Not just a “Ladies Who Lunch” set up

August 14, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Posted in Member Stories | Leave a comment
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Grainne Ridge, Business Fit Club

I have a small scrap of paper stuck to the wall above my computer screen which reads, ‘Dear Grainne, I loved your presentation – thank you!’ It was given to me at an Athena meeting in Newbury, the first I had ever been to and a couple of months before I took the plunge and joined The Athena Network.  I clearly remember the lady who gave me that feedback and was touched that she wrote the note – she could easily have left that day keeping her thoughts to herself.

I made the same presentation a few weeks later at a Reading meeting. This time no note, but an e-mail. One of the members wanted to know more about how we work and to be part of one of our business performance workshops. She went on to become a role model pupil on one of our 6 month programmes!  As a personal trainer and triathlete driven by goals and achievement she personified the business owner who wants a formula for success, takes on board the ideas and advice we offer and was prepared to put it into practice.

By this time it was becoming clear that Athena was a good place to be. This wasn’t just a ‘ladies who lunch’ set up. They mean business. When the 4th Reading group launched in June 2011 I was invited to present again. I was hungry for another note!  The feedback came thick and fast from ladies who were now sure there was so much more they could be doing to make their businesses stronger and fitter. I joined. I wanted to be part of this organisation where women talked business, supported each other and made you raise your game.

A year of Athena meetings, one to ones and some more presentations followed. I have learnt that you don’t just turn up each month and hope to get something from the meeting – you need to plan, listen and contribute. I have created new training material for The Business Fit Club, (the business I run with my two partners) because of the feedback I’ve received after my Athena presentations. I have learnt masses from how other women talk about themselves and their businesses.  They often don’t realise just how impressive they are. I try to remember to tell them.

Athena for me has been many things – an important part of our sales process, an education in networking, encouragement that what we do really works and a source of great suppliers who I’m proud to recommend.

In July, at Henley Business School, 10 Athena ladies joined me for one of our Business Performance workshops. We learnt, laughed and shared some great ideas.  And there was feedback – 10 little notes! ‘It exceeded my expectations. Enjoyable, interactive, very useful and clearly presented. Thank you!’  And ‘thank you, Athena.’

Grainne Ridge,  Business Adviser and Trainer

Join Grainne at The Business Fit Club for an effective and dynamic six month business development programme.

Are you making the right first impression?

August 5, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Posted in Networking Tips | Leave a comment
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First impressions count, particularly in networking situations.  In a crowded market, there is one thing that will make your business or service stand out and be remembered and that one thing is YOU.  How can you be sure to make the right impression? This quick read looks at some ways you can do just that.

7 steps to creating and maintaining a positive impression

What do you look like?

You will make an impact by how you look.  It is more important to have polished shoes if you are a solicitor than if you are a fitness trainer, and a fitness trainer would dent their reputation by smoking.  Take care with appearance because first impressions don’t quickly go away.

How do you walk into a room?

Confidence is key. Hold your head high, walk tall and smile.  Shake hands firmly and look the person in the eye when you speak to them. Arrive on time (or early) to ensure you are relaxed and ready rather than rushing through the door at the last minute.

What do you say?

After introducing yourself, ask a question and stay curious rather than talking about what you do.   It is likely that everyone will meet 10 or more people at a networking event. They won’t remember everything you say so, make sure what you do say is clear, concise and memorable.

How well do you listen?

Think about how you feel when someone you are talking to is looking over your shoulder or forgets what you said. Then think about how good you feel when you have someone’s undivided attention. Listening will create a better impression than trying to sell. So, be attentive: ask questions about the other person’s business, hobbies and life.

How positive are you?

Are you a glass half empty or half full person?  If you tend to be critical, consider what impact this will have on the people you meet. Don’t talk negatively about someone else or their business. Instead, try to find something constructive to say.  Be honest, fair and state facts if asked about someone else.

Can you be relied upon?

Common courtesy counts for a lot. Do what you say you are going to do, when you say you are going to do it. If for some reason you can’t, make sure you tell the other person before they have to chase you. Always reply to emails, particularly ones addressed to you personally.  Even a quick and simple one-line email will create a positive impression. Say thank you for a referral or for information.

Are you a giver or a taker?

Try to be supportive and contribute to your network. Make an effort to introduce people, offer referrals and bring people to meetings.  Even offering expert advice (when it’s asked for) is giving.  People are more likely to want to support you and your business if you have a reputation for being generous.  Offering support when you first meet someone is going to create a much better impression than trying to sell to them.

Now you have these seven key steps, make sure you put them into action. Creating a positive, memorable, lasting impression will be invaluable if you want to get results from your networking.

Remember “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (Maya Angelou)

Juliette Smith

Athena Reading Member reaches the World Triathlon Championships

August 5, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Posted in Member Stories | Leave a comment
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I have been involved in fitness for many years but only really a runner since moving to Reading in 2006.  However it was only once I had completed the London Triathlon in September 2010,  that I realised I may have potential to go further. I finished 6th in my age group at this event and wasn’t that far behind the winning women.  I then went on to come 4th in the European Triathlon Championships in Eilat this year which qualified me for the World Championships which take place in October, in New Zealand.  I can really identify with what many of the Olympic athletes said last week, when they expressed their amazement at how well they had done.

I have never felt particularly nervous about exercising – before, during or after an event.  It’s what I love.  I set a goal, work towards and (hopefully!) achieve it.  But networking, as a step towards developing my business – that was a different story.

Athena was the FIRST ever networking event I attended over 2 years ago and I really didn’t know what to expect at the meeting.  I just knew that beforehand I felt nervous and anxious. Consequently I practiced and practiced my 60 seconds as I knew all too well that practice makes perfect!!

It turns out that I had no need to be nervous or anxious.  As I left that first Athena meeting, like all subsequent meetings, I felt incredibly energised and motivated. The women around the table were so welcoming and encouraging of my brand new start-up Fitness business and even now, two years later, they continue to provide invaluable support, both to me as an athlete and to Barnes Fitness.

Stepping away from the corporate world and moving from being employed to self-employed is no easy feat but The Athena Network has undoubtedly helped ease this transition – not least because it has prevented me from feeling alone in business, despite being self-employed.  I feel like I still have supportive colleagues.

As a Personal Trainer, Running Coach & Triathlon Coach I am passionate about helping other people Believe to Achieve their potential because I have experienced how motivating that can be myself. Far too often women do not prioritise themselves, wanting to make a difference to other people’s lives, and yet forgetting to look after themselves.  As an active member of The Athena Network,  I have the privilege of supporting numerous successful business women and I encourage them (and indeed all women) to set small personal health goals in a bid to prioritise their health and wellness. I then work alongside them every step of the way to make this achievable.  Through doing this, I have seen many of these women achieve incredibly inspiring personal health and fitness goals.

On 30 June 2012 I was responsible for leading a group of 17 walkers, including three Athena members, up Mount Snowdon. For one Athena member this challenge was her next goal after competing the Reading Half Marathon earlier in the year having NEVER done ANYTHING like this before….what a year for her!

Whether you already keep fit or do no exercise at all – I have a small goal that I urge you to consider.  Enter the Dinton Pastures 5km (walk or run) for instance.  It takes place at 7pm on Tuesday 11 September 2012.  I’m organising this event on the back of a suggestion from an Athena member and all proceeds will be put towards helping me achieve my goal of competing at the World Triathlon Championships.

Whilst your goal may not be to compete, training 20 hours a week as well as successfully running my own business, I can honestly say – ladies, you can stay fit and healthy AND achieve your business AND personal goals.

I have received immeasurable support for both my business and my triathlon endeavours from my Athena friends and am so glad I put my nerves and anxiety to one side when I visited that first networking meeting. By being a member of Athena I have not only gained long-standing clients but have built great strategic alliances, connections and friendships – you can’t put a price on those.  Now I wonder when they’ll be launching Athena in New Zealand………….!”

Ellie Barnes

What other Members Say About Us

August 4, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Posted in Member Stories | Leave a comment
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I have been an Athena member for a number of years now.  The monthly meetings are interesting, and fun, and the speakers often informative and inspirational.  I have made some excellent long-term connections with some fantastic women, experts in various fields who I have been able to call upon to assist my own clients in a number of different ways, such as accountants and financial advisers.   The Athena Network has really helped on a number of different levels and I would highly recommend it to any women out there in the market-place.
Julie-Ann Burger, Collaborative Family Lawyer and Mediator

I have been a member of Reading Athena for over three years. During this time I have been able to measure the revenue I have received from fellow members kindly referring me to their contacts. What doesn’t hold a financial value is the support and learning that I have received which has undoubtedly helped me to grow my business and grow as a business owner.
Jill McLachlan, Virtual Admin Services, JMVA

Athena is a welcoming, constructive and focused business networking group which is supportive and educational. Of course, we are all there to generate new business for ourselves but in reality it’s about a lot more than that. It’s about friendships, business contacts and ongoing support. I would recommend The Athena Network to any woman looking to network within a successful and growing structure.
Nicola Joyce, Copywriter

It all started on the day Juliette mentioned the new Athena group to me. Her warm approach, her energy, and her enthusiasm radiated. I had to join. Since then the group has gone from strength to strength. Linking up with so many ladies with such a wide range of skills has been a benefit to me both personally and professionally. Learning from each other and having great fun along the way has been the perfect networking combination!
Ruth Warlow, Utility Warehouse

As a member of The Athena Network I feel I have gained so much in terms of both personal and business development. The structured approach works really well and ensures that each meeting is focused.  I always leave my Athena Reading West monthly meeting feeling inspired and motivated!”
Karen Livingstone, Little Acorn Marketing

The Reading Athena group is an excellent group to join if you’re serious about growing your business, not only is it a really good source of knowledge, but there is the education and constant support to help you grow your business.  I would highly recommend Athena and the group.
Laurenne Dorgan, PBS Services,

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