Friday, December 15, 2006

The Peter Roper Story

You can hear a fascinating interview with my co-author on '...and Death Came Third!', Peter Roper on the Beermat website now.

Beermat is the website of Mike Southon and Chris West, authors of the popular business bestseller 'The Beermat Entrepreneur' and a series of successful and insightful business books.

Beermat Radio offers a range of interviews with interesting figures in business, from Sahar Hashemi of Coffee Republic and Bill Samuel of Foyles to Ecademy's Penny Power and even me!

It is certainly worth tuning in.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Growth of the Entrepreneur

A new report, commissioned by Vodafone UK, claims 10 million people will have ditched their nine to five working week in favour of self-employment over the next five years. This translates to 33% of the British workforce.

According to the report, 12% of the country's adults have already set up on their own, 6% are in the start-up process and just under a third are seriously considering it, with more women than men looking to become self-employed.

What does this mean for British industry, and for networking in particular?

We have already seen a substantial shift in the nature of the economy over the last ten years, with an increasing number of micro and small businesses setting up as the number of redundancies have increased. In addition, more and more people have decided that they no longer enjoy the rigidity of corporate life and have chosen the flexibility of running their own business.

As a result, consumers (both business and domestic) have been faced with a far greater choice in who they go to to provide products and services and businesses face more pressure to find effective routes to market which provide a strong enough return on their investment.

As more micro businesses open over the next five years, the demand for networking will undoubtedly grow to meet the inevitable demand. Already, in the last year, we have seen a major surge in the number of new networking organisations opening their doors and the growth of online communities has been equally pronounced. The popularity of MySpace and UTube with businesses, rather than just with individuals, has been a key indicator of this. Shortly we will see the 'big boys' such as BT enter this market as they recognise the potential of the growth of the smaller business.

So, who will be the winners in the expansion of the networks? The people who focus on the benefits they can gain from networking and who develop a strategy to maximise both the financial and the social return on their investment will find themselves benefiting from the increased opportunities on offer.

It can be tempting for an entrepreneur to take up every networking opportunity and then to be sucked into the social side of networking, with the hope that their business will benefit as a result. But such an approach rarely sees a business take the right steps to get the best results.

Businesses who decide exactly how networking can help their business development and then choose which networks can best meet those needs will be the ones who thrive. And with more and more new entrepreneurs fighting for the support, referrals and recognition that networking can provide, this will become more and more of a challenge.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Horsing Around

I often speak about how important it is to speak to people about their passion if you want to catch their attention and be interesting to them. The power of this approach was driven home for me yesterday in a very amusing way.

For a nice change, I was a participant in a training day, rather than running one myself. This session was a 'VLO' session run by our Regional Partner for the Midland Region, Stewart Evans. The day was focused on sales skills, with one eye on how to encourage guests to join Business Referral Exchange groups.

Towards the end of the day, we were split into groups for a series of role play exercises, designed to make us recognise some of the situations where visitors to networking groups may feel less than comfortable. I was asked to play the role of visitor and approach one of the groups. What I didn't know was that the group had been asked to ignore me and repel me, physically if necessary (I trust that people aren't normally this violent at networking events)!

I approached the group and was immediately met by a sea of backs and elbows (please don't try to work out how that can be physically possible and take my word for it!). Undeterred, I tried to start a conversation but was met with blank faces.

I knew that one of the members of the group, who was closest to me, had a keen interest in horses, as she had talked about it earlier in the day. I turned to her and said,

"By the way, I meant to chat to you about your horses."

Immediately her guard dropped, her face softened and her eyes came alive. For a split second, she forgot the exercise and her role in it and was ready to engage in conversation with me. She then remembered what she was supposed to be doing, and started laughing.

When you meet someone new, you will both inevitably have your guard up to some degree until you get to know each other. By engaging with someone's hobby, interest and passion you will see that guard drop very quickly and you can start the serious business of relationship building.

It's not all just horsing around!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Double Dutch??

I have just returned from a week away in the Netherlands.

During an entertaining week, I was taken along to a Dutch Football League match as a guest of a local company. Not speaking much Dutch (well, I am up to four words now!), it was a great opportunity to observe body language as people networked in the business lounge after the match.

I have to be honest here, I enjoy 'people watching' anyway. I find it fascinating to watch people and determine their personality and what they do by the way they behave. When you are with a group of people who speak a language with which you are not familiar, this becomes the natural 'safety zone'.

There were certainly some interesting characters at the event. The first person we spoke to after the match had finished turned away from his friends to approach our group and started to speak to two of my Dutch companions. From the few words I understood, I picked up that he had asked them if they worked for the bank who were sponsors of the business lounge. They weren't, but he now had them in conversation.

As they talked away, our new friend dominated most of the conversation, speaking with great enthusiasm and humour. One of my friends turned around to explain to me what he did, he was an artist. It was only at this point that he realised that I was english, and he turned to me to tell me about a client of his in Australia!

Within a short time, the artist's portfolio magically appeared and was passed around as everyone showed great interest while looking for an 'escape route'.

We managed to move away, to greet a group of people at the other end of the bar. One of the group is potentially a very important client for my host. We joined this group and started speaking about the match. After a while, my friend was speaking with another member of the group. I could understand from their body language and a few of the words spoken that they were talking about business, rather than football, so I kept out of the conversation.

My friend told me later that the conversation could lead to business with this guy. They had met a few times before but my friend had never discussed business with him before. He knew from others what my friend's business was, and raised the topic with him when he needed his help.

My friend also told me that the original prospect had told him that he liked him because he didn't try to talk business at every opportunity, but was just a normal guy sharing football stories rather than chasing business. I am confident that my host will soon have a new key client rather than prospect.

So much can be learnt by observing other people; and the same approach to networking is important irrespective of borders:

Don't take over another group's conversation for your own agenda
Avoid trying to sell when it is not appropriate to do so
Keep clear of interrupting two people who may be discussing a business opportunity
Get to know people as individuals and find the interests you have in common to help you to connect.
Be patient.

And don't worry, I didn't stay quiet in the corner all evening. I don't think that anyone who knows me would believe that!!!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Are You Connection Conscious?

I am sure that many people will agree with me when I say that connections are at the heart of most success. Knowing the right people, being able to put a call in for help and support and putting people together are all at the heart of making the most of both business and social networking.

But do you really know what a connection is and how to recognise one? Are you 'connection conscious'?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Connection is a noun meaning:

1 a link or relationship.
2 the action of connecting.
3 (connections) influential people with whom one has contact or to whom one is related.

The key to benefiting from the third definition, is that you get the first two right! Knowing how to establish that link and connect to another individual is a special skill and many people miss that opportunity.

You can connect with people on more than one level. On a rational level, it is easy to forge a relationship with people with whom you share an interest, or even better, a passion. Whether you share a love of the same sport, are wine connoisseurs, film buffs or travel to similar countries, if you can find something in common with another person, you will find it much easier to connect.

Alternatively people will connect on a more emotional level. This is something that is much harder to define and is often known as 'chemistry'. Most frequently associated with romantic connections, where you feel that special bond with your partner, we also tend to associate more readily with people with whom we feel comfortable and 'at home'.

When you meet people at business networking events or in meetings, it can often pay dividends to leave business discussions to one side initially and find out about each other. Relax in each others' company and talk about the individuals. It will make it much more likely that you will be able to connect on a deeper level and take the relationship to a higher level, where you are both more likely to support each others' business.

And when you introduce your connections to each other, let them know why you are doing so and on what level you feel they would be able to 'connect'. What do they have in common?

Next time you attend an event, allow yourself to be 'connection conscious' and focus on building more relationships.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Letting EVERYONE Know

I am in the middle of reading the excellent new book 'Face the Music and Win' by my good friend Tracy Plaice.

Tracy's story tells of her drive to overcome her lifelong fear of playing the piano in public. Her determination to conquer her fears followed an horrific car accident that left her with a damaged right hand and concerns that she would never be able to play again.

One of the key factors behind Tracy's success was the fact that she told as many people as she could about her goal and they responded not just by supporting her, but by presenting her with a series of challenges and opportunities that each took her a step closer to conquering her fear.

While reading the book last night, a particular anecdote jumped off the page for me. Tracy recounts how she was invited to play in a concert in Sheffield. The challenge for her was that her job was taking her to Skegness the week before, a town where she knew no-one but needed to have access to a piano so that she could practice.

Undeterred by this, Tracy threw herself into the task of asking as many people as possible for their help. From her initial call to Tourist information, and their attempts to find hotels with pianos, to music teachers, local schools and the staff of the optician's practice she was due to be working for; Tracy asked and asked.

Eventually, on her first day working in Skegness and no closer to finding a piano, Tracy met a patient while standing outside the opticians waiting for it to open. As they chatted, Tracy found out that the patient's son was learning to play the keyboard. The mother gave Tracy the number of the boy's music teacher and, that evening and the next, Tracy played at the teacher's house after work.

The teacher then recommended a school where Tracy could practice. Tracy even managed to find a grand piano in the theatre of a holiday camp to practice on, just by asking!

How much do you want help and support? How many people do you know who would be prepared to help you if you were prepared to share your goals with them? Tracy managed to get her piano practice by conditioning herself to ask strangers for help. How much more easily could you find help by asking your existing network?

If you let people know how they can help you, the path to your goals will be much easier to follow.

'Face the Music and Win' is available from

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Art of Networking ..... in the City and in Bedford

I will be speaking about networking skills at The Chartered Management Institute in Bedford on Tuesday October 24th (7.30pm) and at Hubworking Centre in Liverpool Street, London on Thursday October 26th (6pm).

For information about either event, please contact me at

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Take Your Aunt's Advice

For many people, the challenge with networking is their fear of approaching people they don't know at networking events. If you can't get beyond this hurdle, then it will be very difficult for you to incorporate business networking into your overall development strategy, either personal or business.

In '...and Death Came Third!', I covered a range of ideas to help people to overcome this fear. I looked at how to rationalise the fear; focus on approaching individuals or open groups, rather than couples; get to the event early; act as the host and a range of other ideas.

All good ideas in theory, but only of true value if you put them into practice. Ultimately, the way to overcome the fear is to consistently address it until easing your way around the room becomes habit. By attending a number of networks, be they breakfast meetings, lunch networks or evening events, you will become more confident and more at ease. And always challenge yourself to move out of your comfort zone, gravitate away from the people you already know and speak to strangers.

Mr. Darcy: "I... do not have the talent of conversing easily with people I have never met before."
Elizabeth Bennet: "Perhaps you should take your aunt's advice and practice?"

Pride and Prejudice

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Book of the Book......

Following the success of '...and Death Came Third!', which went straight to Number 2 on on the day of launch, many people have asked Peter Roper and I about how we ran our campaign and a number of other authors have tried similar campaigns.

Many of these campaigns were run by the masterminds of our Amazon campaign, Joe Gregory and Debbie Jenkins of Bookshaker. Joe and Debs have now brought out the book of the book, 'The Amazon Bestseller Plan'.

And if you want to see the plan in a nutshell, Joe and Debs tell you all about it here.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Business Card Bingo

Reading my friend David McQueen's excellent Blog, I came across this interesting 'rant' about the way people use business cards.

David is obviously frustrated at the way people hand out business cards like confetti at networking events and other business meetings and then do not follow up their apparent interest. I particularly like the way that David has titled this entry 'Empty Promises' as he has really struck a chord with me. The exchange of business cards is perhaps one of the most misused business networking techniques.

For me the exchange of a business card is a means of either sealing a positive interaction or a tool to remind me to follow up on my promises. I do not order business cards simply to keep my printer in business. I don't understand the approach where people offer you their card the second they meet you. At that stage, you don't know if you want the other person to be able to contact you again!

When I ask for your business card, I am making a commitment. That may be to a specific action or simply an indication that I intend to pursue a relationship; either way I am committing to connect with you.

When I leave an event and look back on the cards I have collected I want to be able to remember whose cards I have (only possible if you have made an impression on me); what I have promised you and not have too many cards that I can't cope with the follow up.

Networking is about connecting with people and pursuing long-term relationships. It is not a game where the winner is the person who collects the most cards.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

People you can work through

I spent a very pleasant evening with Tim Kidson at the weekend. Tim had commented on an earlier blog, expressing his frustration at the amount of business networking opportunities available and knowing how to pick the right one.

I asked Tim how he chooses which networking events and organisations to attend.

"I look to see where I can meet people I can work with and people I can work for. Beyond that, there are a lot of pleasant social interactions at networking meetings but no end result."

Tim's comments were interesting. Through the evening, up to this point, Tim had mentioned various opportunities, clients and contracts that had come his way recently. Without exception, all of these doors had opened through someone else's recommendation. None were people who Tim had directly met at networking groups.

I asked Tim if perhaps he had missed the best kind of person he could meet at events. He seemed confused.

"You've talked about people you can work with and for", I said. "How about people you can work through?"

It can be very easy to write off social interactions at business networking events as non-productive, however much fun they may be. However, you can never really tell which friendship or which interaction will one day open the key door for you.

As Carole Stone, 'London's Networking Queen', once said, "Make friends when you can, not when you need them"

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What's Holding You Back?

What's holding you back from achieving your goals?

What is stopping you making the most of the networking opportunities that come your way?

Is it possible that the answer might be you?

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at The Executive Club in London. The Executive Club is a network and a resource for non-exec and company directors who are looking for career development and new business opportunities. Speaking alongside Chris Mason of Connaught Executive, we focused on how networking can play a key role in moving your career forward.

In his talk, Chris asked who had come to look for a new opportunity. Some three-quarters of the audience put their hands up. Chris then asked who would like to tell everyone else present what they were looking for.

Not one person put themselves forward.

Not one, single, solitary person took the opportunity extended by Chris to tell a room of over sixty well-connected businessmen and women how they could help them? What could possibly explain this?

I addressed this question during my talk. I suggested that two factors were prevalent in holding people back from volunteering. One was, quite simply, fear. We have an inherent fear of speaking in public, and that fear strikes people irrespective of their experience and success in business. If we are going to grab opportunities as they come along, we have to learn to overcome this fear first of all.

The second factor is a lack of focus. People had come to the event with a general idea of what they wanted to achieve but no firm picture of the introductions they wanted, the information they were seeking, their dream position. As a result, when offered the opportunity, they were not in a position to grasp it.

At this stage of my talk, Mike Duval, one of the attendees, put his hand up. He had not been in the room when Chris spoke, he said, and could he take his opportunity now? Mike explained that he was looking for a career change, wasn't quite sure where he wanted to move and was thinking of setting up his own business. After asking Mike a few more questions, I asked the audience who felt that they may be in a position to help him. Five people put their hands up.

I had an email from Mike this week telling me how a number of doors have opened as a result of the conversations he had after the seminar and how he is now seriously considering embarking on a top-level post graduate qualification offered by the National Coaching Register (a sub-set of "The CEO's Office" on the web) which should enable him to get into the business coaching at the MD/CEO level.

Are you holding yourself back from achieving your goals? Is fear stopping you from taking a step in the right direction? Do you lack direction and a clear vision? And if so, what are you going to do about it?

And if you are prepared to do the right things to help yourself, what can you achieve?

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Swedish Lesson

I enjoyed a great evening last Monday when I delivered a talk on networking skills at The Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the United Kingdom in London.

At a pre-event briefing I had been told that the Swedes are notoriously shy, not something that I could believe easily, having had a Swedish flatmate ten years ago! However, putting my reservations to one side, I promised to help the Chamber's members overcome their fears and meet lots of new people on the evening. Wallflowers would not be allowed!

There was no cause for any concern! Rarely have I experienced an audience so comfortable networking, so happy to approach new people and chat. Often when I ask people to introduce themselves to someone they haven't met before, they exchange a greeting and then turn around to listen to me again. Not the Swedes! I found myself struggling to STOP the networking. It really was a great pleasure, not work at all.

During the meeting I found myself talking to Kurt Larsson of Bosbec Communication. Kurt had flown in that afternoon on a week long trip from Stockholm. After my talk, Kurt told me that the Swedes had a word that described perfectly one of the things I had been talking about.

The word that Kurt mentioned was Lyhördhet and it means 'Listening with all the senses'. I often talk about 'listening for' each other and refer to Steven Covey's 'empathetic listening'. But rarely have I heard this skill so well described and never in just one word.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Creating the Right Impression

When speaking about networking, I talk about the importance of avoiding preconceptions and getting to know people before making judgements about how well you want to know them. However, whatever our best intentions, we are naturally likely to judge people based on the first impression they make on us, and the majority of that first impression will come from how we look and how we sound, not on what we say.

What is the first impression that you make on other people? Have you looked at how well your clothes suit you? What message they send about you? A few years ago I was confused by how often people told me I looked well when I felt dreadful, and then said nothing when I felt great. I then went to see an image consultant who explained that I often wore the wrong colours, which drained the colour from my face and left me looking pale. On other occasions, I had worn the right colours for me and, however I felt, they left me looking great.

How well do your clothes suit your body shape? If you buy off the peg clothes, are they the right cut, the right fit to accentuate your positive features.

And what does your voice do for you? Do you sound confident and powerful, or unsure and meek? I recently watched voice expert Fergus McClelland give a presentation where he showed just how little of the real potential of our voice we use. When used properly, the voice is a really powerful tool.

Just what does this have to do with networking? If you are attending networking events, don't you want to make the right impression? If you get that first impression wrong, you've a lot of work to do to build relationships. Lesley Everett, author of Walking Tall repeated to me a study from the USA's Professional Image Institute, who found that, once you have got it wrong, it can take another 20 experiences with someone to change a first impression.

Or, as Joanna, my 9 year old niece put it this evening, "If someone is wearing funny clothes that don't match, I probably wouldn't want to speak to them".

Friday, September 08, 2006

Just Because You Can

I was woken up this morning by the dulcet tones of Christian O'Connell on Virgin Radio's Breakfast Show. A caller had phoned in because he is due to get married at the weekend and his honeymoon plans had collapsed at the last minute.

Within an hour of the story going out over the airwaves, the groom had 11 offers of holiday accommodation, ranging from a caravan in Bognor Regis to holiday homes in Australia, New Zealand, Cyprus and Turkey. Although some people offered a discount on their normal price, increasingly more and more offers were free of any cost. All the couple had to do was arrange their flights.

What leads people to offer accommodation in their holiday homes completely free to total strangers? In many cases, these are private homes used just by family or close friends.

I'm not sure that I can answer that question easily. It would be easier to understand if the radio station was giving name checks to the people making the offers and they were commercial holiday homes. But there was no free advertising on offer.

Sometimes the benefit of doing something is much less tangible than we might imagine. The feelgood factor of helping a pair of newly weds enjoy their honeymoon was clearly a driving force behind many of the offers.

We are often told that it is better to give than receive. If that wasn't the case, could something like this happen? We don't always have to look to see what's in it for us, just do something because we can.

And if everyone starts acting in the same way, then one day we might be on the end of a stranger helping us, just because they can.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

How Do You Hit the Bullseye?

Tim's comment on my last blog raises a very interesting question. When it comes to taking networking opportunities,as Tim put it, "So we all have time (168 hours per week), energy, and money. The question is 'how should we spend it?'"

So, where can you go to network and connect with people? There are more and more networking opportunities for business people to choose from. As most people are attracted to networking either through invitations from friends and colleagues or through searching the internet, how do you choose the right opportunity for you.

Broadly speaking, you can split business networking events into three categories; they are 'Brain-Building', 'Profile-Building' and 'Referral-Building' networks.

'Brain-Building' networks promote self-development, encourage learning or enable attendees to share best practice. I am a member of the Professional Speakers' Association, where Speakers discuss how they run their businesses and how they can provide the best service. There are other similar trade networks, Business Links and other organisations frequently host seminars on a range of business issues and many industries run Continuous Professional Development courses and networks.

Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Business (FSB) and a growing number of Women's Networking Groups are classic examples of 'Profile-Building' networks. Meeting on a monthly, quarterly or other less regular basis and focused on getting large numbers of attendees, the focus is on raising your businesses profile in a local community. You may meet different people at every meeting but, as the popular saying goes, "It's not what you know, but who you know". Can I add something to that? "It's who knows you". Online networks, such as Ecademy and Linked In have taken the Profile-Building model online.

Referral-Building networks, such as our own Business Referral Exchange (BRE) are very much focused on the members generating key introductions for each other. To achieve this, they meet on a much more frequent basis, ideally every week, and the group numbers are kept much lower. In BRE's case, we do not encourage groups to grow beyond 30 members as an absolute maximum.

The idea of weekly meetings and smaller groups is to help members to build strong relationships. Referrals are based on building strong degrees of trust and understanding and this can't happen in a larger, less frequent forum.

All of the networks in your area will have elements of one, two or all of the features above but will tend to focus on one above the others. The novice networker needs to sit down and work out exactly what they want from their networking activity, look to see which networking groups operate locally and then decide which meet their needs. Don't just join one, but get the right mix.

Just make sure that you spend your time, energy and money wisely and hit your own bullseye.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A Hole in One

Networking can sometimes bring unexpected bonuses.

A few weeks ago I was at the London meeting of the Professional Speakers Association, when I met Tony Westwood. Tony is a golfing coach who has developed a very different approach to teaching his students. Whereas most golf pros will focus on a golfer's stance, grip and swing, Tony, an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) practitioner, gets his wards to focus on the ball, where they want it to go and where they need to hit it to get that result.

Today I had a very good 'meeting' with Tony. Admittedly we chose to meet on a sun-drenched golf course in Worthing rather than a hotel room in London, but that's just a cross I had to bear! As Tony helped me knock at least 20 shots off of my average round (who knows, maybe I'll break 200 soon!), we talked around a number of interesting areas.

Tony is a member of a referral-focused networking group close to home. He mainly gets referrals for individual golf lessons and the occasional corporate golf day from the group. But that is not what he is really looking for. Tony wants to develop a number of presentations around his unique approach to golf coaching and also work closely with much smaller groups at corporate days. The problem is that he isn't asking for those referrals.

It turns out that Tony's approach to coaching golf doesn't really differ from the approach he should be taking with his referral group. Think of the group as the ball and the green as where you want that ball to go.

As Tony said, in golf, if you hit the ball on the right hand side it will travel to the left; if you hit the ball on the left hand side it will travel to the right; and if you hit it in the get the idea!

Where you 'hit' your networking group will determine what it can do for you. If you ask for one thing, that is what you'll get. If you ask for something else, then that is what you'll get.

So, when you are networking it is important that you picture where you want your group to take you. Aim for the green, not just a hundred yards down the fairway, and then work out how you will need to hit the ball to get there. Think about how your presentations and requests will help you to achieve your goals.

There is more to your networking group than lies on the surface. But it is down to you to get the results. And, just as in golf, if you mishit one shot, you just need to address the ball again and take another step closer to the green.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Saving the Last Dance

A Midlands BRE member, Adam Smith, of, sent me this story this morning. It is a classic example of the sort of story we all hear so many times but that really illustrates how important our networks can be in personal as well as business lives.

The power of networking really hit me tonight. I was at a wedding and the DJ didn't turn up, after a few phone calls it turned out he was never going to turn up. I called a good friend of mine who suggested I ring someone but say that my friend had suggested I call.

A Saturday night and with 30 mins spare I had a DJ turn up and he did a fantastic job.
From this i learned call the people you need to, when you need to, with specific requests and you get exactly what you want.

DO NOT be afraid to ask for what you what you just might get it! A scary thought!

I am sure that you have heard of Stanley Milgram's theory of Six Degrees of Separation, but how often do you consider how it works in real life? How often does a friend of a friend come to your rescue?

The stronger your network and the closer you keep your networks to you, the more 'friends of friends' you will suddenly have.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Why should people want to talk to you?

I constantly hear people at networking meetings ask for a contact and then say,

"Why I want to talk to them is....."

At the risk of delivering a jolt of reality, if you take this approach can I ask you a simple question:

"What do they care?"

If you want to generate referrals for your business, don't tell people why you want to talk to their contacts. However much your fellow networkers want to refer you, they just won't know how. Once they are with their contact; the person you want to speak to; they will stumble as soon as they try to make the introduction.

Just picture the scene:

"Hi Bob, can I introduce you to a friend of mine, John?"


"Errr....... he said he would like to talk to you"

If you want people to be able to connect you and help to develop more leads for your business, you need to share why others want to talk to you.

As Doug Ritchard said on the last series of Dragons Den, "We are all in business to solve problems. What problems do you solve?"

That's the message you need to get out. What problems other people have, the solution you provide and the benefit to the other person of your solution. In other words.... WHY SHOULD THEY WANT TO TALK TO YOU.

I read an excellent newsletter today from Jackie Barrie, who helps businesses become much more effective in their communications. Jackie talks about the same problem and gives this top tip:

"Think about what problem your product or service solves and focus on the solution in your marketing communications."

In short, why should people talk to you?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Making an Impact

"There is no such thing as a self made person. You will reach your goals only with the help of others." George Shinn

This is one of many thought-provoking quotations in Nigel Risner's excellent new book 'The Impact Code'. I have just finished reading the book. However, I know that the last statement cannot be correct. If I have finished reading the book I will not get any value from it.

Some books are great entertainment. Some books get you thinking. Some books make a real impact on your life. Despite its entertainment value and thought-provoking, Nigel's book has the potential to be one of the latter for me, as long as I don't put it back onto the shelf and instead apply some of the lessons learnt!

Packed with challenges, ideas and questions this really is a worthwhile investment if you want to move your life onto the next level. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bizarre Business Card Exchanges

I received this email, and challenge, from BRE member Jane Barnett of Essential Therapies in Cleveland recently.

Just as I came off the A1M to head back to Teesside…a lorry had to slow down in front of me, put on its hazard lights, and manoeuvre around a car that had its boot ABLAZE!!!

After managing to get past it myself, I remembered that I usually carry a fire extinguisher in my car!

So after a couple of seconds of wondering if I should turn around & offer help or not…then deciding YES, ‘cos I’d want someone to help me out if God forbid I was in that situation…

…I pulled up behind the car and handed the extinguisher to a very thankful business man!

Now I won’t go too into detail, but it was his products that were flammable and they’d not only set themselves alight, but also his sales brochures, most of his boot lining…and his overnight bag as well! (Passing lorries etc were only worsening the situation by fanning the flames!).

(Apart from the fact his car could of very nearly blown up, along with him…it wasn’t doing much for the grass verge & near by bushes either)!!! Not to mention the hazard that the smoke was causing to the passing vehicles!

So once he’d called to alert the fire brigade for them to come & give the situation the all clear…I said my goodbyes & intended to be on my way!

As I was leaving…he asked for my business card!!! So he could replace the extinguisher!

I couldn’t help but smile as I told him I was just on my way home from my morning networking meeting…and ‘we’re always encouraged to use every opportunity to network…but this was unbelievable’..he smiled as well as he agreed you just couldn’t make this one up!!!

So what did I learn from this? Always carry your business cards with you, ‘cos you never know when someone is going to ask for one…Always lend a hand to someone in need…it may just be you needing help next time…

And what did I get for my assistance that I was only too happy to give anyway???

A BEAUTIFUL bouquet of flowers delivered to me this afternoon as a thank you! It’s made my day…just by helping someone else!

SO…I am laying down the gauntlet…and inviting anyone else to try and beat that bizarre business card exchange…Nice bottle of wine to the winner!!!

Happy Networking


So, the gauntlet has been laid down. Where have you exchanged your business cards? All good clean contributions will be published here.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Find out my nasty secret!

It can be funny hearing yourself interviewed!

I was recently interviewed by Mike Southon, of Beermat Entrepreneur fame, for a podcast for his excellent website

I must admit, Mike tricked me into revealing all of my hidden secrets, particularly the dark world of my previous employ! The only less popular job than some on my CV is probably estate agent (with apologies if you belong to that noble profession).

If you would like to hear more, you can download a free short version of my interview about business networking and referral groups here. A full version is available through the Beermat website.

A Matter of Trust

"How can you possibly trust someone you've only just met?"

An interesting question that I have been asked on more than one occasion by people new to networking events.

The answer lies not in a naive openess to all that many would shy away from, but in understanding degrees of trust and the suspension of distrust.

I believe that to say that 'I do not trust you' is not necessarily a negative thing. Trust is a positive feeling that has to be built based on evidence or strong emotion. When you first meet someone, unless they have a very special quality, it can be very difficult to 'trust' them.

However, at the same time you would have no reason to 'distrust' that person. Just as you need either strong evidence or emotion to trust people, so distrust is developed in the same way.

When you first meet people at a networking event, in truth you neither trust nor mistrust them. You don't even know them!

We often talk about the importance of giving to others if we are to receive. How can you do this without positive 'trust'?

Put quite simply, if you are in a position to help others, it is still possible to do so without putting your reputation at stake. You would merely be more guarded in doing so and your 'referral' would be more qualified. There is a difference between introducing someone you trust:

"You really must talk to Bill, I think he'll be able to solve the problem in your business"

or someone you have just met but can connect:

"I met Bill the other evening. He seems to have a solution that may help".

The second introduction is much more qualified that the first. Once your new acquaintance has proved themselves to you, you can start to build genuine trust in them and levels of trust, and the nature of your relationship, will change.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Welcome to my blog!

Having heard Graham Jones speaking at the London Professional Speakers Association (PSA) meeting a couple of weeks ago, I have finally sat down to write my own blog.

It is amazing how quickly technology is changing the way we interact and communicate with each other. I heard a couple of days ago about how we are in the middle of the second technology boom. A few short years since the dot com craze, the online networks such as Ecademy and Linked In, together with blogging sites such as this one seem to be taking a more and more prominent role both in general human interaction, and in marketing.

Like anything else, if you are to embrace this development, it is so important to understand what it can do for you and how to make the most of the opportunities offered. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on networking strategy and skills through this blog and hopefully to learn from you as well. Please do comment on my blogs so that we can help each other.

Through these blogs I aim to look at new ways to generate referrals for your business, discuss new ideas about how networking can help business development and also share stories of personal development through networking.

Ultimately, I want to look at how people connect and interact with each other and how we can share our resources to enhance each other's potential.