I was delighted to be invited to speak at the forthcoming Sage World event on 8-9 September.
For my part, I will be chatting about a question that has fascinated me ever since my first ‘proper job’ as an investment controller at the venture capital company 3i: What simple principles and tactics make business success easier? Or, put another way, what things allow you to survive the tricky first stage of business growth, so you can then have the time to build a truly successful business?
I’ve been discussing this topic with audiences for over ten years. It is a subject that never loses its excitement, because starting a business is never anything less than exciting for the people doing it. I come out of these sessions buzzing with enthusiasm and wanting to spend a couple of hours with each of the people who come and talk to me about their businesses straight after the session. I think it helps enormously that I started my own business as a one-man-band and I’ve continued to grow the company with no outside investment — in other words I am like 99% of the people in the audience.
Sage is one of a handful of mega-success stories in British business over the last 25 years and I’m pleased to see that Sage World is trying to do something different from the usual business event, by using their ‘interactive delegate technology’.
So there will be lots of demonstrations of the software tools you can use to get your business idea off the ground. If you’ve already established your business, then you’ll find plenty of ideas to help you build on that foundation and meet the technical challenges that small firms face in the modern business climate: finance, HR, sales, marketing, and so on.
Sage World also offers a tremendous opportunity for you to build useful contacts. Networking is about meeting the right people, making the right connections and tracking them during and after an event. So I’m dying to try out Sage’s Spotme electronic networking device - I’m sure this will really help me find and talk to the people that matter to me.
I’m sure it’ll help you, too. So please do track me on Spotme, come and say hello and make the time to hear the presentation.
Sage World is a free two-day event in September for anyone starting or growing a business.
Rory MccGwire, BHP Information Solutions
There are many classic mistakes that people make when networking, for example directly or indirectly selling to people they meet.
Not that I would ever excuse you of selling when you are out networking. However, so many people treat networking as one big jolly conversation. Networking, without purpose or focus, is a massive waste of time AND money. If I know professional advisors, most of them can ill-afford to waste time.
Before you book your next networking event, keep this mnemonic in mind – it will help you achieve more at the event:
Follow up after the event
Introduce yourself with impact
Target specific people
Turn a social chat into a business conversation
Enter and breakout of groups
Find out who is attending the event, in advance – not at the event –and find out more about the other attendees. If you do your research right, you will know who you want to target for a conversation – plus have opinions and thoughts on relevant news and trends for your target audience . Most hosts, if asked, will send out an attendee list before the event.
Once at the event, make sure you introduce yourself with impact – that means a confident handshake – and talk about how you add value to your clients, rather than talking about what you do. For example, “I help my clients legally minimise the tax they pay”, has far more impact than, “I’m an accountant”.
Interestingly, this type of introduction already turns your conversation onto business matters. Are you wondering how? Well, after you have introduced yourself by the value you bring to your clients, the next question is normally, “so, how do you do that” and the conversation flows from there.
When you are out networking you are out to meet as many potential referrers as possible. If you linger with one or two, you potentially lose out on the opportunity of meeting three or four more potential referrers. Therefore, you must be prepared to break into and out of groups. The golden rules here are to always ask permission to enter or exit a group. If you want to encourage more people to enter a group, then always leave a gap facing into the room.
And finally, follow up. This means doing what you said you would do at the event. If someone has given you their business card, this means they have given you permission to contact them after the event – but not to send them your newsletter. I personally always drop anyone I met a brief e-mail saying how much I enjoyed meeting them.
Heather Townsend, The Efficiency Coach