Networking Top Tips from Reading East Athena, March 2014

March 10, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Posted in Networking Tips | Leave a comment
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Where better than to find top tips about networking than from a room full of business women who have already grown their businesses through networking?

We met with the members and visitors of the Reading East group in early March and asked them to offer their Top Tips for Successful Networking and this is the output.  Do feel free to add your own!

Reading East Top Tips for Successful Networking:

  • Be clear. Set an objective for your networking generally and for each meeting you attend.  Being clear about who you are and who you want to connect means you’re more likely to make it happen!
  • Follow up, follow up, follow up. Look for opportunities to connect or to help someone else and then follow it up as soon as you can.  This shows that you listen and are thinking about others. If someone offers you a connection, always follow it up or the potential referrer will think you don’t care!  And once you have received a referral, do keep the referrer informed so that they know you are looking after their contact.
  • Be proactive. Take the initiative and seek out opportunities.  By really listening to what people say, you’ll be proactive not pushy!
  • Be a good listener. Finding out about others and their businesses creates a connection and build relationships.  Relationships are the foundation of a strong, powerful network. Follow up one to one meetings are a great way to do this.
  • Be friendly. If you are feeling nervous or unsure, the chances are others are too.  Go and introduce yourself to break the ice and then invite others in to your conversation.
  • Be bold. If you loved a speaker’s presentation and have always wanted to connect with them, make a point of introducing yourself as soon as they have finished.  They’ll be on an adrenaline high and will be receptive to your positive approach.
  • Be the presenter. Look for opportunities to take on a role within your network.  Presenting or joining the committee elevates you and your business and provides more points of interest for you to discuss with you people in your network.
  • Be prepared. Find out who is going to a meeting and who is speaking.  Do some research on them before you go.  It feels wonderful when someone has already looked at your website or twitter page!
  • Give, give, give If you are a “giver”, you are much more likely to receive referrals as it demonstrates attentiveness, professionalism and generosity.
  • And if that lists sounds exhausting, just remember this and everything else will be OK:  Be yourself!

Would your business benefit from a Strategic Alliance?

March 3, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Articles | Leave a comment
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Being self-employed or working independently has many advantages, but one of the downsides for me, when I first ventured into this new found freedom, was the absence of someone to get creative with.  There were only so many hours in a day, so a limit on what I could achieve.

Consequently, through my network, I created a number of strategic alliances ie joint ventures and informal partnerships where I work with others towards a shared objective.  This includes combining expertise, designing new services and co-referring.  For an extrovert like me, it has been invaluable, not just because one of my business goals is to expand my client base, but also because I want to have more fun!

At The Athena Network we strongly encourage our members to work together to form STRATEGIC ALLIANCES.

We’d love to hear from you, if you are part of a strategic alliance with another Athena member. There are numerous examples within our network – here are just two:

Agustina Tulloch, Sarah Aspital, Penny Campbell and Caroline Shaw all have very different skills and are joining together to offer them all to you at an Afternoon Tea Spa on 15th March.

Josephine Blythe, June Dean, Ellie Barnes, Juliette Smith, Grainne Ridge, Stephanie Smith and Diksha Chakravarti are combining their expertise on 14th May to run their third Business Conditioning Workshop aimed at helping you improve the fitness of your business.

What might the benefits be for you in creating a strategic alliance?

  • Connecting your business with another more established brand could elevate your visibility in your network
  • You might be able to gain access to the network (including possibly the clients) of whomever you link with
  • You could increase your skills
  • It could give you greater buying power (thereby reducing costs)
  • Approaching new clients as larger concern when pitching, could increase opportunities for you.

Who do you want to connect with? 

Think about what you would like the alliance to accomplish before you start approaching people.

  • Perhaps another business in your market that is not a direct competitor would be a helpful link.  You could potentially market to the same customer base.
  • You might even want to create an alliance with a competitor.  I have a great connections with other Coaches.   I don’t have the same expertise as them, so am able to benefit my clients by referring.

How could the alliance work?

  • You and your partner(s) should get clear who is responsible for what
  • Ensure you communicate honestly and regularly with each other and think about how the alliance can become a win-win for everyone involved
  • Ensure your goals are aligned as well as your level of commitment (of energy and time)
  • Discuss any costs involved and ensure that each party has the same understanding

Then you could:

  • Link to each other’s websites
  • Develop joint marketing materials and/or include your material in each other’s mailings
  • Develop a workshop together then market the event as a team

and so much more.

Most of all though – HAVE FUN!

Juliette Smith, Relationship Coach

http://www.juliettesmith.co.uk

What Successful Athena Members Have in Common, in 12 Words

December 3, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Posted in Networking Tips | Leave a comment
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success keyI read a great article on Forbes yesterday about how Paul B Brown, a prolific writer of books on Entrepreneurship is planning to deal with conversations about his work during the festive season:

“One of our guests is going to turn to me and say, “so, Paul, what books are you working on?””

“I’ll run through the entrepreneurship books as quickly as I can;  the person I am talking to will listen politely, and then they’ll say something like this.”

““You have been writing about entrepreneurs for a long time. Is there a commonality among the best ones?””

The article is short, well written and made me smile so do read it.  But if you don’t get a chance, his answer (in 12 words) is:

“Entrepreneurs have a passion for discovering opportunities. Once they do, they act.”

It started me thinking what our most successful members of The Athena Network have in common.

The single most important thing about being great at networking (and, I may say, at business generally) is being yourself.  We are not perfect so let’s not kid ourselves.  We are human and each of us bring something different to what we do, to the people we meet, to the world.  Individuality is a huge strength in life and in your network.  Clones we aint! So if we’re all individuals, perhaps their isn’t a common trait in the successful Athena Members.

However, when I think about the people who have gained the most business or connected with the most people or grown their business the most, some themes do emerge:

  1. They love what they do
  2. They are experts
  3. They stand out (clear about what makes them different)
  4. They are fully themselves, all the time, with anyone, in any situation
  5. They are open-minded
  6. They give time, referrals, connections readily and freely
  7. They have confidence in their work (even if they are not confident at speaking/meeting people)
  8. They ask for help
  9. They seek out collaboration
  10. They value and nurture their network

These members have seen real, measurable growth of their businesses as a result of their networking.  And it is not just the well-established business owners who can lay claim to this either.  Some of our members with relatively new businesses have reaped significant success by doing (and being) all the above.

So, how to summarise what successful Athena Network Members have in common, in just 12 words?  How about this:

“Athena Members trust themselves, love their work and value others”  

Ok, that’s 11 words – but, like I said, I’m not perfect either!  What would your 12 words be?

www.stephaniesmithcoaching.co.uk

January is Visitors’ Month

November 12, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Posted in News | Leave a comment
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2014No doubt, if you are an entrepreneur or involved in any kind of business development, networking will be high on your list of things to include in your 2014 strategy.

So, to support you, we are delighted to announce that January is Visitors’ Month across Athena Reading.

Join us to experience:

  • A sumptuous lunch, hot and cold beverages
  • A chance to present your Monthly Minute – everyone is invited to present themself and their business and ask for any support they may need
  • Two training sessions –  Networking Strategy Training (to enhance your networking skills and focus your networking activity for the coming months) and Business Support Training (a fifteen minute presentation given by an expert in a pertinent business topic – see below)
  • Let’s Talk Business – This is quite possibly the most invaluable component of an Athena meeting; an opportunity for all the guests to talk to the group about any business referrals they might have for one another.

There will be a particularly warm welcome for all our visitors and you will be guided step-by-step through the meeting to ensure you have the best possible experience.

All you need to do right now is to decide when you would like to visit and click on the relevant date below to check your profession is not already represented in the group and then book:

Wednesday January 8th – Sonning Golf Club (RG4 6GJ)
Grainne Ridge, Business Advisor from Business Fit Club will be taking us on a whistlestop tour of the levers we can pull in our businesses to achieve the results we want – with practical actions to take away and implement immediately.

Thursday January 9th – Bill’s Café (RG1 2HX)
Lynne Copp,  Organisational Development Consultant from The Worklife Company will be sharing her tips for creating a successful business, and inspiring all attendees at this meeting to grow.

Thursday January 23rd – The Hilton (RG2 0GQ)
June Dean, Marketing Consultant from The Elevation Factor will be telling us how we can  optimise social media to gain valuable new connections and clients.  She will explain how being strategic about our social networking will help us.

All our meetings begin at 12noon and conclude at 2pm (with informal networking over coffee until 2.30pm).

This isn’t just a network, this is the Athena Network

October 30, 2013 at 7:38 pm | Posted in Articles, Networking Tips | Leave a comment
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timeTime is a valuable resource, often the most valuable as a business owner.

Just as you make sound business decisions when investing your money in a new piece of equipment, website or professional service, considering how to invest your time is just as important.

So, when networking is a significant element of your marketing strategy, how do you know that Athena is right for you and your business?

Be honest with yourself

What will make the biggest difference to you and your business?  Often people’s first response is “more customers”.  But, consider the question a little longer and most business owners acknowledge that, although it is important, it is just one dimension of successful business growth.

What else do you want? Training? Personal development? Constructive feedback on your products and services? Time to take a step back? Inspiration from other successful business owners?

Click here to see examples of articles that may be useful for you and your business.

Phone a friend

Speak to friends, family and colleagues.  Look at what people say online. Ask people in your LinkedIn network what they think.  There is a networking style and format to suit everyone so if people you know, like and trust are saying good things, it probably pays to listen to them!

Click here to see what some of our members are saying.

Success breeds success

Ideally, you want to be in a group with a whole range of businesses at different stages of growth.  You can be inspired by and learn from those who have already overcome the issues you are facing.  You can offer support and advice to those that are just starting out.  This way, you’ll be able to give as well as receive – a cornerstone of successful networking!

Our members often write great articles for our blog so do take a look and you’ll see that you’ll be in good company.

What’s included?

10 “home” meetings per year, where you are the “go to” person from your profession.
Unlimited access to Cappuccino Connections – our monthly informal networking morning.
Training on key business areas such as social networking, finance, time management, customer experience, branding etc.
Personal development to build confidence, communication skills, time management, sales techniques.
Support from like-minded business women.
Time away from the day to day operation of the business.
Energy and Inspiration, hearing about how others are growing and developing their businesses every month.

Click here to read more about the benefits of membership.

Try it!

Visiting takes half a day (preparation, travel and the meeting itself) and costs just £28.  Here you’ve got all the reasons we can think of for coming along.  But don’t just take our word for it.

Click here to find out about the meetings and book a visit.

October’s Networking Tip – Starting a conversation

October 1, 2013 at 6:00 am | Posted in Networking Tips | Leave a comment
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PeopleTalkingIt’s a situation we’ve all faced.  We arrive at a networking event and it’s full of people we don’t know who are already busily engaged in conversation.  People look animated and interested.  We can hear people laughing. Suddenly it can feel like all our confidence has evaporated and we wonder what would happen if we just turned around and went home.

The truth is, you don’t have to be loud or funny or gregarious to network effectively.  You just have take a deep breath and be yourself.  And if you want a bit of a helping hand to join a conversation, here are some tips and conversation starters that we’ve found useful.

  1. Take your time. Spend a moment while you get a drink looking at the room and noticing people that you might like to meet.  You may notice other individuals who are on their own too.  Try “Hello, I don’t think I know anyone here, do you?”
  2. Join a group.  Pick a group that looks interesting, go over and stand next to one of them. Good networkers will turn towards you and open the conversation to bring you in.  If that doesn’t happen, don’t lose hope!  Either move on and find a different group for now or turn to the person nearest you in the group and say “Excuse me, may I join your conversation?”
  3. Smile! People will generally move around the room looking for more people to meet and groups to join.  As people pass you, make eye contact and smile.  This will encourage people to come and introduce themselves to you.  The same goes if you move around the room and want to know who to talk to next.
  4. Relax.  Sometimes networking can be tiring.  Give yourself a break every now and then by going to get some water or a coffee or stepping outside for a minute.  Gather your thoughts, breathe and then go back in feeling refreshed.

Once you’ve swapped names, here are some useful questions to get the conversation flowing. Remember, people will remember how you made them feel more than what you said or did!

  • Have you had to travel far today?
  • Who are you hoping to meet?
  • What’s your ideal client?
  • What would be your dream introduction?  And what would you do if you got it?
  • What could I do to help you?
  • What do you enjoy most about what you do?

And if you’ve got some favourite questions that you’ve asked or been asked, do add them!

Stephanie

http://www.stephaniesmithcoaching.co.uk

Athena Reading Launches at Bill’s Restaurant

August 5, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Posted in News | 1 Comment
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We are delighted to announce that we are launching a monthly meeting at a new venue in Reading in September – Bill’s Restaurant.

To mark the occasion, the meeting on Thursday 12th logoSeptember will be a special Visitors’ Meeting, at which, we are pleased to announce, our speaker will be Sally Webb from Connect2Colour.

Sally has 20 years combined experience working and teaching children with special needs.  She is an inspiring example of someone who has combined her passion, knowledge and commitment and turned it into a thriving business.sally-thurlbeck  She credits her membership of The Athena Network with a large part of her success.

Join us for our special Athena Reading Visitors’ Meeting on 12th September at Bill’s Restaurant, Reading and hear Sally share some of the secrets of her success.

She will share her story with you including how she has taken her business from concept through to building the Connect 2 Colour brand in only 2 years.

The format of the meeting will be:
•           Open networking from 12-12.25pm
•           An Introduction to Athena
•           Passing of business cards
•           Networking Strategy Training
•           60 second introductions from everyone (we give you guidance on how to do this)
•           A lovely lunch
•           Sally Webb “The Journey – Growing your Business”
•           ‘Let’s Talk Business’ – a chance for anyone (optional) to offer a referral or testimonial
•           A final short talk
•           Open networking over coffee 2-2.30pm.

Click here to book your place

Eventbrite - Athena Reading Central

August’s Networking Tip – Building Trust = Building Your Business

July 24, 2013 at 11:08 am | Posted in Networking Tips | Leave a comment
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trust handsIt probably won’t surprise you to know that M&S and John Lewis are the two most trusted brands in the UK according to a poll by Lansons and Opinium Research.

So what?

Trust means consistency, reliability, professionalism, quality, value and reputation.  All words that we would like to be associated with our own businesses.  With trust comes that “money-can’t-buy” competitive edge that is REFERRAL.

When someone is prepared to put their reputation on the line by recommending your business to one of their valuable connections in a referral, they are demonstrating high levels of trust in you as a person and in your business.

It is unrealistic to be able to use the services or buy products from everyone in our networks and vice versa. So, how can you support others to develop trust in your business when you network?

Consider the Know, Like, Trust Factor:

Know:

Get to know your connections.  Not just their businesses, products or services but the individuals, their motivations, what sets them apart from others.  The more you get to know them, the more they will get to know you.

This is where 1-2-1’s, follow-ups and a bit of research on Linked In goes a long way.

Like:

This is not necessarily about being friends, although it can be!  As you get to know more about your connections, you are likely to find areas of common interest, either professionally or personally. This could be because your businesses work with similar markets, or represent the same values or even because you both play netball.  When you find that common element, you will deepen your business relationship.

This means that you will be  in each others thoughts more often, you may share ideas or answer calls to action by connecting them with others.

Trust:

This is the point where someone can, with full confidence, refer you to one of their connections, even if they have not used your services or bought one of your products.  They know enough about who you are and how you operate to TRUST you with their hard-earned, well-nurtured network.

This happens when someone sees that everything you do and say is consistent.  That your values (the way you are and the way you do business) closely match their own.  This is when people will go and actively seek opportunities on your behalf, taking a call to action and making it bigger and better than you could have imagined.

And guess what? You can’t force this bit!

So, when you are out networking, consider these questions: “What am I doing to help others trust me?”

What am I doing to…….

  • Get to know people and their businesses?
  • Find out things that we have in common?
  • Understand calls to action?
  • Respond to calls to action?
  • Demonstrate my consistency, reliability, professionalism, quality, value and reputation?

And if you’re not sure, try something new and see what a difference it makes!

By Stephanie Smith, Stephanie Smith Coaching

 

Phenomenal Business Through Athena But That’s Not All…

June 28, 2013 at 11:54 am | Posted in Member Stories | Leave a comment
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When I first started out on the networking circuit, I expected immediate results; new clients signing up on the spot, referrals and recommendations to all their contacts, big corporate opportunities landing at my feet etc. etc.

When that didn’t happen in the first month, I told myself that networking didn’t work and I took myself off and sulked behind my laptop for a few months.  Funnily enough, that didn’t help!

LaurenneIf only I’d met Laurenne Dorgan from PBS Services, she’d have set me straight instantly!  Laurenne is a prolific networker.  She is a member of several groups and, at virtually every meeting, new clients sign her up, provide referrals and/or give her glowing testimonials for her work.  And she does the same for others.

Here she tells us how she makes her Athena membership work for her and her business year after year.

Q: What made you join The Athena Network originally & what makes you renew every year?

I’ve been an Athena member for 6 years and I belong to two groups, I also belong to BNI and have done for 11 years (since I started my own business).  I find it is important to build relationships and that is not done by just joining a group for a year.  You need to be in it for the long term and build long term relationships and support your group.

I joined Athena because I wanted to join a women-only networking group that was serious about business – Athena has a structure which I like too and I find that women like to do business with other women.  Very powerful things can happen and great connections can be made.

Q: How do you use networking to grow your business?

I have a monthly structure for my networking and I always attend every meeting, I put all the dates in the diary at the beginning of the year so I never miss a meeting, I always try and bring visitors to the group and I always try and connect and give referrals

Q: How would you quantify the business you’ve gained through Athena?

The business I have had through Athena has been phenomenal, but it is not just about the business, it is about the whole support structure, the training and the long term friends that I have made which makes it so important to me.

Q: What advice would you give someone thinking about joining Athena?

JOIN! But you must take it seriously, do your 1-2-1′s, always attend every meeting, stick at it and don’t just join for a year, bring visitors and enjoy every meeting.

This Month We Welcome..

May 30, 2013 at 7:41 am | Posted in Member Stories | Leave a comment
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Lucy Colquhoun

Lucy from Printing.com

Welcome to Lucy Colquhoun from Printing.com!

Please describe your business in 10 words or less: 

Printing/ Marketing/ Design/ Communication/ Advertising/ Corporate Marketing Solutions

Which three words describe you best? 

Fun, Creative and Caring

How long have you been in your company? 

2 1/2 to 3 years

What do you enjoy most about what you do? 

Being creative and bringing people’s visions to life

What are your goals for your business in 12 months time? 

To expand the team to handle a larger capacity of clients and spread the word about printing.com to the whole of Berkshire

What first attracted you to visit the Athena Network

I was looking for new networking options when I came across Athena. A friend of mine belongs to a group in Newbury and encouraged me to visit. Having done many other networking events where the mantra is based on solely giving other visitors business rather than actually getting to know the person and the business, Athena is the complete opposite!

Athena’s main aims are to encourage inspiration & support; to develop skills and to provide opportunities for connections to be made. Which of these aims are most important to you and why?

All 3 of them are important to me but the one aim that resonates with me would be Inspiration. Having attended a few meetings and listened to a few presentations I’ve left the meeting feeling energised and inspired to take what I have learnt/heard back into my own business.

What are your objectives/your hopes for your Athena membership? 

My hope for Athena is to expand my base of connections but to also gain experience. Whether it is experience in the business sector such as taking ideas on how to expand and manage my business or within the networking environment.

What would be the ideal referral for you & your business? 

Any medium to large size business who are keen to update or maintain their corporate image through design and print

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