Yet, networking is not a numbers game.

My focus has always been on the business of building relationships. The process is affinity, association.

So, unless I’m lucky enough to be invited along as a key speaker(!) I see no real point in ‘being the butterfly,’ from one to another, attempting to inform a delegation, en masse.

Who wants to be known as the frantic networker?

Those in a hurry (though perhaps not frantic) may be like Mari. HR is her business and it’s all about hitting targets. She is accountable to the corporation for results and, being hungry, Mari works hard.

Yes, it’s true that we create our own luck … we can find new business by turning up and simply ‘bumping into’ our next client. Someone new, who may be looking for specifically whatever it is you offer. This is how Mari, and many in the field of sales see networking.

If you don’t do, you don’t …

The opportunity that is networking, the anticipated ‘full room’ creates expectancy, even excitement, joy! Although, it can also be disappointing if the sole purpose of being there is for the new business alone. Hence we don’t find many ‘purely salespeople’ visiting the Weekly Business.

My advice to anyone heading along to a networking event … of any kind, whatever size? Spend time and expect nothing more in return other than an exchange in conversation.

Prepare your ‘story,’ listen and be ready to declare what you may be looking for. People love to help others, even more so if they see that you are comfortable in your own shoes …

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Sitting comfortably?

According to those who know …
Airline passengers who prefer the aisle seat are business travellers, who like to sit at the front of the plane and get off quickly. The people who prefer the window seat are leisure travellers, and so generally less valuable to airlines.

I do understand the above statement. People who hop on and off aircraft at different intervals are adding £’s (value) to the seats. New patrons arrive and so …

Less valuable? More or less valuable??

So, do you tend to haunt the window seat, gazing out toward the horizon? Choosing when to lay the head back against the bulkhead to be … [reasonably] assured of a little peace?

Perhaps, there’s less interference in the window seat, you choose to work or read when you want?

Or when travelling, perhaps you’re more like me? Perched on an aisle seat, I find it more convenient, to get up & stretch the legs. The aisle is also useful to the ‘nosey’ person like me, too busy looking. I tend not to log on when flying, I like to see what’s happening around me. People watching, savouring the moment and when our host might be back with a refreshment or a chat …

I wonder if the window-seat is more often than not occupied by the introvert?

When networking I find it fascinating to hear how others contend with the business journey. Whether I’m in conversation with an owner-manager at a point when the business is running itself. Or a chat with another friend who is content on stoking the marketing machine, looking for the plateau. The vision, the way forward.

I find the new business owner, the start-up to be a great sounding board also. As is meeting someone who is looking to leave a well-established business and move on. Pastures new always inspire.

Each time we meet another in business we’re comparing notes, don’t you think? Where are they are in this journey, or perhaps where was I at that same juncture? It’s the opportunity to learn and share knowledge through conversation.  

We all have different preferences for our business and each of us leaves an impression, of differing value to someone else … however we fly, wherever we choose to sit.

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Now, that’s an ice-breaker!

I am often asked what it takes to ‘successfully network.’

My answer is usually:
‘It depends on how you interpret successfully?’

Networking is not about transactions. It’s about reaching out to people as you offer your views, opinions, and support.

Each of us has different life experiences and we’re all able to contribute to the conversation in different ways. We should never underestimate the value of conversation.

Wondering where to start? Here’s a (relatively) easy way to start the conversation, I call it the ‘Form Guide:’

When meeting someone new, try and keep the following questions at the back of the mind:

“How far have you come, where are you FROM?’
“Are you part of an ORGANISATION?’
“Is networking part of your RECREATION or are you here on business?”
“So, what MOTIVATES you?”

Chances are the conversation will lead a natural course after the opening line(!)

If you remember that different people are networking for a whole bunch of different reasons … quite apart from the transaction, then an easy conversation is assured.

Give relationships time and success (in whatever drives you) will be just a little closer.  If all else fails … a smile is a great ice-breaker!

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cultivating opportunity

Hope you like the Byron Katie quote here, it’s only remotely connected to this post but I like it, there’s so much we miss out on if we don’t keep our eyes open …

I’ve had plenty of time recently to think about what’s important to me/my business.

One routine that’s important to me is networking. It’s become the cornerstone for new enquiries, amongst a lot of other things.

‘Sorry, not for me.’ I hear some say. ‘I’m fine right here!’ Say others. Agreed, it’s not for everybody, there are those where networking is unable to help. 

For me, networking brings more than business. Think, for a minute about the relationships we develop. With like-minded people in conversation, business is easier. The engagement brings an understanding of what makes a difference. Shared thinking helps cultivate and create opportunities.

Networking cultivates opportunity. 

My ‘day job?’ People seek me out to write and publish their memoirs, stories of life experiences. It’s a great learning curve for both of us. We stop and converse. A lot.

How else do we get to know the important stuff?
Not via the blog, (not even this one) not through a website, or even ‘social’ media. To develop the greatest understanding it’s the in-person meeting that makes a difference.

Through collaborative conversation, my client delivers a legacy for the family. For me, the collaborative process of detailing one’s memoir is also fulfilling. My business offers all-around fulfillment. It’s a huge bonus and I love what I do.

It’s worth asking yourself. ‘What does my business cultivate?’ The culture of any business, what is it? I know it’s tough working for yourself, I’m with you there.

The thing is, defining the route ahead when working in smaller, more focused teams is great but sometimes … we need conversation. My business cultivates conversation, relationships.

Another oft-overlooked benefit of networking is “engagement on purpose”. It’s essential for relationships. Take the money and run?  No, not the best practice in enhancing referral, reputations. Engagement is an essential part of marketing and it’s often underappreciated. How we engage, how we ‘follow up’ with our clients has a great impact on … how our customers feel.

If our clients feel valued, there’s a good reason to return … engagement. It’s worth considering, isn’t it?

The aftermath. Greater engagement brings developed relationships. It helps understand not only client expectations but what your business also cultivates.
Are you leaving your client feeling underwhelmed, or wanting more?  

This is the key to moving forward. Think aftermath.

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Rewind, retune, repeat

Holiday time is a wonderful opportunity to revisit what matters most. It’s during the quiet times, away from the business, we find space to reflect, reset.

I guess that’s why it’s termed a recharge, we change our gaze, we find clarity, by seeing the next step, we confidently move forward.

Another New Year is with us and we know now what to expect … don’t we? The past year was a tough one, like the year before that, and we’ve come through it, we’ve learned, we’re wiser, tougher. 

A routine I’ve found myself practicing is the regular fine-tune. I keep a diary and find it helpful to compare notes, see where I was successful in the past and what I may not need this time. A simple bookkeeping habit for my small business. It keeps me lean, spontaneous, and more able to adapt than say, any larger organisation.

New connections are key to my business. So regular conversations and shared experiences are important. Conversations bring enlightenment and while it’s true that not every piece of dialogue brings new business … we’re better placed to find out what’s possible through engagement.

We’re making ourselves available for business. Rewind, fine-tune and keep going.

Rewound? Press play and go, show, and tell!  Engage peers and show your intentions. Along the way, enlighten those willing to listen so that they then inform their own circle.

What’s important to word of mouth? Conversation.

Rewind, adjust, fine-tune and repeat.

By allowing ourselves time on the plan, putting in place some simple routines, we fine-tune. We’ve more to engage our colleagues through practiced conversation.

Once we’re done, we go again. Rewind, retune, and repeat. Make yourself available for referrals. When you’re available and reliable, you become referrable.

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Reflection

It’s not unusual to reflect, given the season … I find it helpful to take some time to the positives. Particularly those ‘small things’ that sometimes get lost in all the “busyness.”

Generally, 2021 was a good year. Of course, there are many reasons things went well, not all being related to something I did or any action I took and I do need to thank Rob Hatch for the following advice …

One thing I did consistently this year, having the most significant impact was that … I left room. Essentially, I gave myself more time between my work.

One simple example was scheduling time on either side of a meeting. Instead of a one-hour meeting or 121, I blocked off an hour and a half on my calendar.

This wasn’t because I expected I would run over. It was simply that I wanted to make time beforehand to arrive in the right frame of mind. I gave myself time afterward to process or take notes before jumping into the next thing.

The same was applied at the beginning and end of my day and also how I looked at projects as well. I allowed time for the unexpected … or family …

A luxury? Perhaps, although I came to realize how much more focused and effective I was when it mattered.

Enjoy the season, and don’t forget to leave a little room during 2022.

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so the saying goes …

The village where I live is pretty small, in total around 60 men, women and children. The nearest ‘facilities’ are a couple of miles in any direction and so, reliable transport is useful,  especially during the winter.

Today, our household of four is still warming up after ten days without power. No electricity, heating, lights, I.T., nothing except for an essential landline telephone service. It’s been tough.

The positive? There were one or two moments. The four of us here were able to keep spirits up by ‘sharing the wear,’ so to speak. We were all kept busy with the fundamentals … most of all we have companionship. 

It couldn’t have been so easy for others, those with small children, or living alone, in darkness without any means of reaching out for support.

I/we’ve been lucky that the local public house had a fire going. The food was good and for those with smartphones, ‘information’ came beaming in.

As it happens, the emergency services here eventually ‘pulled the finger’ and set to reinstating power. Before long they reached our patch and even offered to pay the costs each household incurred. There was even a fish and chip van on-site to feed the community, warm the bellies. 

Oddly, following the restoration of services, I discovered the legacy these past few days offered me … a different kind of challenge. 

I endured one of those ‘duhhh’ moments, a lightbulb realisation … that these past 24 months have been just so extraordinary.

The trials of a recent blackout (during the pandemic) have tested everyone here in Northumberland, combined with the sheer volume of negative reporting, it’s made me sit up and reflect.

What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger … 

The tough times have made me think of values. The positive stuff that is so important. Qualification, clarification. Simple support. That’s most of us, right?

We need that stuff. 

Any size organisation thrives on positivity. From ground level to rooftops and everyone in-between, feel good is appreciated …

The past few years will go down as a marker, a benchmarking exercise for the levels of resilience shown within our global community. 

That’s why I consider myself extremely lucky to regularly access a diverse network of like-minded business owners, those I know well, who I trust.  It’s during the tough times when we reach out to our community, we find out who our real allies are. 

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Many hands …

Having been self-employed for over two decades, I’ve always had great faith in my own ability to succeed. I find optimism to be far more productive than the alternative.

While bags of resilience are a must, more importantly, is a well-developed plan to help to routinely ‘put the work in.’ That said, these past few years have been particularly challenging for every business, even for the optimist.

Particularly challenging when taking your eye off the prize for a minute and that distant horizon seems to disappear completely.

The prize? I hear you ask.

At the end of the day, the prize for all our endeavours is something personal to each one of us. It could be (in my case) a new business affiliation where a like-minded soul and I could work together, sharing ideas, supporting those who need to be served. 

For Emma Thackara, pivoting a brand new business, Emma is looking to support SME’s by demonstrating her own 20+ years of marketing experience. My good friend (and Yoga teacher) Harsha Moore provides individuals with ad-hoc, qualified employment guidance – it’s her great skill.

Like myself, Harsha and Emma dedicate their business to helping those in need. Like many, we’re bringing specialist support to the table so that the prize is visible and attainable.

OK, so the prize may be ultimately more business, more receipts in exchange for skilled support. Maybe … although, I’ve often thought there is more to ‘it’ than cash in the pocket and revenues.

When times are tough, like now. When most everyone is struggling to keep at least one eye on the horizon, I’ve found a strong reputation mixed with a depth of reliable friends and associates is invaluable.

You could say that the ‘prize’ is something intangible. Affiliation takes time, as does trust. Just two of those overlooked ‘invisible prizes,’ earned through networking. 

Being ‘in business’ can be challenging, but through trusted connections, you have trusted, qualified support able to help, conjuring echoes of that age-old proverb:

‘Many hands make light work.’
John Heywood.

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Closer to home

I stepped out of the house and closed the door behind me, just as Andrew left the bus. It’d been a while since I’d seen him, he looked perplexed.

Good morning Andrew, Good to see you, how are you? I called out.

Andrew offered a smile and an outstretched hand as I approached. “Well, that’s a greeting, good to see you also Charlie …” 

We stood for a few minutes, chatting together before we began the short walk toward the local store. Andrew had a lot on his mind, not least neighbours who were thinking of sub-dividing land adjacent to his home. He was a little flustered because no one was listening to his protests, a feeling that his opinion was not important.

I wished I could have been able to help my friend. His situation looked to be unsettling him. I suggested that apart from approaching local authorities, perhaps having a further conversation with his neighbour may help … 

We’ve all experienced similar situations, haven’t we?  Do we push to have our voices heard, or accept the status quo? 

Andrew and I parted ways as we reached the store. I picked up what I needed and went to pay the cashier. With my receipt, came a leaflet into the palm of my hand. 

‘Thank you for the business Charlie, don’t forget to vote, your participation matters.

It seems the local ‘convenience’ was under threat of closure and the leaflet was asking for my views.

Suddenly, I found myself standing in Andrew’s shoes. The actions of others were threatening to significantly change my own lifestyle.

Of couse I did as asked and voted to uphold our community hub, the only one of its kind for several miles. I also viewed plans for the proposed redevelopment, I even called the local authority.

It wasn’t long when I soon realised what I was doing wasn’t going to be enough. My protests weren’t be heard through my voice alone. Not until I rallied friends, neighbours, community groups, local businesses … 

Leverage. We’re able to achieve much more when we share our stories. We lighten the load just by asking and it also show’s that we mean business. Seeking support can be empowering.

Just now though, outside of my own personal concerns, there are plenty of issues the greater global community is looking to achieve. Each of us can do so much more through accountability and cooperation.

If we only ask.

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Chicken soup day

So it promised to be a busy day, Saturday. I may even clear my desk!
Usually, I try not to spend too much time on stuff I’m usually doing during normal office hours … but hey, what are normal office hours? Today, I may even clear my desk!

Besides, if I managed to finish the edits to a short story collection, I’d make headway into a manuscript I’d recently accepted. Normal office hours? Flexibility is very important to my business and using my time to best effect is something I enjoy.

Today I thought I was doing ok until an impromptu visit from my not-so-happy wife had me ‘downing tools.’

I need to go to the dentist. Now, please. I could see by the look on Sue’s face that she was not having a good time. I was aware there was a ‘niggling’ issue although neither of us knew how severe it had now become.

Do you have painkillers/drugs? I asked.

‘Some.’  Came the reply

OK, I thought, yes, let’s do this … prioritise. The dentist …
So I picked up the telephone and dialled, only to met with a voicemail declaring “We’re now closed for the weekend, please call back Monday. Do not leave a message, do not turn up at the surgery unless invited.” 

The news didn’t go down well with Sue. 
‘What are we going to do?’

Of course, there is always something we could try next, but right now? Knowing how debilitating a severe toothache can be, I needed to make plans for the next 36hrs.  
More painkillers, mouth wash, cold packs … wine!
What about food?

‘Can we call the NHS emergency?’

Good idea. I called NHS out of hours No. 111, left details, and waited … within minutes the nurse was on the ‘phone.
‘Sounds like it’s an abscess Sue, nothing we can do until Monday. Don’t take any more Ibroprufen, Paracetamol instead, pick up some Benzocaine, apply cold packs … stick to a liquid diet, but stay off the alcohol …’ 

So I had my shopping list. I left Sue in charge of ‘dear dawg’ and set off. After an hour I had found most of what we required. The ‘liquid diet’ needed work though.

Soup. Of course. Let’s choose, either canned or homemade? No contest, decision made, it was to be homemade, chicken soup … 

In good time I was home, (the last painkiller swallowed by Sue hours ago.) The prescribed paracetamol was set to work. and I made my way to work in the kitchen. 

Where am I going with this? I hear you say.
Saturday it turned out, was not to be the day for catching up with the outstanding business. When it comes to looking after family, there’s no contest. Besides, I found the distraction helped with the clarity once I did return to the ‘tools’ of business.

Life has a way of reminding us that there is more to life than business … just in case we’d forgotten.
Business is personal.

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Cricket, Rugby & networking

I was enjoying a conversation with Sam. He’s excited by the prospects of winning new business through his new-discovered network.

 I want to be an achiever Charlie. If we’re achieving through sales then we’re contributing to the success of the business, right?

Admirable Sam, but to achieve, we first need to understand the process. 
A tenuous example may be the game of cricket, Sam.

No, that’s not for me, what’s that about Charlie?

OK, one team scores as many runs as they can with the bat, while the opposite team tries to stop them by hitting their stumps with the ball, catching them out, or at least restrict the run rate. At ‘half time’ they swap roles and go again. At the end of the allotted time frame, the team with the highest amount of runs goes on and wins the game. Simple, eh?

If I could be bothered to understand it Charlie … runs?

Exactly, O.K. Sam, Let’s try Rugby.

I know you appreciate a good game and so you understand that for each different opponent we have a plan.

The aim is to be victorious, get a result by following a game plan. The entire team understands that the result is important, BUT there needs to be a plan. In Rugby, if you keep the ball long enough through team skills, you infiltrate your opponent’s territory. Keeping possession of the ball and utilising skills that enable your team to move the ball beyond the final defender, you score points. If we repeat this more than the opposition, we win.

By thinking process, we win the game, we get the result.

I’ve got that Charlie … but what’s it got to do with networking? Or business?

Sam, if we understand the game and the process by which we can achieve a win, then we can make an impression.

Networking is much maligned at times. We see people come and go because they don’t spend time understanding the process. They’re after a quick fix.

As in any team environment, networking is about developing an understanding. People gravitate to those of a like mind, they connect, then the relationships begin to flourish as trust develops.

Good partnerships take time, results come when everyone in your network has an understanding of the process, just like Cricket, or Rugby …

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It’s a start.

If I had one piece of advice to offer anyone starting out in business today, it would be to value the people in your network.

Network = your contacts. Grow the network, to encourage the opportunity.
If I lost all my money today and my assets were gone, if my customers walked away I know that I’d be OK. I’d survive, start again and flourish because I have good relationships with those who I know well, share similar interests, trust.

You see, it’s been my experience that people will get us to where we wish to be. If we only take the time to engage, converse and take part in the exchange of information.

We have today, after all, a huge choice of media options at our disposal. We’re able to like, comment, join or share … 

‘It’s a start Charlie.’  I hear what you say, sure, it’s a start.

But, how many starts have failed through the lack of following up? 

It’s my belief that if you wish to develop any meaningful business, there is only one avenue worth pursuing and that is to seek regular engagement.

So, on finding your potential business partner or customer, (even if it is via the like/share/comment, etc) why not show your intentions and ask for a meeting?
Even if that meeting is via the miracle of ZOOM.

Choose the opportunity that presented to you. Don’t wait, take the first step.

Nothing is more enabling, with the ability to deliver the results required than to be the one to instigate the meeting. To be in the company of someone who is in the market for your product or services and … who is interested in listening can be empowering … and isn’t that just one of the reasons we’re in business?

Seeking new markets, allies, and sales, there are occasions when we need to be the one taking the initiative.

It’s a simple fact that the potential new customer won’t know about you, learn of the opportunity from you, unless you ask for their time.

Social media is a great source of leads, but why stop there? Let’s show AND tell.

Turn the possible business into probable referral. Be bold enough and have the faith and confidence in your product or services to reach out for the conversation. 

The worst that could happen?  The prospect responds with “no, thank you.” 
“Although, I may know someone else who may be interested …”

Take the first step, join the conversation and develop the relationship, because people buy from people who they know, like and trust.

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Rate your chances

I’m regularly asked why I continue to visit my network, meet with friends and their colleagues when I have stated on numerous occasions that I’m not looking to attract ‘just any, or all, kind of business.’

Not for me the ‘stacking them high to sell ’em cheap‘ kind of working.

The type of potential client I’m interested in meeting? 

He/she would aspire to offer the same profound benefit to their audience (their readers) as I aim to provide myself. 

You see, my work is to encourage the story from my customer, and of course, this takes time. Not everyone is ready to draw back the curtains, discuss life in detail and so work together with ANother to paint a picture, construct a story.

My type of customer is quite rare.

The person I’d like to meet would already understand that compiling an accurate depiction of their story takes, well, a good story starts with good relationships.  The exchange of information between both parties should be offered freely, the frequency of meetings should be regular.

On occasion, completing a story may take months, sometimes the book may take years to compile.  So why do I meet with my network on a regular basis?

Business is personal. It’s only by spending time together we have the opportunity to really understand each other …

Alternatively, I could trawl social media channels and ‘hoist a flag’ declaring something like … ‘cheap stories told here(!?),’ I’m sure that, eventually I’d be messaged by those attracted to my lure … but … chances are, I’d never get to put the kettle on, share a cup or shake the hand & break the ice in time-honoured fashion? 

Why do I reach out to my network? Because people buy from people.

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People, not devices

Like me, I thought some of you might find the following tale of interest. It came from a friend of mine, Mike Salter:

The story went like this …

I spent an hour in the bank with my elderly dad, as he had to transfer some money. I couldn’t resist myself and asked …

”Dad, why don’t we activate your internet banking?’

”Why would I do that?” He asked… ‘

Well, then you wont have to spend an hour here for things like transfer. You can even do your shopping online. Everything will be so easy!’

I was excited about initiating him into the world of Net banking.

He asked ”If I do that, I wont have to step out of the house?

”Yes, yes”! I said. I told him how even grocery can be delivered at door now and how Amazon delivers everything!

His answer left me tongue-tied.

He said ”Since I entered this bank today, I have met four of my friends, I have chatted a while with the staff who know me very well by now. You know I am alone … this is the company that I need. I like to get ready and come to the bank. I have enough time, it is the personal touch that I crave.

Two years back I got sick. The store owner from whom I buy fruits, came to see me and sat by my bedside and cried. When your Mom fell down a few days back while on her morning walk, our local grocer saw her and immediately got his car to rush her home as he knows where I live.

Would I have that ‘human’ touch if everything became online? Why would I want everything delivered to me, forcing me to interact with just my computer?

I like to know the person that I’m dealing with and not only the ‘seller’. It creates bonds of relationships. Does Amazon deliver all this as well? Technology is useful, but it isn’t life..

Spend time with people .. Not with devices.”

~

Thank you, Mike. Please let dad know that we’re not quite ready to resume in-person networking just yet, although we’re still engaging the person, making the connections that matter, regularly via ZOOM.

~

If you’d like to join the business conversation, you can do so by going to Eventbrite for further details: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/northumberland-weeklybiz-tickets-165537028709

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Comes a time …

A question during conversation …
Know anyone Charlie?

I offered Jenny the details of a local business funding program she was looking for. Why not contact them Jenny, this could help you, a grant that offers 20% of the investment planned. 

I’m not sure Charlie, I mean, I’ve enough business ticking over just now … 

But ‘just now’ is not enough, right? 

Correct.  Trouble is, I’m frightened that by investing in more staff and services means that I’m going to expand my market. 

So, is that so bad Jenny? 

That’s the trouble, Charlie. I’m not entirely sure that expansion, growth, is something I’m ready for. 

I’d known Jenny for a little while. During the past twelve months, she’d seen a strong surge in demand in her craft and tutelage, all driven by the current tendency for home working.

Jenny’s concern was that the supplementary services she had planned might be premature. Especially now, given the likelihood that ‘normal’ business practice, being back at the office, may resume sometime soon.

Jenny, you are the business. It’s a big step considering expansion, although if you want my advice? 

Go on, Charlie, what’s your plan? 

Think about why you started in the first place. Where do you see your current situation in your original plans?  You’ve found that life presents you now with an opportunity to take the next step in the process.

So, my advice? Find out what your customers want and give it to them. Repay their existing faith in you, and show them your intention of offering more. Trust your choices and your ability to fulfill your own and your client’s ambition.

Jenny then took some time to consider my view. She consulted and listened to her customers, seeing whether they would support her plans. She also talked to both her employees, who were more than excited by the news. Positive news all-round.

New sales? Seeking is the driver of new business. It’s through conversation, communication, by reaching out, that we’re putting more lines in the water.

At the same time:
“More business is lost through indecision than is lost through making the wrong decision.”

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Keep seeking

The above photograph is one of Captain James Cook’s monument.


It stands in memory of a man who, along with many others travelling with him, circled the globe pushing boundaries.

Even with the modern tools of today, sailing the world once is no mean feat. But casting off three times, in the 18th century!?

Why?

Because seeking is a driver …

Cook was looking for what was new. What he discovered was already there. He and his crew came across wondrous new lands, rich cultures that had existed for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Yet the way us, as species and individuals look at boundaries … both inward and external, means we’re driven by the need to push further and explore.

This is no difference in the realm of our faith. What we believe often leaves us with more questions than answers. This is what pushes us forwards to explore further. The validation of what we seek.

Questions are tools. They offer clarity.

My experience tells me, just as I reach what I think I’ve have been looking for, a new horizon opens up. Choices materialise, possibilities then become many.

Whether in the business of discovery like Cook or reaching out to new friends, life is a journey of faith we are all embarked upon. By using the tool of conversation, seeking dialogue, we’re seeing past barriers, where there are no boundaries.

There’s no turning back when our faith tells us there are always open doors. Keep the faith, keep seeking.

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Shrink your circle …

the point is …

When you learn to network, you not only improve your career you also improve your personal life.

The best network marketers don’t just have amazing businesses and careers. They have incredible friendships and are always at the forefront of the line for new opportunities.

Networking is not about collecting cards and sending fancy emails anymore; there is more value in friends who share your interests than in bosses who do not have time to listen to your ideas.

For this reason, the key to successful networking is to achieve these points:

  • Figure out WHO matters most. Your employed programmer FRIEND may know who runs the business if you want a job.
  • Find easy ways to ENGAGE with people. For instance, you can share more ideas on Twitter than in an email.
  • Help yourself by helping others. People notice when you are doing good.
  • THINK PEOPLE, not position. True networking occurs when there’s an understanding between a group of people.
  • Support big sharks so good they can’t ignore you. When you are incredibly helpful to someone, they will be happy to help you back.
  • PEOPLE BUY FROM PEOPLE, because business is personal.

Here’s the link to the full message from Desiree Peralta

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Creating memories

Or, the importance of great relations …

It seems like a lifetime ago … I and several friends were spending together at a little-known festival in Spain. We were there for several days of detachment, endless sunshine, and a little mischief amongst great company.

So it was with some delight I collected the call from Paul, one of those old-time friends. We spent the better part of the next hour reminiscing. We ‘chewed the cud’ and you know, the memories came alive. 

The catalyst? Common experiences and the desire to reach out. So by way of conversation, the good times were vivid once more.

Most of you following my story understand why I spend a generous amount of my time engaging close contacts. By ‘being there,’ living in the moment we all learn more, together we exchange views and begin to understand.

It’s through familiarity we develop trust, and when we do that, dialogue is so much more rewarding.

In Paul’s case, he called me to discuss a book he was writing, a memoir. He was collecting foundations for different stories, each was a chapter of his life. Each one brought together over the decades. It was to be a great story. After all, he had a least one chapter now (surely) locked down after connecting via a simple telephone call.

A best-seller for sure!

So, what if you have no intentions of writing down your story, (even though IMHO you should.) Why do we reach out?  

Networking is misunderstood by many. Certainly, those looking for instant gratification to their needs and wants often go away bewildered.

Each of us has a different view and so a different story.

The simple fact is, networking is about creating visuals, memories, developing stories over time, years, even decades.

Take time to engage in conversation, in dialogue and the benefits will soon be obvious. Your story means something, to someone.

People buy from people.

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Helping out.

It’s right, don’t you think?  We shouldn’t have a reason to want to help anyone.
After all, by offering help to those who need it we’re somehow empowered … and I don’t mean empowered by indebtedness …

I don’t get that … “if you help me, I’ll help you” stuff. 

By empowerment, I’m meaning clarity. During these uncertain times, it’s easy to lose focus. I know many who have been so busy … staying busy, it’s come at a cost …

One eye on the timesheet, the other on the next ‘win,’ it’s easy to lose sight of that most important issue. Happiness.

For me, by spending time away from my own needs to offer support to someone else, I’m creating my own ‘space.’ I find clarity when problem-solving with friends.

Concentrating on solutions for others has a way of bringing about fresh thinking. It can even be cathartic. For some people though, it can be difficult.

Chris was a fine example. Among other things, he supplies cut, dried & bagged firewood, delivered to the door. Like many of us during social distancing right now he’s finding it difficult to make ends meet. The situation recently had become debilitating and he couldn’t see the way forward. Chris had become enveloped in the business.

It was ‘by the school gate’ that Jane told his story. It turns out, Chris wouldn’t accept his best friend Jane’s help. He didn’t want to appear to be ‘reliant on his partner.’

Keyword above?

Partner.

Chris and Jane did eventually prioritise and discuss the way forward – together. They sat down and spent time planning, they helped each other out. Chris talked, Jane listened, they both agreed on a solution and now they’re moving forward.

Helping others by having a conversation? 
That’s my kind of therapy. People buy from people.

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Collaborative conversation

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Become better, not bigger.

Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves

… a problem shared is a problem solved …

time is the greatest gift, once given it is never recouped

… If you do nothing, nothing is what remains …

The first step to change is acceptance

… the greatest rewards come from the greatest commitment …

… the bitterness of poor quality far outweighs the sweetness of low prices …

… business is a by-product of networking …

… treat people as you would have them treat you …

So, what drives you?

At The Weekly Business, we’re looking to hear what drives your business. What do you believe? What’s your idiom of choice?

The Weekly Business, established 10 years meet to discuss the world for a little over the hour each Wednesday 12.30 (GMT) and Thursday morning 8 am. All via ZOOM, it costs nothing to engage.

If you’ve got the time, you have our attention.

More info? Contact Charlie Kenny.

theweeklybusiness@gmail.com

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Be like Greta.


Last night I was watching TV., a BBC programme, all about an 18yr old environmental activist named Greta Thunberg, the show was entitled “A Year to Change the World.”

What strikes me about this young lady is her utmost dedication. During ‘the show’ we see her visit Poland, a monumental coal mine where we hear points of view from burly miners with a lifetime in mining. 

We’re taken to Davos, Switzerland and the ‘World Economic Forum,’ where Greta addresses leaders from around the world. Reminding them that, ‘you can’t negotiate with physics.’  

She visits the UK to a plant working on carbon dioxide capture and a whole lot of other ‘stuff.’  The plan is a year of environmental awareness, reaching out to China and the rest of Asia. That was before COVID.

Greta and her father have both contracted the virus.  It’s all change.

You cannot alter the direction of where you’re heading unless you alter the course.

“A Year to Change the World” is a journey for Greta that may be on hold now, although it’s not stopped her. Greta’s voice carries huge influence as she advises youth ‘to take the virus seriously.’

“In a crisis, we change our behaviour and adapt to the new circumstances for the greater good of society,”

Greta Thunberg is not giving up. Aspergers, OCD, COVID, depression and an ultimate sense of loss is evident as she utters to Sir David Attenborough … 
‘No-one is listening’ 

‘A great many people are watching and listening.’ he replies.

Sir David continues to reassure her that whilst there is no easy fix to the errors of the past generations, her bravery, determination, innovation … her legacy continues to inspire and bring about gradual change.

But, I’m not here to promote TV, even though I find this one program immensely watchable.

What does it for me?  

It’s Greta’s utmost determination, inspired drive to bring about change.  It’s her absolute trust in those around her (guiding her) and for me what does it for me is her admission to being at a loss asking for support.

You know, reaching out for advice from those you know and trust is no sign of weakness.  It’s exactly the opposite.

Let’s be more like Greta Thunberg.  Grow the social conscience, reach out to help others to change our world.

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Happiness

‘I remember that song …’ I thought to myself.

We all know how it works don’t we? You realise that the tune on the radio has taken us back to somewhere. Usually a special “somewhere.”

Or it may be a shout-out from the DJ – ‘any requests’?  We recall our favourites. These days I even find it difficult to choose between the favourite songs on my own playlist. It can be nigh impossible to select.

But when we get it right?

We recall the words, some of us are brave enough to attempt a sing-along! We go with the flow, we remember the message, and what we learned as well.

So it was when I picked up a call from someone from the other side of the world recently … I hadn’t heard from Michael for 25 years.

Michael was selling his business. He sounded excited about a future with more free time and being able to board a plane to catch up with friends.

He was now planning a visit to the UK, booking the next available flight ‘whenever that may be.’  We had an ‘easy’ conversation, lots of common interests. Mutual friends. We talked of the home town and covered the dim and distant past as if it were yesterday.

Michael and I always had a good relationship. I was looking forward to hearing about his plans for the future.

Charlie, he said, you know the best times for me are when I’m spending time with close friends. Even after 25 years, you and I can relate, with the same views the similar understanding that we always had. Our group of friends spent time growing and learning together.

Agreed Michael. I look forward to catching up when we see you.

I’ll keep you informed Charlie. You know this, the best relationships are those developed over time. Time together brings us familiarity. We share stories, we learn what makes others happy and in turn , that makes us happy.

Sharing those familiar tunes, Michael.

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Knowing me, knowing you

Again, I was with a bunch of friends via ZOOM recently, we were discussing the value of LinkedIn and similar online networking platforms.

It was more than curiosity that drove me. I understand that some folk view networking as a vessel for new leads while others look for learning, peer affinity. Networking fulfils different needs for everyone, even so, I asked the question:

‘How often do you post the benefits your company offer?’ You see, I’ve often wondered how many individuals actually reach out.  I thought it was simple enough, ‘how often do you shout about your business?’

I followed up with another, more pointed question. 

‘What do you bring to your network?’
There was a minute or so contemplation. Then came the description of their own services, the quality, the reach. The product range was mentioned, customer service, pricing, availability. Someone even suggested that years of experience was available to customers. Just a phone call away …” 

I felt it wasn’t enough, I wasn’t satisfied, so I put the question another way: ‘

“Do you engage your network often?”

“Whenever I have something to offer, I’ll post.” came a reply …

“I leave the maintenance of our ‘social media’ to someone else.” said another …

“Occasionally, perhaps once or twice per year. We don’t like to ‘spam’ people.” and …

“I like the customer to come to me.” replied the optimist.

So, we finished our conversation and yes, I did admit that I don’t offer nearly enough information through my network.

Bear with me. I needed to respond to my colleagues …

‘Whenever I have something to offer, I’ll post?”   It’s not ALL about the selly-sell. If we’re not conversing we’re not participating right? We’re not cultivating empathy.

I leave the maintenance of our ‘social media’ to someone else.” As the business owner you should know what is offered to prospects, otherwise how can you plan for the future?

“Occasionally, perhaps once or twice per year. We don’t like to SPAM people?”  If you don’t have enough confidence to see past the SPAM value, then will your prospect?

“I like the customer to come to me.”  Hey, me too. The thing is, that new customer is not going to come to you, if they don ‘t know what you’ve got!

No wonder there are people in business ‘out there’ disillusioned with the value of online networking. It’s not enough to be simply a ‘member’ of a network, paid for or otherwise, especially during these times.

To be considered authoritive, engaging, forward thinking, the professional business needs to regularly reach-out, show and tell, set examples, tell stories. We need to earn the right to serve. It’s not called networking for nothing.


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Independence


It was during our regular ‘Weeklybiz’ meeting when Gareth asked the room for their opinion. Gareth is a coach; he has great skills in bringing the best out of people by simplifying the bigger issues. His question today raised great debate …

“I’d like to know what makes someone decide to start up a business, work for themselves?

‘More money!’ came a call from the cheap seats …

Some suggested independence was the chance to be our own boss, being in charge of our own destiny. Others that by following the self-employed route we’re abandoning the treadmill of the organisation and of course there are people who find themselves out of a job, so going it alone … and with a plan, becomes a necessity.”

There are certain individuals who have independence as part of their DNA, the very thought of working for someone else isn’t considered. What is it that drives them on?

Control? Personal success? The satisfaction of achieving through their own means? Surely there is faith in their own ability to succeed … ambition?

Perhaps the need to leave a transferable legacy of our work is the catalyst?

There was much to consider.

Speaking for myself, I relate to a little of everything mentioned above. My father was self-employed for most of his life, both my brothers also. I’ve found we tend to follow those with influence, peers who test the water for us, those we admire as they light the way. We see this very much in evidence via ‘social’ community, don’t we?  

Independence is hugely desirable, never more so than today.

That desire, the calling for independence can come at any time.

Consider Brian D. Powell, he had a long and distinguished career fighting fires and saving lives. A lauded genius who gained recognition as a pioneer in the field of health and safety, Brian took the decision to leave the establishment late in life, to follow his passion.  Dedicating himself to his art, his independence.

If we’re not born with ‘it’ then what drives the yearning? Why the need for fulfilment via independence?

The realisation most often coincides with the understanding that we have the passion, know-how, skills, tools and the vision to achieve.

Trusting in ourselves, being comfortable in our shoes we embrace our independence as we step forward.

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It happens, get over it

Growing up in ’50s West Australia, I recall most days were happy, full of fun with two brothers not much younger than me. There’s no doubt our parents, recent immigrants found those early years pretty tough.

No promise of prosperity.

Dad moved quite a bit with work which meant we moved house often, never settling. Even as a kid I realised this time was particularly tough for mum, though she never talked about it.
Bringing up three children in a new country, without family connections, there wasn’t a lot of time for her. No way to put roots down, grow. Eventually, other families from the UK arrived, they too found it tough establishing themselves, so we didn’t get to see much of them.

‘It happens.’ I hear you say.

It was an unsettled time but it was a busy, exciting time for us young, naive kids. I remember the family took the day-night train to the East coast for the second time following dad. This is when my parent’s marriage began to deteriorate. Uneasy, tough, unpredictable times.

I found myself at my second prep school with my brothers ‘settling’ into a third primary … and a sister due in the world any time soon! 
In reflection, we all worked to keep the family together, I remember mum taking jobs to support us. We never considered ourselves poor. The family always had enough. Mum even found me my first Saturday work, my first ‘real’ job.


At about fourteen years old I began to wonder how friends managed to have all the right stuff, the latest sports equipment, the best bicycle etc.
I was becoming influenced by peers and came to learn how better stuff, extra things might be attainable.


‘Get over it!’ I hear you say again …

Ok, so I’ll cut to the chase.
Almost forty years later I find myself content with life. I’ve lived and worked, I’ve met those ‘better things.’ I’m lucky to have a loving family, made great friends, started businesses and closed them. I’ve started up again. I’m accused of being a trouble-maker, rabble-rouser. I’ve picked up pieces, learned lessons and carried on.


You see, the path my brothers and sister walked with mum and dad, while it seemed tough, it was our ‘normal.’  Tough was normal.
Life has a habit of throwing challenges out along the way and these have galvanised me to some extent. I’ve learned the value of reaching out, engaging people. When doing so I’m offering time to observe, listen, hold a conversation and ask questions.


I’ve enjoyed finding out how to be comfortable in my shoes. I found out a long time ago that life isn’t about bigger, better things but the better people in your life … life is about how we adapt, relate.

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What goes around …

The call came in:

‘Hey Charlie, Steve here, long time no see? I’ve developed a great new product and I wondered whether you would be kind enough to pass on the news to friends within your network for me?
Blah … blah … this ‘n that, blah, great offers, blah – and by the way, hope all is well with you?’

My immediate response to Steve’s question was yes, sure, no problem … Happy to do so! Steve’s enthusiasm captivated me, I wanted to help him (because help is what I do.) 

Although …

You know, people often come to me with requests to spread the word about their business. I’ve been doing just that for the last ten years through close connections. There is value in supporting each other, it’s something I strongly believe in.

We all know that reciprocal arrangement, the unwritten rule of life and business, ‘what goes around comes around?’ That same arrangement continues to attract the ‘right kind’ of people to the network and it’s for that reason, I see why Steve called me.  After all, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

So, in this instance, I wasn’t sure how to tackle Steve’s question … ‘Charlie, pass the news on to friends in the network?’ 

I really didn’t know Steve so well, an acquaintance of a friend so to speak, so I decided to call him back, make him an offer … ‘

Steve, thanks for the news, why not come along to the meeting, introduce yourself? Show your face, spend an hour or so as you extol the virtues, the value of the new project you’re involved with?’ 

Charlie, I appreciate the invitation although networking is not for me and to be honest I simply don’t have the time. I’d be grateful though if you would give them my details?’ 

So don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for Steve and hope his new idea takes off. I’ll mention his news, although I couldn’t personally recommend a product or service I haven’t used myself to close friends or family.

Good business comes via those we know well. Referrals take time and are earned. Strong reputations we build through trust. Because business is personal.

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Take time for conversation

I sat down for a ZOOM chat with Adam the other day, he’s decided to start-up a domestic cleaning business. We shared the virtual cake …
His first question to me?

Can networking help my business?

It’s a question I’ve heard many times and I’ve always given the same answer:
Yes, networking can help your business start-up. With enthusiasm, ambition and desire we inspire others. Attitudes are infectious and listening to you as you talk up the business, share dreams, goals, products or services, we’re often empowered to refer you to others.
Networking is a great way to kick-start any new business.

Even in today’s economic climate?

In any business landscape, correct. Talk about the people, someone else’s magic and you start the gossip …
The aim of networking is to develop the diary of connections, broaden the horizons. Spread the good word, the benefits of association, all through word-of-mouth.

I could do that, the same through social media, couldn’t I?

Of course, and I see you already do that, although the difference between an ‘average’ referral and ‘great’ one is always the personal connection.

So, I need to spend time developing skills, how long does it take to become successful when networking??

You can grow your audience through social, collect the likes, shares and emojis. the difference is the Unique Selling Person.

The difference when we spend time with others? Nothing beats your presence, being ‘there’ for when a potential client needs help. To excel, with your audience, show your values, your ‘why’ your ‘how’ and where you work, the difference is personal. It’s you.

Develop your listening skills, Adam, be reflective and converse, share wisdom, allow others to learn from you. Familiarity develops certainty, so spend time knowing your audience, the market. You ask how long?


People buy from people who they know, like and trust.

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the gift of time

Chrissie called the landline this morning to let me know that she wasn’t going to make the ZOOM call this week.

That’s just like Chrissie, I thought.  Calling to speak instead of a simple text or email, I admired that about her. It was unlike her to miss the weekly ‘human interaction’ and so I asked whether there was anything I could do to help? 

Nothing new to offer from me this week Charlie, I’ll take the week off, perhaps that will ‘do the trick’ and I’ll return inspired, refreshed!

There are many occasions when misguided thoughts can thwart our intentions. Chrissie offered a prime example. I’ve known many in business believe that networking is about ‘what’s new, what do I have to offer??  Or, what can I give?’  Of course, networking is so much more than what you have …

The greatest gift we’re able to offer one another is time, attention.  By being there, listening.

Yes,  it’s understood, Chrissie knows this already. She may have ‘other stuff’ happening,  jobs to do – family – we all have stuff, right?

From past experience, I’ve learned the main reason we’re networking, meeting on regular basis is to be there to offer support for those who need it. We’re together to learn from one another and wherever possible, lend our expertise, offering solutions.

We offer our own views on the topics of the day, together with best business practice and by being attentive we’re making ourselves available…

Marvellous things happen during a conversation. We listen as we hear, relate, we develop self-reflection, we have something to offer and so we overcome the scarcity Chrissie mentions. By participating in the GIFT of group conversation we’re learning the language of others, leading to empathy & trust.

There’s another oft-overlooked magic that comes through conversation. The regular conversation develops the relationships, opportunity.

Give the gift of attention,  conversation, inspire through collaboration.

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Training for your discipline

How do you feel?

What do you do when the business you love begins to promise so much?

You dare to build on that promise, you dream big, you start to see progress from all the graft with the route to fulfilment becoming reality. The promise of success excites, doesn’t it?

All is well until …

The very path we’re following, channelling the time and energy changes forever with the arrival of negative market forces. Worse still, the changes are something we’re unable to control, suddenly there’s a feeling of helplessness when the strategy, the certainty we once had in place is all but gone, we’re driven to look at strategy. Plan B.

Planning on how to pivot the business.

The above scenario is affecting organisations large and small everywhere just now and for one such business owner, with an established fitness studio, twelve months ago Beth found her livelihood under threat of permanent closure unless she found a way to keep her clients and the money coming in.

Being so ‘wrapped up’ in the day to day of the business can be debilitating, although Beth somehow had the foresight to develop a strategy, at the same time brave enough to admit to herself that she needed help taking the concept of the pivot to reality. 

Gareth Shackleton eventually met with Beth and discussed (amongst other things) ambition, what was possible (or not) today, building for tomorrow including five components that VALUE the business all before sitting down to discuss Action – working on the new baby, the result of ‘pivot.’ 

With Gareth’s help, Beth came up with a plan to incorporate an existing degree held in Sports Therapy with her broader life skills, those as a former jockey and competitive horsewoman. This strategic move tied in with a client offer of all-round defined fitness for both rider … and horse!

Equine biomechanics.

Before long, ‘Equiskills’ was established combining the fundamentals of Pilates, inner physical and mental fitness, all presented as a rounded offer in a series of online tutorials … ‘Training for your Discipline.’ 

.  .  .

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary plans and by taking the time to share the ambition with recommended, trusted friends it can be possible to step outside of the comfort zone and realise the benefits of enforced change.

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Small steps, BIG gains

My friends and I are meeting regularly to discuss the world, changing times, the business opportunity and maybe, where we can help and lots of other ‘stuff’ in-between.

By meeting regularly, via ZOOM we’re able to keep ‘ahead of the game’ with a short-cut to solutions provided through trusted relationships.

Around a dozen meet for a little over an hour on any Wednesday, 12.30 (make it for midday if you’d like a one-to-one with me before the meeting) otherwise, Thursday from 8 am is once per month. (London GMT.)

Regular engagement … small steps.

Join us in conversation. All you need is the ability to go online & log on!

The meetings are structured, it’s FREE to attend and once you confirm participation I’ll mail you a link directly to the meeting ‘room’ … then it’s time to step away from the regular routine.

Interested? That’s great! Simply let me know (respond via email – that’s me at the foot of the page – or reach out via telephone 01665 577084 … otherwise please use the contact form! )

We look forward to meeting you, listening to your views, having a chat, learning about the business.

charliekenny@live.co.uk ~ +441665 577084 ~ weeklybiz@outlook.com

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Hey, Mr Referrable!

Referrable?  No such word.
It’s more ‘business jargon’ from Charlie, I hear you say.
Although, if you’re in business then being referrable is essential. So, let’s look at what makes you so while understanding why the fundamentals are so vital for success …
Beginning with, treating people as you may expect to be treated …
Not to mention:
Are you visible?
What?
It’s true, there are those out there that expect the business, the new ‘best client’ to simply come knocking on the door, out of the blue … just because you’re … you …
Nope, we need to work on that bizability (more jargon!) After all, there is a number of ways of becoming noticed. Take for example the DIY world of ‘social.’
OK … do you know your p’s from your q’s? Remember them? Those annoying mirror images, the p, and the q.  We get what we give right?  So let’s understand that there is mileage in good old-fashioned manners, respect and etiquette.
Let’s call it p and q.
Thinking of others? Of course, it’s second nature to most of us, right?
When looking for referrals, think of those with like-minded ambitions. I’ve found that if you offer help and support, you will soon find it’s reciprocal. Trying reach out to the underdog.
That was you once, right?  Me too.
Doing as you say you must? Following up. Well, that’s a no-brainer … innit? 
We still hear of those given the opportunity who don’t follow up. Isn’t it true that more business is lost through procrastination than by making the wrong decision? We know it, but still, the lack of follow-up remains the largest obstacle to ambition.
I’m nearly done …
Are you communicating? Some don’t.  We’re supposed to know that there may a delay, that they won’t be available next meeting … or cannot make the arranged one to one. Lack of communication does not help the bizability, credibility or reputation.
So, ask yourself, how is your reliability?’ Ask often.
Can we count on you?  If not, how could we recommend you to those closest to us?
This is the nugget friends, your reliability is what makes you referrable. If you are not readily visible and reluctant to follow up when the business opportunity arises … ​then you are simply not reliable.
Business is personal.
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Reputable, reliable = referrable

Is he reliable Charlie? Ben asks.

Do you know him well enough to refer him??

Fair questions. I thought for a single moment and realised that this time, I just wasn’t sure of my answer…

All in business have had times of dilemma, finding the reliable trading partners, co-workers and suppliers are part of that conundrum. Yes, there is an abundance of reputable offerings … but are they reliable?

I consider myself lucky that I have made some fantastic, trusted long-time connections through networking. We seem to ‘sing from the same hymn sheet.’

Similar to what was being asked of me now, think yourself, what characteristics would a potential business partner or supplier need to possess? There’s a good chance you’ll come up with a list of attributes (nearly) similar to the following …

Is there evidence of:

Like-mindedness

Product knowledge

Empathy

Not forgetting, a reputable name?

Connections

Reliability

What makes them so referable, to you?

Personal recommendation. Reputations are built on them.

You may be given an introduction to a wholly reputable business, someone who fits the bill, an organisation that tick’s all the boxes, even drinks your brand of coffee, but if that connection is more a ‘maybe’ instead of a clear yes/no kind of outfit then chances are, you’re going to hesitate in referring them.

There are many reasons we buy into our professional network and each of us has our own prerequisite when choosing to work with someone.

For me? It’s reliable. If we’re unable to count on our supporters to be with you when it matters, then they’re certainly not referable.

So in answer to Ben? Sit down, take a minute, share cake and get to know what works for you both.

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Just by doing.

Several years back I had finished a long-term tenure with the Ex-Pat Chamber of Commerce and was looking for ‘something similar.’
I was confident of a new assignment with a similar organisation, a familiar role and so I  bided my time.
One or two agencies had my resume and so sat back … waiting for the ‘offers’ to come by.  I figured that in three or four months I could transfer my contacts and all which I’d learned and move amongst the familiar network once more.
Twelve months arrived without any interest. Twelve became 14 months, then 18 months came and went.  
I found myself in an unfamiliar position of ‘chasing shadows’ via ‘specialist recruiters’ offering limited, much oversubscribed ‘vacancies.’
 I wouldn’t say that I was worried, although after eighteen months I was now considering diversity. It was time to start with a blank canvas, I needed to leave the comfort zone of what I knew – start afresh.
Around this time a friend suggested I visit a local networking event:
“Something that might ‘do you good’ and ‘help to view the bigger picture.’ ” 
We agreed to meet up later that evening after I visited the local automatic bank teller.
After twenty years in business, I’d never been in a position when I had found myself ‘broke.’  Now though, the message I read as I requested my withdrawal confirmed it – ‘funds unavailable.’ 
Starting at nothing was one thing, existing on it was another and the realisation of this moment took me aback. A reality check.
Needless to say, I did catch up with my friend, and after we’d discussed my ‘plight’ when he introduced me to an acquaintance who happened to be heading up a Govt., funded rehabilitation unit.
It so happens they were ‘looking for specialists’ who could manage to deliver ‘a brand-new programme.’ It did not take me long to confirm ‘I’m interested,’ so we set up a meeting at his office the next day which led to a 4-month delivery cycle.  It was a start.
Some way into the new role, on my way home, I met a familiar face …
“Hi, George” I called as my near neighbour approached, almost colliding with the chap.  There was a short exchange of pleasantries although at the time I did feel that George was not acting his usual buoyant self.
The next couple of weeks proved fulfilling, the project keeping me busy. I had certainly not given up plans of moving back into the industry I loved, although I was grateful for this hiatus in my search for the ideal work-life balance.
The project training I was charged to deliver one evening, was to a group who were unknown to us. I read the expected attendance sheet and saw a list of names – amongst them I saw was my neighbour, George Parks.
Sure enough, a band of six ‘offenders’ arrived, one being my near neighbour and all accompanied by community police officers.  ‘This was going to be tough.’ I thought to myself and sure enough, George saw me and immediately broke down.
Little did I know, George and his wife were having a tough time. He had recently been made redundant and all was not as it should be. George had picked up with his drinking and his his wife was not in the best of health. At 55 years of age, this was proving an awful time for the family.
Eventually, George stayed with the programme of three weeks and I came to know and understand him well. Both he and his wife moved on from their problems and both became much happier as a result.
My lesson from this was pretty easy.  I have always known that networking can be an antidote for many ills, whether business or personal. Given the chance, a simple conversation can work its magic.
Sure networking is often seen as something we ‘do’ to encourage business. Although we should never underestimate the simple choice of ‘moving,’ of ‘doing’ – networking is more than business. It’s about people. By engaging, doing brings change.
I’ve learned from the past. For me, business is personal.
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