The benefits of business collaboration far outweigh working alone. Collaboration is a bit like setting off in a canoe, to your favourite camping spot twenty miles down the river. Then realising it would take you half the time if you had someone paddling with you!
One of the things I’ve learnt running a business group that’s aimed at helping people make great connections, learn new skills and grow their business is the importance of collaboration.
Collaboration is a very potent way for small business owners to help grow their business and make some great connections. It helps take your business to the next level and is well worth the time and effort.
So here are the benefits of business collaboration that I have observed.
1. Collaboration Can Help You Solve Problems.
I’m sure you have heard the old saying ‘two heads are better than one?’ If you think about it, how often when you’ve been working alone on a project and you suddenly find yourself stuck and don’t know what to do? What have you done, you’ve gone to someone to ask for help, right? That might be a trusted partner, mentor, or even a friend that you can use just as a sounding board to help you work through the issue.
Collaborating and having someone (or several people) working with you can take away the stress and anxiety of solving everything yourself. Plus when you start down this route it can spark other ideas on things you hadn’t even thought about, opening up other opportunities for you and your business!
2. Collaboration Can Be Educational
This can be of huge benefit to you and your business, the opportunity to learn new things. Just by the simple act of connecting with other people how often have you found out about some valuable information on a subject or topic that’s been really useful?
I’ve witnessed an example of a great collaboration at our In Business group. This is between two professionals with very different skills sets, perspectives and strengths. One from an HR background and the other specialising in business strategy.
By working together they have put together a course aimed at businesses developing a strategic business plan and a people plan. By working together and collaborating they have learned from each other as well as being able to pass on valuable advice to other businesses.
3. Collaboration Can Halve Your Risk and Save You Money
Lots of businesses collaborate because it’s a great way to halve your risk and save you money at the same time. Collaborating with another business can help you reduce your costs on things like marketing and business development. If you are undertaking a large expensive project with significant financial risk, what better way to help reduce that risk than by collaborating with another business or partner. Sharing resources, ideas and expertise has got to be one of the great advantages of collaboration.
For your business to be successful, one of the most important things is to continually meet new people. To be successful you need to build a list of contacts and colleagues, making connections and forming alliances. Think about what would happen to your business, how it would start to go quickly down hill if you only sold to the same people. With every connection or contact you make you are expanding your network. Of course this may not result in a collaboration every time but imagine the possibilities and where it might lead.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to know more. Also check out our meetings page and come along to an event where you can start making connections and who knows, some great collaborations
Running your own business is like passing your driving test; one minute you’ve got someone sat with you advising, guiding and offering support and the next you’re let loose on the road, completely alone and making all the decisions.
So, be prepared for working alone. Self-employment and starting up your business can be a very lonely place once the initial excitement has worn off. When you suddenly find yourself sat at your desk (in the back bedroom that you’ve converted into an office) waiting for the telephone to ring with your nice shiny laptop at the ready. It’s then you notice the lack of interaction, you’re alone, apart from speaking to any clients or suppliers you may have. There were times when I went many hours without speaking to anyone at all. Below are just three of the things that I believe helped me during those initial lonely times.
How to avoid feeling isolated when working alone
Get yourself into a routine
It took me a while to realise this one, but basically all you need to do is get yourself into some sort of a routine, just like you did when you worked for someone else. I know; the thought of getting up and then sitting around all day in your dressing gown can be appealing, but the novelty quickly wears off and I found I wasn’t very productive. So, get yourself up, have your breakfast and start work at the same time every day. Break for lunch and finish at the time you would normally. Sounds simple, or obvious, but it really does help.
Access a business support group
This is by far one of the best things you can ever do to avoid the isolation of working alone. Get yourself out there and meet lots of other like-minded business people who are in exactly the same boat as you. I joined one and it’s safe to say I think it actually changed my life! I met so many nice people, willing to help, offer advice, support and as a bonus refer me to potential clients. Creating this support network really helped me; no longer did I feel isolated and alone. I would meet these people on a regular basis and many became good friends.
You don’t have to join your local gym (although of course you could if you like) – simply get yourself out for a walk in your lunch break. That’s all I did; it gave me some valuable thinking time, got me away from my desk and definitely helped me feel refreshed for the rest of the day. Do yourself a favour, give yourself some thinking time, enjoy the fresh air and the
simple pleasure of just having a walk.
Running a business can be a great adventure, but it’s important you don’t neglect your own wellbeing and health. Being alone and feeling isolated isn’t good for you or your business. If it does start to feel like it’s becoming too much, talk about it. Either to your partner, friend, relative or maybe a trusted networking associate.
So why is Networking such a key part of your business strategy?
Networking has always been very popular with business owners and entrepreneurs alike. For decades business men and women have frequented the lounges of the world’s hotels and coffee shops and mingled to their hearts content.
If you have never been to an In Business networking event before, or never been to any networking session for that matter you may be wondering why networking should be considered a key part of your business strategy. Well, in this short article, allow us to share with you our top three reasons why networking should be your top priority.
And who knows; maybe we will see you at In Business very soon…
You and I both know; the number one reason people network is to find people who could one day become your customer. It is vital to not push the boundaries or to ‘pester’ others though, so no hard sell. Take your time, nurture relationships and follow up with patience.
Research and Development
In business, things can be very lonely at times. Especially if you are a sole trader, or the owner of a small business. Networking allows you to stay up-to date with the latest industry news and stay on top of all the things you need to know. Plus, it stops you going stir-crazy and talking to yourself.
At In Business, there is a wide variety of people from different business sectors and backgrounds with various skills, often happy to share their knowledge, experience and give general advice. This knowledge and these connections can prove invaluable if you are looking to grow and develop your business, also helping to build long term business relationships.
It is who you know, not what you know, after all.
NETWORKING…do you look forward to events or do they make you feel anxious, uncomfortable, apprehensive and nervous?
How many of us are born networkers? I know I wasn’t, even in social situations I always found myself feeling awkward, unless of course the people I was with were actually friends or people I knew.
I was envious of other people who seemed to be more at ease, looked as though they were enjoying themselves and appeared really comfortable moving from person to person or moved from small group to small group introducing themselves. I didn’t feel I was particularly shy, but I’m sure it must be incredibly difficult if you are.
However, this all changed for me at least 15 years ago, when I had to venture for the first time into business networking! Thrown in at the deep end, starting my own business and having to become my own business developer!
I realised business networking is all about making and developing good relationships and simply having a conversation to help build a successful business. Yes, to do this you have to acquire and learn certain skills, it’s not about running around a room full of people ‘thrusting’ your business card into the hands of everyone you meet. It’s about getting to know the other person, it’s about sharing information and relationship building and this requires the right tools, approach and importantly frame of mind, mindset.
I’d be interested to know how you view networking? Do you find it daunting, does it make you uncomfortable entering a room full of strangers? Or are you a born socialiser/networker and never feel any apprehension or self-consciousness about walking into a room full of strangers?
7 Awesome Things You Can Learn from Studying Business Networking!
Do you, like me, love networking? Over the years I have met lots of interesting people and had numerous pleasant conversations. Looking back, I suppose I’ve learnt some very interesting things by being involved and I’d say in studying business networking.
What do I mean by studying business networking? Well, giving thought to how people communicate and interact with each other in a networking environment. What skills you develop, the body language aspects and what ideas it might bring, it’s not only fun and interesting it can give you lots of valuable life lessons too.
Below is my take on the lessons I have learnt during my time business networking.
‘Never judge a book by its cover’ – oh, how true this old saying is and in my early days of networking on a number of occasions I did exactly this, much to my embarrassment and shame. I’m sure you have done it too, we all do at some point. Met someone and perhaps thought I’m not keen on this person, for whatever reason or not really worth me talking to etc. I’m sure on numerous occasions I have made the wrong assumption about someone, rather than the right one. Okay, maybe on occasions I was right, but not in the majority of cases.
Lesson to be learnt, all it takes is to ignore your first impression, keep an open mind and have a conversation.
‘You never get a second chance to create a first impression’ – Again, what another great saying and again so much truth in it don’t you think? Do you create the right impression? It’s all about how you present yourself to the world, and not just how you look or dress, (which of course is important and goes a long way towards creating a good impression!) but maybe more the manner in which you present yourself, or how you want to ‘come across’ to people. If you are a negative person, then usually that’s how you will be perceived and how they will see or think of you. The flip side is, if you are positive person, then the likelihood is that you will be seen as a positive person.
Lesson to be learnt, create the right impression in the way you look and how you present yourself to the world, have a positive outlook on life.
‘Communication must be HOT – That’s Honest, Open and Two-way’ (Dan Oswald)…
I like this saying and I believe good communication is an art and it takes practise to do it properly. Communication skills have got to be one of the biggest factors in succeeding in both business and life. I think to a degree the art of communication like most things can be learnt. If you think how amazing is it that we have language, where we can share ideas, create wonderous things, tell stories etc. Then isn’t it worth trying to do it to the best of your ability. So, in all your communications make sure you are honest, true to yourself, keep your word and be open and remember it’s definitely a two-way process. Which means of course spend more time listening when in a conversation than speaking. Always show interest in what the other person has to say. It’s not just the words that we speak though, it’s also our body language. The eye contact we make, our gestures, our smile, how we walk, posture and the tone of our voice etc. Think about helping others achieve their goals, think about what you can do for them. As the old saying goes ‘what goes around, comes around’. In fact, this is probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt through networking.
Lesson learnt, give people your undivided attention, smile, and when in a conversation spend more time listening than speaking, offer to help them in some way if you can. You will be amazed at the excellent conversations you will have, friends you will make and information and knowledge you will acquire.
Managing your time
Why managing your time and what lessons can be learnt by networking? Well it’s simple basically all you need to do is make sure that you’re not continually running from one networking event to the other. Use your time wisely by planning which events you will attend, when you will attend them and work out if they are going to be of value to you in some way. We can all be ‘busy fools’ going from one thing to another. Know who you are going to speak to by thinking about who might be a referral partner, client or supplier who could benefit you in your business. Apparently, on average you have only around 27,375 days to live. If you calculate your age and multiply by 365 and then subtract 27,375, this gives you an indication of many days you have left! Do the math, it’s quite sobering!
Lesson learnt, prioritise your time, know your goals in life – make sure you keep sight of the important things in life – Don’t waste your days!
This is so important! In fact, it is extremely important! Why important? I realised quite early on in my pursuit of meeting people at different business networking events I had no objectives, no goals. What did this mean? At most events I attended I wasted my time, I didn’t know who I wanted to speak to, who might be a good referral partner, how many people I wanted to meet, why I wanted to meet etc. I’m sure like most people you’ve heard of the set yourself ‘SMART’ goals, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound? This works extremely well for business networking events. Know the kind/type of person, business your looking to connect with, set yourself a target of the number of people, decide if its realistic (don’t try and shove your business card under as many noses as possible!). Can you achieve it? Does the number of people at the event enable you to achieve it, are you being realistic? Finally, timebound, make sure you set a time when you will follow up with people you have met at the event. Ideally the day after the event while it is still fresh in their minds of where they met you when you follow up.
Lesson learnt, if you don’t set goals in your life, then you have no direction. You need a start point and an end point. Set goals for everything you want to achieve, know where you are going in life!
Now I hear you ask why would you include team working in business networking? Simple, if you are part of a good networking group, a group of people who meet on a regular basis, you get to know, like and trust them. These people will work with you to help you meet potential new clients, maybe help you identify opportunities you hadn’t thought of yourself or give you advice or information that will benefit you or your business. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you have helped someone and you become a team, working together looking out for each other. If you think about it, being part of something like this means you communicate well, you trust each other and you show commitment. Within a networking group you have diversity, lots of different skills and lots of different capabilities. All of which goes together to make a great team of people, with a common purpose, just to help and support each other.
Lesson learnt, good teams are based on communication, willingness to help and support each other, commitment and diversity of skills all working to a common goal or objective.
Another really useful skill to have for both business and life. Over my many years and lots of time spent at various networking events, I’ve found that being able to present one’s self and your business is vital. Being able to present information clearly and effectively is important in getting your message or opinion across, especially today, these skills are required in almost every field and walk of life. When you are involved in business networking it’s a given that you get your message about you or your business across as succinctly as possible. For example, I am a member of a BNI (Business Networking International) group (which by the way I think is brilliant!) and as part of what you have to do at a meeting is present yourself and your business in sixty seconds. Its, more commonly known as an elevator pitch. This really makes you think carefully about what you want to say within those sixty seconds. You also get the chance every so often to present to the group for ten minutes. Of course, the first few times you do this, it is extremely nerve racking and if you’re not used to it, it takes you completely out of your comfort Zone. A great thing about both the sixty second and the ten-minute presentation is that it helps to improve your confidence when speaking to a large audience and the networking gives you confidence when speaking to individuals. It also teaches you to prepare, plan and organise so that you can present in the best possible way. An excellent way to get your message across is of course to tell stories. People love a story, it keeps you engaged, entertained and makes the message memorable!
Its important to be able to present yourself or your business. In both business and life on occasion you will be called upon to make a presentation of some sort. Show passion about your subject or topic, make eye contact, smile (very important), plan but most importantly tell stories. As human beings we are programmed to respond to good stories!
Call me old fashioned, but I do miss the simplicity of the days when we could just have a good old conversation. As I look around the restaurant I’m sitting in, I’m startled to see that EVERY SINGLE PERSON is silently tapping away on their mobile phones, instead of engaging with the people sitting around their tables. And yes, I realise I myself am tapping away working on this blog post. I’ve also just sent my partner a text message and checked to see if I’ve had an email from my daughter. All this has got me wondering; are we losing the art of conversation? Will people begin to shy away from face to face interaction?
As people in business, we need to ensure that we cling to this dying art with all our might, because even now it’s still the most effective way of gaining new clients. Despite the rapidly growing world of social media, recommendations from people we trust are still the most likely to result in a purchase. And so we need to make sure we keep having conversations, keep building relationships and keep building that trust.
When it comes to attending events, your preparation should include giving some forethought to conversation starters. Questions are always a great way to break the ice and get someone engaged in conversation. Try asking if they have attended these events before, or how they heard about the event. If they are wearing a name badge with their company name, ask them about what they do or what it’s like working for that company. Once you’ve initiated the conversation, the rest usually comes naturally.
So what should you be doing to have a great conversation once you’ve got one started? It’s probably said most often, but listen. And I mean really listen. Most people’s favourite topic is themselves, so by listening, you can ask genuine questions and be interested in what that person has to say. Don’t be tempted to interrupt or try to go one better; the person who is always trying to get “one up” is never popular!
I hope we keep exercising our conversational skills in future; even though we increasingly interact through our mobile devices, I think the world of business (and indeed, the world in general!) still needs us to sit down together and have a good face to face discussion as often as we can.
It would be great to hear your thoughts. Are we losing our conversational abilities? Do mobile devices make the world a smaller place, or make the spaces bigger between us all? How crucial do you believe face to face interaction will be for business going forward?
We have moved!
The 10th July saw the dawn of the meetings at our new venue, Pure Offices, Morley. It was great to welcome our new members and we appreciate your support.
Going forward we are very optimistic that the new venue will prove a great opportunity to bring businesses together in a professional and corporate environment.
We know we can’t compete with the breakfasts at our previous venue, The Toby Carvery, so no Yorkshire puddings I’m afraid, but we hope you like the addition of the ‘healthier option’ as well as the bacon sandwiches. The Linda McCartney sausages went down a treat so we will be upping the order for those next time! Whilst we are on the subject we must thank The Toby Carvery for their help and support in getting In Business off the ground, we will miss the Yorkies.
We think that you will agree that breakfast in the break-out area gave a good opportunity to network in a relaxed and informal manner. We are aiming for a ‘no pressure’ style of networking, where we can work as a team to help and support each other. Although there is no pressure to bring a referral or a visitor, it is in everyone’s interests and we welcome and encourage you to do so. So, if you know of any other small business owners who In Business might be useful to, please bring them along. With Carla’s help, we will encourage others from the building to come along too.
We want you to get value from the membership not only through the connections you make but from the education. If there is a subject that you think would be of benefit to the group please make us aware, we want to offer the most relevant training we can. We have several members joined up now and we are looking to increase that number substantially over the next couple of months.
This has been ‘our’ members spotlight but in future it will be a chance for members to promote their business, tell us about the launch of a new product or service or just generally share their good news!
‘Til next time…….on 24th July at 9.30am
Would you consider cold calling a thing of the past?
Is cold calling a thing of the past?
Often it ends in rejection, and none of us like that do we?
Just when you think you are being put through to the person you want to speak to it goes to voicemail and you leave a hopeful, cheery message asking them to return your call, only to no avail. Or you state you will ring back later and again it’s goes back into the loop of ‘sorry he can’t take your call/she’s out of the office’ and you get put through to the voicemail. Frustrating isn’t it?
Only a very small percentage of cold calls ultimately convert into appointments so why are we wasting our time? According to research by the Keller Research Center at Baylor University “9 out of 10 top level B2B decision makers don’t respond to cold calling anymore”. Sales reps tend to only make 2 calls to reach a prospective client when, in fact, it takes more than 7 touches to generate a lead. By touches it means things like connecting on LinkedIn, liking and sharing their prospects posts or meeting someone at an event.
Keller RC also say that “84% of B2B sales start the buying journey with a referral” and “3 out of 4 people say they prefer to do business with someone who has been referred by a person they know”.
So, to avoid these scenarios what can we do?
The answer isn’t, as you might think, to go on lengthy sales training courses that promises you will convert more calls into sales, or to brush up on your sales technique.
The answer is in networking, why?
You get to meet like-minded business people who all want to build their network of advocates. Your advocates will then grow to trust you and your brand and have faith that if they refer you, you will do a good job. It’s not always what you know but who you know and that seems to be more prevalent these days. It doesn’t mean what it used to with ‘back-handers’ being given left, right and centre! These people will genuinely want to pass business on to you because they believe in you. People buy from people and if they get to know you, they will recommend you.
Each person at a networking event will have hundreds of contacts that they can introduce you to therefore opening up your opportunity to connect and do business with them too. It just makes sense to network!
Why not give it a go, it’s not as scary as you think. After all, you are just having a conversation with someone and that’s something we do every day! Here at In Business we like to think we have a more relaxed way of doing networking and if you want more hints and tips just visit our blog on the 7 networking fears most of us experience.
Look forward to meeting you at our next event. Check out the dates.
People have many reasons for becoming Self Employed and it’s not always fuelled by a passion to turn a hobby into a money-making venture.
For some it is sheer inspiration, an epiphany, or even a ‘that’s a great idea’ moment. For others it is born out of desperation to earn a living after a life changing event that prevents them continuing with their regular job.
To some extent that’s how it was for me. Although I was in employment, on maternity leave at the time but, due to unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to return to work after the statutory maternity leave.
My daughter was born with severe special needs and as such my days would be filled with hospital appointments and physio sessions. It came as a huge shock to both myself and my husband at the time, even though I didn’t have the best paid job in the world, I did contribute to the household income in some significant way. Mortgage rates were pretty high 10.5% if I remember correctly and the thought of renting property back then was not really an option we wanted to consider.
I had qualifications in the catering and baking industry and started making birthday cakes for friends and family. It was a slow burner but it helped to pay the bills. It wasn’t until my daughter was in slightly better health and of school age that thing took off a little more. Although there were days when she was poorly and couldn’t attend school, I was able to make up the time in an evening. I also had a son who was fit and healthy and I was able to carry on the business during pregnancy and beyond. The business went from strength to strength and I eventually got the opportunity to open a shop. Turnover increased 3-fold that first year and the buzz I got from that made it all worthwhile.
Now I’m not saying that being your own boss doesn’t come at a cost, check out the pros and cons here. There are the early morning deliveries, the cantankerous customers, the strain on family life, the bills to pay and the books to balance, there are also the constant stream of emails to answer and the vain attempt on my part to keep up with the latest social media posts! But what I am saying is that there is a very rewarding sense of achievement and satisfaction when you do balance those books, when customers are delighted with your product or service and when you look at what you have accomplished at the end of the day and say ‘yes, I did that!’
So, what started as a life changer for me definitely turned out to be a chapter in my life that I wouldn’t change!
I recently went to a very interesting presentation about video and its use in business; it got me thinking how video has changed dramatically since the early days of VHS recorders.
Those of us old enough to remember will recall the excitement of a family member bringing home the video cassette from the local video rental shop and all sitting down to watch it from end to end. If you missed a bit, you had to try to locate it by fast forwarding or rewinding to the appropriate part; not easy, if I remember correctly!
Nowadays, of course, video is much easier and much more readily available. Video is everywhere; Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and many more social media platforms.
But how can that help your business?
Video is a very effective form of communication and can say such a lot in a short space of time. If you feature in it yourself, potential customers can see you, hear you and make a decision on whether or not to trust you and do business with you based on a 2 minute clip.
So think carefully about what you want to say and who you want to say it to. Video is very powerful and should be an important part of your communication. When used in conjunction with other marketing tools, video will enhance your overall marketing strategy.
Fact: – Our brains process visual information 60 times faster than text alone.
So how does video help with SEO?
YouTube can be used as a search engine for information and as such, if you have a short video on it, then it can be shared and searched for just like your website can on Google. YouTube is the second largest search engine and is owned by Google.
Google analytics are helped by the viewing of video on your website. The main aim is to build links and generate social shares, so your content needs to be something that people will want to watch and share. If your video is being shared and actively searched for then you will obviously be getting more coverage.
Google cares more about your page’s content than whether you’ve optimised each individual page on your site. If the page answers the question asked by the searcher, then that will get a better ranking. You need great content that your audience can engage with to improve your Google ranking.
Short videos can feature things like testimonials, products or service explanations, seminars or events, meet the team, training, hints and tips or news. All of these, if done well, will be useful additions to your marketing strategy.
It can easily be done on your smart phone or you can go for a more professional approach, using a company like Thunder and Lightning films, have a chat with Paul Morricone. After all, this is promoting your business so a great representation would be having a video on your homepage that acts as your shop window. Either way will increase your SEO and boost your business in varying degrees.
Try it out; you never know, you might go viral!