As I walked down the street after my first networking event I felt inspired, more confident and exhilarated. And I believed joining The Business Network – South Humberside could provide me with the network of business contacts that could prove useful as I forged ahead with my ambition to work for myself. Plus the lunch at Abby’s Upstairs in Grimsby had been delicious!
When I decided to take the exciting, if daunting, step of becoming a freelance writer I knew networking would be important to me. I had seen first-hand how a group of like-minded business people could be a powerful thing to be part of when I did a spot of PR for Assist Women’s Network in Teesside three years earlier. The first step was finding a network in Humberside which met at a time to suit me. As I searched around I discovered some are held before the start or after the working day – perfect for leaving the rest of the day free for work, but for me this would clash with the nursery run. The Business Network – South Humberside appealed because it took place during the day when my boys would be in nursery.
The network meets monthly at a location in or near either Scunthorpe or Grimsby such as Scunthorpe United, Abby’s Upstairs and the Ashbourne Hotel, in Immingham. And it is advisable to carry a bundle of business cards with you when you attend because you will need them.
The Business Network – South Humberside is attended by representatives and owners of many varied businesses and organisations across North and North East Lincolnshire (or the ‘key players’ as one of my former editors would call them.) Karen Locking, director of Evolve Business Development, is the friendly and supportive Network Host who will help with useful introductions. You can attend as a guest and then you have the option of becoming a member. The Business Network has branches across the country and as a member you are entitled to attend any meeting as a guest.
There is the choice to go to a seminar in the morning and topics have included handy legal advice on what to do if a client has not paid, inspiring talks on how owners set up their business and achieved success, and useful tips on how to get the best from social media. This is followed by open networking – which may seem a little scary for the shy. It is natural for anyone to feel uneasy in a new social situation, but everyone at The Business Network is friendly and there for the same reason as you. A smile, a hello, and a friendly handshake are useful icebreakers. Then at 12.15pm it’s the moment we’ve all been looking forward to – a tasty two-course lunch. But this is not time to relax, as business cards are exchanged around the table and a table host takes charge ensuring everyone has two-to-three minutes to tell everyone about their work, their successes and outline any referrals which may be useful. Once lunch is at an end everyone is given the opportunity to speak to a person they are keen to connect with.
Any fledgling business owner may hope the people they meet at networking will immediately want to buy their wares or services. Although this might not happen at your first event, there are lots of cases of network members approaching fellow members when they need a specific service, and of referrals. You are certain to meet a brilliant bunch of like-minded and ambitious people who will remember you when they or someone they know needs your service, and will also kindly take time to give you advice and support.
Since joining I have met many wonderful people who have given me lots of useful advice. I have had a free business mentoring session with Jayne Chudley from Fluent Coaching, which has all proved useful in helping me take my next steps as a Freelance Writer. And Zoe Butler of Blue Teapot Media has provided my promotional video and photographs When you work alone there is a danger of becoming too inward looking and insular – these monthly sessions have helped to give me confidence and drive to move forward and achieve success. The Business Network – South Humberside has proved to be a quick, easy and enjoyable way to build up business contacts who I am sure will prove useful in the years to come.