As a new business, it can be daunting to put yourself out there. Being well-connected is such an important part of any business but knowing where to begin can be difficult. When I heard about The Boardroom Network (TBN), it sounded like exactly the kind of event that would help to grow our business through quality connections.
Standing in the Sauvignon Suite of the recently rebranded West Cliff Hotel (previously the Hallmark), I felt immediately welcomed by the other members of The Boardroom Network. As this was my first time at an event like this, I wasn’t feeling very confident, and found myself lingering by the tea and coffee station. This lack of confidence didn’t last long, as someone soon found me and took an interest in my business. Straight after this, another friendly business owner talked to me and before long, I was the one introducing myself to others. TBN provides all its attendees with lanyards, blue for the members and red for visitors and first-timers like me. This worked very well as the members made a real effort to include us newbies. My initial nerves vanished as I traded business cards and stories.
We were called to sit at our first table and given time to socialise with the eight other people around the table before being called up to choose our breakfast, a buffet style full English which gave a noticeable energy to the whole room and was a great icebreaker. We socialised as we ate and then each member of the table was given a one-minute window to sum up their business in a short and sweet way which gave everyone a taster for what you do. We also exchanged business cards, so we could stay in contact. Make sure you bring as many as you can as I was woefully under-stocked for my first event and this limited my outreach.
The room then heard from two speakers. The first was Chris Mower, who spoke to us about the importance of happiness in work. He sold his financial services company after 38 years to pursue a job that would make him want to get out of bed in the morning, excited for work. This was inspired by his daughter who has a job like this and told him to follow his passion. He now teaches Bridge and his quality of life is so much higher. His words really reminded me that just because you may have always done something, doesn’t mean that you always should, and that it is never too late to make a change and do something that actually makes you happy. The second speaker was Lynda Daniels, from Southern Sustainability Partnership, who was promoting sustainability in the workplace. With the current state of the planet, many are searching for ways to make their business more eco-friendly and her event, The Big Green Event (2nd October) helps with ways to make changes in the way you run your business. Even the smallest steps can make a huge difference.
After Lynda spoke, everyone was relocated to their second designated tables. This was great because it meant that I met twice as many people than if we’d just stayed on one table. I took what worked well from my previous one-minute-pitch and applied it to the new group which also helped to increase confidence in myself and my business. The shy version of myself from the start was gone and I was making real contacts that my business would benefit from in the future, namely printers and photographers.
The penultimate speaker, Ian Skinner was invited to the podium. His speech highlighted the importance of understanding customer loyalty and how crucial it is that we keep our customers coming back. Getting customers is one thing, but just focusing on gaining more and more can lead to a disservice both to the customer and the business. As the co-founder of a creative agency, I work very closely with customers, interacting with them in a face-to-face, collaborative way. Reminding my customers, old and new, that I care about their interests is a key part of my business ethos.
Our breakfast ended with a presentation from Lex McKee who explained the technique called ‘The Breakthrough Triangle’. The idea behind it is that you draw a triangle and write the part of your business that you need to focus on inside it, for example ‘customers’. You then write the words ‘before’, ‘during’, and ‘after’ on the three lines of the triangle. This shows you that the time you spend on, before and after should all be equal because they are of equal importance. If you don’t put the same amount of effort in getting customers as you do with them then why should they stay with you? Similarly, if you don’t do follow up checks to make sure they are happy with the results, will they feel that you have an invested interest in them? Probably not!
I learnt so much from attending this TBN Event. I didn’t think it would go as well as it did but the information I gained and the contacts made will be invaluable to my business. I cannot recommend it more to any business. It’s great to build up a network with local business people. TBN feels like a real community and I know I’ll be going to many more breakfasts with them. I’m grateful that there are events out there that are designed to help businesses like mine as starting something up can be so daunting and it feels great to have strangers encouraging you and I look forward to collaborating with them in the future.