Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A New Chapter....

After seven and a half years at Business Referral Exchange, a new chapter opens... Earlier this week, Harvey Lopata and I sold our shares in BRE and resigned as directors of the company.

We are very excited about our future plans, which we will let everyone know about at a later date. I also plan to further develop a networking speaking, training and consultancy business.

Watch this space for more news....

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Flat Earth Society

In yesterday's edition of The Times, Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, wrote about the new social order that has developed as society has been brought together by globalisation or 'the knowledge revolution'.

According to the article, "Power is moving from the centre to the periphery. Vertical command and control structures are eroding and are being replaced by horizontal networks of social communities and collaborative platforms".

Whilst Professor Schwab is predominantly concerned with the effect of collaboration on the environment, societies and culture, the same effects can be seen in the business world. Social business networks are uniting small businesses globally and giving them the capacity to compete on a much higher level than they have ever been able to in the past, through greater collaboration, the sharing of information and exchange of ideas and contacts.

In his recent article 'Trends in Business Networking', Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of the American networking organisation BNI, claims that "For the most part, big companies are clueless about building sales through the networking process. When it comes to developing social capital and the networking process, small business is king. If big corporations ever get it, watch out. But so far, they have been slow to act."

So, where is this going to lead? How far can the globalisation of small businesses really go and will they really be able to compete with the giant corporations? After all, at this time this key change does not seem to have affected the business pages of the newspapers, which still devote the vast majority of their column inches to household names.

And what needs to happen to draw bigger businesses into the networking process? They may not see its relevance to them now, but surely the key will be how long it takes for them to recognise how important it is to do more than just throw more money at their advertising budgets, and make the most of their most valuable resource, their people.

In the long term, can power really move that far from the centre in business?

Friday, January 19, 2007


I recently received this message from a fellow member of Ecademy:

'How does one become a Professional Referrer ?

I've given people lots of Business leads - but basically got ZILCH !'

My response was:

One of my favourite quotes with relation to networking is 'Give without remembering, receive without forgetting'. It is so important to give wherever you can, whenever you can; if it is easy to do so.

My personal philosophy is that, if I can give something of possibly high value at little personal cost (whether that be financial or, more likely, time and effort), I will.

Whenever you refer, you are helping to oil the wheels of the networking system and potentially building a team of 'Champions' for you. If you have this team, but you are not getting anything back, the important thing you can do is look at the message you are giving out. Do people understand HOW they can help you, have a clear vision of the leads or support you are looking for?

Many people don't get much back because others do not clearly understand what they do or how they can help. Speak to people in your network, find out how clearly they understand your business and your needs. It is always illuminating to find out how others perceive us.

And remember, the way that the networking process works, you may not necessarily get back from the same direction to which you gave. But that shouldn't matter, as long as your needs are met.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Getting a Return on the Networking Investment

A colleague of mine, Rohit Talwar, recently published a poll on Ecademy asking people where they get the greatest return on their networking investment from.

Sadly, it didn't shock me to see that 58% of respondents either weren't seeing a return or settled for the rather vague 'developing relationships that could be of value in the future'.

Here is my response to the debate that accompanies the survey:

I think I shocked an audience in Dorset last week when I gave them my thoughts on this subject. Not because they disagreed with me, more that they realised that I was right!

In my opinion, people attend networking events, or sign up to an online community, predominantly for one of two reasons. Either because someone they know has invited them to do so, or because they have heard about networking and googled for the opportunities nearby. They subsequently join because they like the buzz and think that doing so may be good for their business.

For the vast majority of people, there is no point at which they sit down and work out what they want from networking, what success looks like. Very few people will calculate the return on their investment that they expect from networking and, in my experience, the few who do merely look to get their money back!

That return may be financial or it may be represented in other terms, such as self development, peer group support or enhanced knowledge. But unless you clearly identify what the return you want is, how can you possibly take the necessary steps to achieve it?

Until people start thinking more strategically about networking, very few people will achieve any significant return on their investment of time and money.