Making Networking Work

Image-courtesy-of-jscreationzs-at-FreeDigitalPhotos.net_Having just moved areas from Wolverhampton to Towcester I have been reminded about the importance of networking. It is especially important when growing a new business – or an old business in a new area which is what I am doing.
I have been in my new area for a couple of months now and have restarted my networking activity in earnest in the last couple of weeks. I have already seen a benefit to my business with 2 referrals and 1 new customer. This is especially good as I know that the benefit of networking comes from the long term links you make with people and so quick wins are particularly precious.
I am enjoying meeting new people who I know will develop into friends and business colleagues in the future.
My note for the future is to remember that, even if you are not feeling like going out and talking to a lot of people get back into your networking as quickly as you can. Even if you only talk to one person you are starting the process of getting to know people in your new area. It has worked for me and I am already being greeted by people and welcomed into my new networking groups.

Silicon Bullet Forever

I am a keen networker, and have been for three years. It serves more than one purpose for me. Apart from the obvious advantage of finding new business leads, I have met and got to know other excellent local business people, I have made good  friends, and it gets me out of the office and gives me the social element that running your own business often lacks. In fact, most of our new customers over the last three years can be traced directly back to someone I originally got to know through a networking meeting.

Once you have met someone through networking, the best way to get to know them better is to have a follow-up meeting or a one-to-one, where you find out about each other’s business. I tend to meet people in a local coffee shop or for lunch. It is quite often a revelation how much you…

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How have I started to develop my new businesses?

MP900390083As I was developing new businesses from a standing start I knew that I would be very lucky to get good, or even any, financial returns from the start. It was important, therefore, for me to measure what I was doing for my businesses each day so that I knew that I was moving them forward while developing a regular income stream.

This is a very different way of planning to the planning that I used to do in a local authority. There I would have plans with clear outcomes and which were SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. I have planned my outcomes for my new businesses, but the timing of them is difficult when I am still establishing myself, and how do I know if they are realistic? I have managed this by giving myself activity goals for every day – as I can measure the achievement of these which will help me to get a momentum going.mIt will also help me to review my successes by tracking them back to these activities to help improve my planning in the future. For example how many contacts did I have to make before I got a meeting, how many meetings before I got business? It is helping me to cope with the process as I am developing an understanding of how many ‘no’s’ or none responses I need to go through to get a ‘yes’.

How do I know what outcomes I should set myself?

I have talked to others who have gone through the same process and they have given me an idea of which activities I need to do, and for how long, before I start to see the desired outcomes that I want from my businesses. I have talked to as many people as I can as each person will have had a different experience, and mine will be different again. I am getting ideas that I will adapt and develop to suit me, although the information about how long it can take for business to develop has helped me to manage my expectations. Their experience is only an indicator about what could happen not an exact road map for my businesses.

The processes I have heard about so far are:

  • I need to develop a presence in the areas where people looking for my kind of businesses congregate – either online or face to face,
  • the number of calls I need to make to prospects, or contacts with prospective commissioners before I am successful
  • the type of information I need to have prepared when a prospect does respond positively.

I have also found it useful to look at the websites of others who have gone before me, and at their linked-in pages or any other online sites they have to see who they are linking to and the groups they are active in and then I join the groups I feel will be relevant to me as well. I have also read as many of the books that have been recommended to me as I can.

Two months into this process I am feeling very positive about what the future holds for me even though my businesses are in the early stages of development because of the information I have gained.

What has your journey been when you have made a career change?

I would be interested to hear your advice to people setting up their new businesses as we can always learn from others.

Is starting 2 new businesses at the same time a good idea?

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Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In my previous post Feel the Fear and do it anyway I explained about the big step I had made in deciding to take redundancy and try out a completely new way of living. I have worked in local authorities for over 30 years – and without a break for just over 26 years so this is a really big life change for me.

I decided that I did not want to focus on a single career any more, but that I would like to develop a portfolio to make sure I did not have all of my eggs in one basket. This was even more important as I was not going to have a regular pay cheque to rely on and would have to rely in the vagaries of the market – and my ability to market my own businesses.

Why did I chose the 2 businesses that I am now developing?

I chose them because they both build on my core values of helping other people to improve themselves and my desire to get back to working directly with, and helping, people. I also wanted to continue to use and develop the skills I have developed throughout my professional life as I had worked hard to learn and apply them and still have a lot to give back to all of the professions I embrace.

When developing new businesses from a standing start it is important to realise that you will be very lucky if you get good, or even any, financial returns from the start. It is important, though, to measure what you are doing for your businesses each day so that you know you are moving them forward a little bit. This is a very different way of planning to that I used to do in a local authority. There I would have plans with clear outcomes and which were SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. When starting a new business you also need clear outcomes, but the timing of them is difficult when you are still establishing yourself, and how do you know if they are realistic? Instead it is important to give yourself activity goals for every day – as you can measure your achievement if these and the more effective and positive activity you do the more likely it is your business venture will be successful.

How do you know what activity goals you need to set?

By talking to others who have gone through the same process and who can give you an idea of which activities you need to do, and for how long, before you start to see the desired outcomes that you want from your business. This can include developing a presence in the areas where people looking for your kind of business congregate – either online or face to face, the number of calls you need to make to prospects, the type of information you need to have prepared when a prospect does respond positively.

I cannot tell you yet if I have made the right choice – come back and see me again in December to see how I am doing with my 2 businesses Kate Millin Consulting and KMC Forever.

Do I manage myself effectively while working at home?

When I first started working from home the answer to this question is a definite no – I had so many things to think about and get used to as I have made such a major change in my life. I have enjoyed the freedom, but I now need to give myself some focus and manage myself more effectively. One of the reasons I made the change was to have a better work life balance so I feel I need something to give this some focus.

Inspired by Liz Broomfield’s post on how she managed herself when she first moved into full self employment this is my first attempt at some home working resolutions.  Thank you Liz for the inspiration, and the support you have given me in making this change.

So what are my resolutions?

  1. I will speak to someone else every day who is not living in the house with me – face to face will be the ideal, but by social media as a fall back.
  2. I will have 1 meal a day with the 3 main food types – carbohydrate, vegetables and protein.
  3. I will exercise for at least 30 minutes every day
  4. I will have lunch before 2pm every day
  5. I will do all of the washing up before I go to bed each night
  6. I will do no more work on my businesses after 9pm in the evening if I have done none work activities during the day and by 7pm if I have been working solidly all day.
  7. I will drink at least 2 litres of water a day
  8. I will spend time away from my computer screen for 5 minutes every hour as a minimum
  9. I will go to an event or social activity not related to my businesses at least once a week
  10. I will keep up with my friends and family

As recommended by Liz I will do a print out of the daily ones to tick off what I have done each day – at least to start off with while I am forming my new habits.

Wish me luck – and check back to see how I am doing.

Feel the Fear and do it anyway

I have been very quiet here as work has been taking a lot out of me, not helped by breaking my wrist in June and having a colitis flare up in September. This has led me to decide to make a very big change in my life and stop working for a local authority and start working for myself.

I have been aided in this decision by finding a new profession to join (my third) which will still use the skills I have developed over the years. This new profession is Multi Level (or Direct) Marketing. It will use my organisational, people and leadership skills and will reward me according to how much effort I put into my new business. – KMCForever.

I am very impressed with the company I will be working with – Forever Living – as they work to values I strongly believe in. They are especially good at supporting their distributors and have Investors In People Gold standard. This is at a time when many organisations are moving away from this quality standard as they see it as a business expense they cannot afford in times of recession. This is a false economy, in my opinion, as if you don’t look after your workforce then they are not able to look after your business for you. Forever Living demonstrate the effectiveness of their approach by continuing to grow year on year even during a recession.

I will also be developing a consultancy as KM Consulting where I will be able to share my considerable skills in senior strategic and change management as well as the management skills that will be developed in my new career.

Moving into self employment will give me more time to develop this blog and my health blog called CoeliacLibrarian.

And the reason for the heading at the top? It is very scary to step away from salaried employment, but I am still going to do it. I need to move into a role that enables me to take better care of myself, and where I can still help and support the people who work with me.

So look out for my new businesses and get in touch if you want to find out more about working with me in Forever Living, or need support in improving the Health and Wellbeing of your workplace.