Throughout my ten years with the Women In Business Network (WIBN), I have worked tirelessly on supporting businesswomen with growing their business through networking. And now – I want to go that step further with a Connections Club that does this for both men and women, and is just as focussed.
The groups I currently run are productive, supportive and we get some great feedback from members and visitors alike. People tell me that we are good at identifying business opportunities and connections for each other. This is fantastic to hear – as this is definitely one of my driving objectives for productive meetings.
Those that know me, and how I run my meetings – know that I like to keep the atmosphere relaxed, but I don’t like having “cliques”. It is important that everyone is welcomed into the meeting on an even playing field, and that the session is professional and finishes on time.
From fledgling start-up to thriving, growing business
I have some members who have been with me for the full ten years and I was talking to one of them recently about what it felt like when we started off, so much smaller, less knowledgeable and how our businesses have grown and developed over the years.
We shared specific stories of all the support that people have given us as a part of being in this well-knitted community, and now we see the new start-ups coming on board and reflect on how “that was us” – which seems not so long ago. I have to say one of the big pay-offs of running my groups is in seeing those businesses (and their owners) grow in both confidence and profit line.
I remember a specific incident recently when I had a chat with a member who has been with me from the very beginning (10 years ago). I still remember the (cold) phone call I made to ask if she wanted to attend the launch of one of my WIBN groups. She replied: “Yes of course and when she replied yes straight away, I think I was a bit shocked. Great I said to her whilst mentally thinking “blimey she actually does wants to come!” That’s the lack of confidence when you start off.
This person’s business has changed enormously and I am so pleased she is now reaping the fruits of all those years of hard work. That network that I developed is huge, and “all roads lead back to WIBN” I often joke, as people share how they know various people from all different walks of life.
Extending a community with practical, expert-led training
So the next natural step for me was to give business owners the practical tools to develop their business under a separate brand that could sit nicely next to WIBN.
Your Business Matters (YBM) has been born out of my desire to support not just women but all small business owners (yes, you chaps too!) to grow their businesses. My key point is to sell them things that they genuinely need, and NOT give them snippets to covertly sell them consultancy somewhere along the line. I want to give small businesses well thought-out tools and training which provides knowledge and true, everyday application to their business.
It’s been interesting watching businesses grow from sometimes no-where and watch, on occasions anxiously, as new business owners plod through some sticky mud for quite a while before they start to see their arrival at the green fields and some payback on their investment of time and money into a new business.
We’ve launched our practical hands-on workshops and been met with some great reviews – like this one from Ellen Bletsoe, an Image and Style Consultant based in Thrapston.
But, what became clearer and clearer – with each course we ran…was the benefit that the attendees got from sharing their business stories with each other and also their joint-learning experience in the workshop.
An inspiring, honest local business speaker – hatched an idea for me
I reflect back to an event I ran in November 2017, which I aptly called “The Big Event” at the time. I had brought together 80 businesses in one room – connecting them with each other and I watched as they all absorbed themselves in our guest speaker Tina Keogh-Warner, business partner at Warner Edwards. Tina shared her very personal story of the growth (aches, pains and joys mind you) of their family business.
The comments and feedback from the event were fab and people still talk about the event today and particularly on the refreshing honesty from Tina. So many attendees still say to me that they reflect back on the different points she raised and drew parallels with their own business.
A connections community is born
Developing a Business Connections Club seems to be the next step for YBM. This club will be larger than my current groups and open to both men and women. So in the Autumn of 2018 we ran another significant which was very well received and attended by almost 60 business owners.
It was a half-day Connections Event, which I called “Lessons Learnt”. It was open to both men and women, and included some open networking, but also some structured table swaps to keep the energy going. The fab thing is that it was still relaxed and there were a lot of smiles all round.
We focussed on:
- Facilitating attendees to connect with each other strategically (I personally planned who was going to sit where – as I knew who would be a great fit)
- Having two speakers who genuinely and generously shared the background to their businesses (start, growing and maturing) and the key lessons that they have learnt along the way
- Providing an opportunity for table talks which concentrated on some of the learnings that each speaker shared
- Having an expert panel at the end of the session – so that questions could be asked to the speakers as well as some discipline professionals (accounting, marketing, HR, social media)
As you know by now, everything we offer at YBM is practical and not just theoretical. The businesses that I hand select to share their stories are not businesses on the networking circuit and they are not there to advertise their business. They are there to genuinely share their experiences and what they have learnt in their businesses – to support the YBM business community.
At the event, I also shared the Business Connections Club I am launching with the attendees. This club, once fully developed, will attract 50-80 proactive business owners meeting on a regularly basis.
So, if you are looking for more from your connection building activities, make sure you get in contact to find out about our Connections Club and our other Connections Events. You can contact me on 01933 652 884 or Barbara@yourbusinessmatters.co.