The Power of Networking – and why it’s not always about passing leads
Earlier today I submitted a request for help in sourcing a suitable placement for my son to undertake work experience locally.
Being specific about the industry (technology) that my son is interested in, I duly drafted an email and sent it to the proprietor of CAP Business Clubs, Paul James just before 11am today.
Within a matter of minutes, my request had been relayed to the three Groups within CAP – the Motivated Monday guys, the Terrific Tuesday group and mine, the Thriving Thursday bunch. I was impressed and grateful in equal measure.
Fast forward just a couple of hours, and I have received three independent offers from local IT related businesses, and further contact from two more Members offering to help – all members of CAP Business Club for which I remain very grateful. After considering the logistics of getting my son to and from the placement of choice for a week, and the nature of work undertaken, we accepted Eric Witheridge and his team’s offer of a place with Module IT for the week.
Without being a member of CAP Business Club and regularly networking as I do, who can say if this would have been possible? I suspect it would have been a case of making a number of cold calls or issuing numerous letters in the hope that an offer is made.
In my view, this experience demonstrates the strength of the relationships that can be developed through pro-active networking, and not simply expecting business from each connection.
February 13th 2015.
Seven advantages to networking
Having the benefit of running business clubs for just over two years I have gained a deeper understanding of why we network with others. Here's my verdict on the top seven reasons we believe give us an edge over our competitors.
I remember attending my first network meeting a few years ago, and part of the mission statement was “givers gain” the principle of course is fairly obvious but I have still seen a few members over the years at various clubs expect leads and contacts right from the start.......wrong! Well most of the time anyway.
The best networkers, and by the best I mean the ones who receive the most leads, help and advice tend to be the ones who give the most leads, help and advice. Networking is the exactly the same as everything else in life ....you get back what you put in.
Basically if you’re thinking of joining a networking group to gain gain gain.....you just might be better off keeping your marketing bucks for another source. But if you are ready and willing to help others and give give give....and remember sometimes it takes a while to kick in, but the results can be staggering.
Great news! Becca Cobham (Creative Bee) and I are starting a new business partnership together and it's called "WyeDean Deli confidential". More about that later and it is not the blatant advertising opportunity you may have imagined - honestly.
In fact actually this is more of a tribute to Paul James' CAP Business Clubs and the power of networking. Becca Cobham and I are both members of the Tuesday evening group where Paul is passionate about getting small business owners together to network, discuss issues and interact to the benefit of all. Paul knows this model well and is a great chairman and exponent of the art.
It was actually at our first one to one meeting (Becca and I) that we realised immediately that we shared a passion for food and drink and in particular the quality artisan food and drink producers of the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley. I, as a photographer, had been working on a social documentary project on food and drink producers of the area for a year or so and Becca had a lingering and long held urge to write and research the whole issue of quality local produce. Our individual skill sets seemed to be ideal for collaboration on the project and so the idea, if not the final business name was born. A trendy blog and quarterly glossy magazine to celebrate and shout (very loudly) about the best in quality food and drink (at all prices ranges) the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley has to offer.
And so first naturally we looked inward on our idea, examining all the issues and possibilities and whether we thought there was a viable business. We couldn't for the life of us come up with a negative! A perhaps predictable outcome when you are passionate about something. Lot's of problems for sure but then there are always 10 good reasons not to do something if you are not a positive thinker - the bottom line between the two of us - we liked the idea but we needed an additional view - an objective friend as it is sometimes called.
Next we threw our energies into the planning and development of the project into a business model and business plan followed by the first, furtive, airing of the project with some of our respective confidants in the local food sector. No negatives there either - progress! Then, in business, you get those key moments when you stop seeking views and advice and actually have to pitch the project for real. In our case it was to Amanda and Rachel from the Food Showcase (no pressure then) with whom we are now gladly collaborating. And it's a funny feeling when you as partners having internalised your ideas then listen to someone else actually, out loud, say what a great idea you have had.
All of this, and whatever success is to follow, can be traced back to CAP Business Club and the networking groups. Who know's if the two of us would have met anyway and discovered our shared passion and then gone on to develop the idea. It's not impossible but it's unlikely that it would have happened right now. And that is the power of networking.
It was fitting therefore that the official launch of the WyeDean Deli confidential should be at CAP and to our colleagues on the Tuesday evening group. But one of the real strengths of group networking is the ability to ask a question and then, most importantly, to listen. Paul convened a round table session for us as part of the concise and no nonsense launch. We had an opportunity to ask our colleagues for their views and to put three key (for us) questions to them. Our group, like all of the other individual groups, has a very diverse range of business skills and experience and we really valued the honest and supportive input we got from them - lots and lots of valuable input in fact.
These sessions are so valuable not just for the new ideas and experience based suggestions but also crucially as a health check for our own ideas, the very same ideas we spend so long internalising. It's also very motivating to hear other small business owners say - out loud again - that your idea is a good one, adds something to the area we love and live in and fills a necessary gap in the market. Sometimes we forget that amongst the blizzard of readily available business coaches and mentors, that our colleagues right next to us, whatever their individual trade or profession, hold just as much business wisdom because they have the practical experience in success and sometimes stark personal exposure of failure. I think that it was Donald Trump who said originally said "Some days you win, and some days you learn" and those hard lessons add a very practical and valuable perspective. We'd strongly recommend these CAP round table sessions to anyone starting to develop a new business or new business idea - they invaluable and a great source of learning for everyone involved.
And so WyeDean Del confidential is a complimentary addition to, and development of, our existing businesses we know will be a major success but we appreciate the motivational start CAP Business Club members and Paul James have given us and we look forward to their continued support in further round table sessions at future key stages of the blog and magazines business development.
And so in the next few days the first embryonic blog postings will be coming to life at https://wyedeandeliconfidentialblog.wordpress.com/ you can also follow us on Twitter at @YDeanconfident and here on Facebook
We've already started work on the first magazine so follow us on social media for publication dates etc. If you are or know of anyone who you think no blog or magazine should miss out please let the editorial team time know by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you'd like to advertise with us or be featured by us please get in touch email@example.com
Bex Cobham and David Broadbent
'Ode CAP Thursday Club'
At six o’clock, the annoying sound
Of an alarm clock crashing to the ground,
I thrash around to mute the notes
And now it’s buried in my Totes!
My wife complains, I say with wit,
“I’ve already put a sock in it!”
It must be Thursday, joy of joys,
As I find the clock and kill the noise,
I’m off to CAP to hear Paul say,
“The best way to start your working day”.
As Paul decides who’ll take the floor,
Cecile the Books bursts through the door;
Her admin systems are the best
But late again she has a rest!
Every member talks in turn
That about their business we might learn;
Sharifa’s bow ties, Laura’s knitting
And Andy B with Ariel fitting.
There’s Grantly Rogers, Pet Supplies
And Tracy Ashford’s legal eyes.
Sharon’s there to sell your house
Megabyte Ben will clean your mouse.
A back passage that is shiny bright?
Dave Leopold will see you right.
Andrea sends you somewhere sunny
Whilst Charlotte P in on the money;
Andy tells of Graphics Shack
And Alison wants her Lemon back.
Photography? Please keep it local,
A point on which she’s very vocal!
No matter what you must insure
We have a Rev who knows the score.
To make the most of staff resources
With Karen Gane you should join forces;
Think you’re dyslexic, please don’t jest,
Kris Ventris Field will run a test.
Then Eric W says out loud,
“I’ll stick your data on a cloud”.
Power of Attorneys, protecting the weak?
Just contact Val if its help you seek
And should you need to advertise
Forest Jo will put you wise.
If your web traffic is to slow,
Andrew Callard’s in the know;
Nick Johnson is the mortgage king
Whist Ian does his social thing.
Want your kids to have a ball?
Paul’s Best Parteez does it all.
Who else is there for goodness sake?
Ah, Sarah Jones, she’ll bake a cake.
I guess that just leaves little me
Your friendly face from Leigh-on-Sea.
“The best way to begin or end your working day” - Paul James 2014
I never thought social networking is for me but since I joined the Tuesday pm club as the apprentice in mid June I haven't looked back and enjoy every session I attend.
I left the NHS in May 2013 after 30 years of service as Registered Nurse, leaving at management level with a redundancy type package to follow my dreams and develop my passion for animals into a pet sitting and dog walking service. It was a huge leap of faith and security from having a regular income to becoming self employed but this is what I wanted to do and I didn't want to look back and have regrets.
Developing the business has been a huge learning curve - professionally and personally - with lots of high and low points as they say you take the rough with the smooth. I find that marketing the business and getting your name out there in the Forest is hard work -I am not a natural business woman with the gift of the gab and find that this aspect very tiring and quite soul destroying at times.I also found that working from home is great but you can also become very isolated and drawn into your own business world -creating a negative impact and not been able to think outside the box.
I had several supportive conversations with Jo from Forest Traders regarding promoting my business and social networking who encouraged me to try CAP Business club.I was going through a personal bereavement at the time and felt quite low about the business in general and not having enough clients to make it all worthwhile and was on the verge of giving up my dreams.I knew the first year was going to be tough but not this tough .But something inside me said not to give up and now was the time to try social networking - the e mail conversations I had with Jo were inspirational in how CAP club had developed and supported her business.
Luckily for me - Paul had just advertised for an apprentice for the Tuesday club - applied, attended informal informative meeting,got the job and here I am here today writing my second ever blog!!!
I now look forward to each meeting - the group is very friendly,informal and supportive with a wealth of knowledge and varied experiences from all different types of businesses.
Even in a short space of time I feel I have grown professionally and personally,feel more confident,supported and now know that I able to ask for help in growing my business through the contacts I have made through the club.
Thank you Paul and Tuesday club for accepting me…..
Dealing with the doubters
“Why don’t you just go and get a job?”
Creating and running my own business has always been a dream and, discussing my business plans with friends and family, I fully expected them to be absolutely 100% behind me, emotionally supporting me every step of the way. Surprisingly for me, not true. Enter the doubters.
You do know you have to earn a living?
My parents thought that running my own business would be a phase, a fad that I would grow out of, like leg-warmers or novelty pencil sharpeners. Little did they realize that their daughter was serious, determined and committed, no matter how hard it was going to get. I was discussing with my parents a particularly busy week networking and meeting potential clients one day and they said to me “you do know you have to earn a living, don’t you? You can’t just drink coffee all day” Seriously? It took all my efforts to swallow the multitude of sarcastic comments that were trying to get out, wanting to scream, “oh really, I didn’t know that!”
My friends seem to think that by running my own business I can get out of bed when I feel like it, have a leisurely breakfast and work in my pyjamas until lunchtime, oh and have plenty of time to watch Jeremy Kyle! And of course, I’m free to childmind on teacher training days too, because I’m just “messing about on the computer.” On a recent down day when I was doubting myself and wondering what to try next, a friend very kindly said to me “why are you putting yourself through this”. “Why don’t you just go and get a job?” Those very words made me shudder at the thought of being part of the corporate game again; office politics, commuting nightmares, KPI’s and endless policies and procedures.
Learning the lesson
My entrepreneurial days are in their early stages but already in this journey of self-discovery and personal growth I have learnt a valuable lesson. Now, I don’t discuss the nitty gritty of my business with potential doubters. I love my family and friends dearly but its like-minded individuals at my local networking club I turn to instead in my hour of need.
Four Magic Words So when things are going awry (and they do quite often!); computer breaks down, business is quiet or I’m just having a lack of confidence day, I know that the people to turn to are not my friends and family but other networking club entrepreneurs who believe and understand what I’m doing and say “you CAN do it”. Four simple, but magical words that set me back on track and invisibly carry me forward.
If creating and running your own business is your dream, join a networking group and get advice and support from like-minded individuals because the doubters will be there. In times of low confidence or when things go wrong, the doubters will be telling you to do the sensible thing and “just go and get a job!”
Entrepreneur and mother succeeds thanks to business networking
Astute new entrepreneur, and mother, Sharifah Rahman, launched fashion startup business - Camellia McQueen this year in response to a family crisis. Now, thanks to a lively and very active local business network, she now spends her days creating stylish accessories from her home in the heart of the Forest of Dean.
Sharifah talks candidly over coffee about life as a new business owner, a mother and her experience of relocating from Malaysia to the UK, revealing that she is an eternal student. “I am learning something new every day.” says Sharifah. She’s quiet and thoughtful, whilst being incredibly charming.
Bend: don’t break!
The family settled in England after her husband had to leave his high powered job overseas due to a sudden illness. So, Sharifah decided to take on the role of bread winner. However, the Forest of Dean isn’t renowned for its job opportunities, so she had to forge her own. Starting a business was the most logical response. Anyone can appreciate what a courageous step and huge achievement this is, especially after having been a full time mum for the past seven years.
Eureka moment: let’s make fashion fun for boys
Sharifah originally studied fashion design, and that’s where her passion lies. She had her eureka moment when she spotted a gap in the market. Women are spoilt for choice when it comes to dressing up, but men are sadly bereft in the accessory department. Sharifah wanted to inject some style and lots of fun in to her son’s wardrobe, but how?
Her very first product was born - the bowtie. “The bowties in the UK are too safe and boring. I wanted something funkier for my son.” She started experimenting with patterns, colour and fabrics to create her own original, high-end range. Her friends were quick to compliment her skills. So, she registered her business and started hatching her master plan.
Sharifah decided upon a methodical approach based on sound advice when launching Camellia McQueen. After spotting a local entrepreneur’s taster course, she embarked upon a steep learning curve and took the Forest of Dean Entrepreneurs Plus course. “This gave me the idea to expand my range to include men’s bowties, business card holders and purses.” It armed her with the necessary tools.
A supportive business network and mentoring = success
The course also convinced her of the power of quality business networking. Ideal for Sharifah, since it offered the opportunity for support from established local businesses as well as other new start-ups. By chance CAP Business Clubs founder, Paul James, was looking for an apprentice member following a suggestion from CAP member and photographer, Alison Ball, owner of Lemon Photographic. The two, inspired by the National Apprenticeships scheme, and supported by the other members offered “apprenticeship networking member” free to a new business for 6 months. A real cash saving and access to experience and knowledge for any new business can only be a good thing.
Paul James is passionate about the power of networking and seeing local business succeed. Indeed this is one of the main reasons he started the CAP Business Clubs in the stylish business ready offices suite above Coleford Library. “It’s just nice to help people and it makes me feel good,” says Paul. “Membership also gives Sharifah access to people within the group who are trustworthy and reliable, either as clients or suppliers.”
So pleased with the outcome of the scheme are all involved that Sharifah has no hesitation in joining as a full member after her apprenticeship ended and CAP Business Clubs are now looking for more new candidates.
Next stop, Etsy, NotontheHighstreet.com and beyond
Sharifah knows the power of good quality images in professional marketing online and Alison Ball of Lemon Photographic was already on hand to help her out with her product shots. She will now be looking at selling her products on the likes of Etsy and Not on the Highstreet.com as well as her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/camellia.mcqueen and her own website which will be launched. Online retailers can’t afford to have poor quality images and Sharifah needed to spend wisely to launch her business with limited finance. The support of other members and her own budgetary skills show her incredible ingenuity.
Camellia McQueen: the story behind the name
Camellia McQueen is an intriguing name, so how did she come up with this? Well, her favourite flower is the Camellia and she is inspired by fashion designer, Alexander McQueen. Her brand is stylish and fashion orientated. She made a conscious decision to avoid the ‘arts and crafts’ niche and pigeonholing her herself early on. Her ultimate goal is to design and make clothes for children, women and, perhaps, men.
Balancing business and family life
You’ll often hear business owners talk about their early starts. In fact, Sharifah has found this to be the key to success. “I am more creative and productive in the morning.” It is also a great way to balance work and family life. Juggling the two was difficult at first, but with help from her husband, she has established a solid routine.
Sharifah had always dreamed of running her own business and the support from CAP Business Clubs members has helped her achieve her goals. She advises anyone who’s considering launching their own startup to throw themselves wholeheartedly into networking. “It’s not as scary as you think.” says Sharifah. Her success speaks volumes for CAP’s own development of the Apprenticeship Scheme and, in turn, they have gained a valuable member.
For more information on CAP Business Clubs or to contact Paul James about apprentice members opportunities visit www.capbusinessclubs.co.uk
Business Clubs - Support when you need it most
Setting up and running a business can be an isolating experience. When times get difficult as they do from time to time even for the most seasoned business person, one can loose their initial inspiration and enthusiasm. That was certainly how I had been feeling for the last few days!
I arrived at CAP Business Group feeling full of the woes of a new business owner facing financial strains, and feeling frustrated isolated and all done in. Paul and my fellow group members leant a listening ear and let me off load my frustration. They then all came up with loads of good ideas, which helped to reignite my enthusiasm. I cannot thank them all enough and this really demonstrated to me the value of a business group such as CAP.
Becoming A CAP Business Club Member
It is only 5 months since I opened the doors of Kit & Caboodle Boutique in Lydney. Most days I thoroughly enjoy my work at Kit & Caboodle, but I must admit there have been a few difficult days during these last five months. These difficult days tend to be when I am working alone and the boutique is quiet. This is when there is no one to talk issues through with, or share ideas with.
This is one of the reasons that I am so pleased to have become a member of the CAP Business Clubs. Already having only attended two meetings and the fabulously inspiring and lively talk given by Dr Paul Thomas, that I feel that there are people who will help to inspire me and hopefully I can inspire and support them too.
I am looking forward to meeting more of the CAP Business Club Members over the coming weeks and months and I would therefore like to invite all members of any of the three clubs to pop into Kit & Caboodle Boutique to introduce themselves, when they are in Lydney.
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