I’m a sociable person by nature, although I choose the people I spend time around very carefully. So, when I started Clarity Appointments, I was not the slightest bit daunted about walking into a room full of strangers to introduce myself and ‘network’.
What a time-consuming pastime it is. Breakfasts, lunches, evenings, even whole days of meeting lots of new people, eventually getting to a point in time where you’re building a lasting business relationship.
Now those of you who have done this will know that you can often find yourself stood or sat next to someone who, despite learning nothing about you after months of attending mutual networking groups, you seem to know everything about them.
People who talk AT you, failing to master some of the basic skills of communication. A pet hate of mine since I can have that type of interaction by them sending me an email.
I went to self-professed ‘successful’ groups where four people in the room pass work around between themselves. Where the insurance salesperson gets endless ‘leads’ from members, so they appeared proactive. Money certainly changed hands between the few, but not one person in the room could remember what I did, despite a well-rehearsed elevator pitch and reliable attendance weekly or fortnightly. Not what the brochure promised!
And so, I learned, it takes a great deal of time, energy and patience to understand whether a group is right for you.
I persevered for about two years. I found suppliers for myself, enjoyed meeting some interesting people, often finding myself solving people’s issues, and I reminded myself that just because someone in the room didn’t need my services, they might know someone who did, and eventually I’d reap a reward for all my work. I did do some business, but only one of the multiple groups I frequented produced any return on investment.
It was time to stop and take stock. And, after some analysis and soul searching, I actually walked away from every single group I was a member of and vowed that was it. I was done with networking for good.
That was until a recruitment agency membership organisation approached me. Networking with my own people, competitors even. What a joy to share ideas and common problems with people that actually understood what I did and why. Who had a genuine interest in my field and crossed a room to talk to me.
I fell in love with networking again
And this is where the good stuff happens. You hang around afterwards; you offer to step up and help out when someone can’t attend. You scribble endless notes about the things you’ve learned and can’t wait to get back to the office to share the knowledge with your team and implement new ideas.
With the right group, friendships are formed with people you respect. People who listen to you and take the time to understand what you do. Who are delighted to refer you to others for no incentive other than to make someone else’s life better. These networkers are at the end of a phone if you need help or advice. They celebrate your successes, and they console you when times are tough.
The sweet spot. Collaboration
Not a state of being that happens overnight. It takes years to trust people to this degree. Because if you are going to recommend someone, they represent you and what you stand for.
Collaborators are people we trust and respect implicitly, and we choose them very carefully, like our friends.
In 2020, like you, I had lots of time for reflection.
Few businesses had a great year; we were all trying to stay afloat, stay relevant and stay sane. So, personally, I felt that those organisations that sent ‘me, me, me’ email and social media messages were out of touch with what the business population needed, which was a caring approach, an offer of support, help and advice in a time of uncertainty.
The idea for SME Monthly came about as a result: The coming together of people I trust, that are experts in their field. People who understand the value of relationships rather than making a quick buck. And genuinely want to support business leaders.
Everyone producing interesting, relevant content monthly, to be shared with the business community. From recruitment, HR and wellness to cybersecurity, finances and marketing. All skills that small business owners need in their toolbox.
So, here we are, rolling out the first edition with true experts in their field. An HR professional, whose husband I met through networking; a well-being expert I met through a networking group but happens to be a neighbour (and COVID19 walking friend); an accountant I have known for years as a client; a marketing guru, Christina of Green Umbrella and an IT/cybersecurity guy, both of whom I met through a membership organisation that I remain actively part of.
I have worked with every one of them in one capacity or another, and it’s an honour and a joy to share a platform with them.
Clare Wight is the founder and Managing Director of Clarity Appointments, an independent recruitment specialist. She is also a regional director for The Employment Agents Movement, supporting other independent recruiters.