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


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?


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).

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:


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.


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.


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


Taking Your Laptop To The Beach? A VA Can Help…..

July 1, 2013 at 9:18 am | Posted in Articles | Leave a comment
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??????????????????????As we approach holiday time many of us are thinking about taking some time to relax and recuperate after many months of hard work (and not to mention grey skies!).  However, how many of you feel a slight wave of panic when you think about keeping your business going when you’re away?  Check voicemails & emails once/day? Check texts twice/day?

And when we get back, what are we faced with? Big bills for our data usage and/or a huge inbox demanding attention.  Somehow all the positive effects of the holiday disappear in a matter of hours.

So, we’ve asked our VA members, Isabel Roy of Cherry Services and JillMcLachlan of JMVA to share their top tips for a calm holiday and a relaxed return to work.

  1. Clear any outstanding emails in your inbox before you go.  This will ensure nothing is outstanding and all pending emails are flagged for your return
  2. Handover to a VA or Business Partner.  Provide the full client status of any current work and any office administration tasks.  Always leave a full list  or database of contact numbers for yourself, clients and suppliers.
  3. Check and clear diary of any due meetings, reminders, actions or papers and push back until return or ask your VA to deal with it while you are away.
  4. Change your voicemail detailing alternative contact details for your VA.
  5. Leave for the airport with a clear and organised mind  knowing that either your business is being well looked after by your VA and that you have covered all “bases” for while you are away!

Don’t have a VA??  VA services start at a very reasonable rate and you can use as much or as little as you need.  So put a VA on your Holiday List and make the most of your time off this year.

Thanks to Isabel and Jill.

It’s Just as Important to Invest in Yourself as Your Business

May 2, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Posted in Articles | 1 Comment
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If you’ve ever flown, you’ll remember the part of the safety demonstration that says “If the cabin air system should fail, oxygen masks will be released from the panel above…..pull the mask towards you………place it over your mouth and nose …….. Make sure your own mask is correctly fitted before helping anyone else.”

The point of this is the same as in life – to stress that we cannot support others if we are not in a good state ourselves.   What good are we to our family, our business and all the other areas of our life, if we are not looking after ourselves and making sure we are in the best possible physical and emotional condition?

This question makes me think of all the things I find it easy to say yes to, when I budget my time as well as my finances – things like:

  • Keeping my website dynamic
  • Travelling to networking meetings
  • Tweeting and blogging regularly

…..all for my BUSINESS

However, the things (and I know I am not alone in this) I find it hard to say yes to include:

  • Organising to see a back pain specialist (and buying a new office chair!)
  • Finding a mentor
  • Taking a lunch hour

…..all for ME

So why is it so hard to prioritise the investment of time and money in ME like I do for my BUSINESS?  Like me, do you find that question hard to answer?  Instead of answering it, I suggest you redirect your focus and imagine what could happen to both you and your business if you were prepared to put the same amount of energy, time, love and money into YOU as you already put into your business.

I started to create a very compelling picture of what my business would look like and how I would feel within it if I made some key changes.  Even asking the right question made me feel more motivated and inspired.

I truly believe we would all be far better business people and, more importantly, we would feel so much better about what we are doing if we really looked after ourselves, aimed at maximising our potential and felt confident doing it.

Here are some of the ideas I came up with to help achieve all three of these goals.  For me, they are a work in progress but doing much of the following has already made a difference to both ME and my BUSINESS.

  • Time poor? Consider hiring a Virtual Assistant and/or a Bookkeper and get some Time Management Training
  • Tired or in pain? Organise a physical check-up; enjoy a massage; get that niggling back problem sorted out; go see a Nutritional Therapist or Naturopath
  • Feel a bit stagnant, not developing? Look into a business training course; do a workshop or seminar; find a mentor
  • Feel stressed or nervous? Organise some reflexology or hypnotherapy and treat yourself regularly to a candlelit bath containing your favourite essential oils
  • Need motivating? Attend a Conference with like-minded professionals
  • Want more confidence and to feel better about yourself? Talk to an Image Stylist and treat yourself to a make-over
  • Want to improve your relationships or make a really big change in your life? Hire a Coach
  • …..and finally, a personal favourite of mine……Want to smile more? Take a dance lesson; get away for the weekend; buy yourself some flowers; go out for dinner or on holiday with a bunch of strangers new friends (!) (trust me – this one really works!)

Looking after your mind and body and developing yourself really will help you flourish, which makes it far more likely that your business will do the same.

Oxygen is not the only thing we need on our journey and, if you don’t know where to start, here are some suggestions. Just click on the relevant link to start making those changes.
Juliette Smith

Virtual Assistant

Virtual Assistant



Massage Therapy

Back Pain Relief

Nutritional Therapy

Business Conditioning Workshop

Essential Oils

Confidence Coaching



Greek Island Personal Development Course

Image Styling

Inspirational Conference for Business Women

Professional Make Up Artist

Relationship Coaching

Holidays and Weekends Away

Beautiful Flowers

Dinner Party with New Friends

Turning a Passion into a Business

April 19, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Posted in News | Leave a comment
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We are delighted to announce that the Business Development Presentation at our special Athena Reading Visitors’ event on Tuesday 21st May will be made by Sally Webb from Connect2Colour.

Sally Webbsally-thurlbeck 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.

‘My experience in developing creativity with special needs children gave me the confidence to bring this skill to more people’ she says.

‘Creativity can be undervalued within our society, adults and children often don’t value it in themselves.

The immediate connection with colour and paint blows away the cobwebs of everyday living and our workshops allow people to rediscover a sense of vitality, creativity and fun’.

Join us for our special Athena Reading Visitors’ Meeting on 21st May at Sonning Great House and hear Sally tell her own story.

Click here to book your place.

Eventbrite - The Athena Network Reading North East

At Athena, we set up structured, but fun, monthly networking lunches for women who are either running their own businesses or looking for new clients for their employers.

The format of an Athena lunch meeting is:
•           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
•           A business speaker to help with business development
•           ‘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.

A visitors’ event is a great opportunity to come along and see why so many women are joining The Athena Network – and staying.

Time to Step Up and Be the Best You Can Be

April 1, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Posted in Articles | Leave a comment
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After my article last month about “The Woman in The Mirror”, a few women have said to me how they would love to inspire others but are nervous about what others will think of them if they start announcing how great they are.   Won’t they sound arrogant?

I’ve said this before, but it cannot be said enough – particularly to women.   Who are you being if you are not being the best you can be – both in your business and your personal life? And what’s the point of your brilliance if you don’t share it?

Think about what what compels you to do business with someone else or refer them on?  Would you go to (or refer to) the person who doesn’t say much about her skills or the one who is confident and clear that she is excellent at her work.   Would you refer to the one who is self-deprecating or the one who is enthusiastic and happy to share her testimonials with you?

Be your gorgeous, talented and fabulous self

Be your brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous self

Now think about how you present yourself – your skills, qualities and values and how others with therefore see you.  Do you do present yourself in such a way that it will inspire others?  If not, why not?

Today would be a great day for you to step up and start being the best “you”, you can be and let others know how great you are.

Here’s a really useful exercise to help you start the process:

  • Write a list of your qualities, skills and values – if its comprehensive, it will be a long list.
  • Then give yourself a mark out of 10 for how well you live those qualities, skills and values on a daily basis.  Notice where the mark is less than 8/10.  That’s where to focus on improving.  You’re not being the best you, when your mark is low.
  • You’re aiming for a 10/10.  Most of us can’t live like that every day, but if we keep aiming for a 10/10 and learn from the times when we don’t manage it, we’ll keep on improving.
  • Keep hold of the list and refer to it often – it will act as a really useful compass.
  • Now think about how you can let others know about how those qualities, skills and values make you and your business worth referring to.

Remember “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? ……..  As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  Marianne Williamson.


Inspirational Athena Ladies finish the Reading Half Marathon

April 1, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Posted in News | 1 Comment
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Five Reading Athena Network members braved the pouring rain on Sunday 17th March to complete the Mizuno Reading Half Marathon.

We never said Marathon running was glamorous!

We never said marathon running was glamorous!

Tara, June, Juliette, Judith and Sue crossed the start line damp but determined and all crossed the finish line totally drenched but proud and relieved.

After spending weeks training to get physically fit, they had the additional psychological challenge to keep going, mile after mile on the day itself, as they got wetter and wetter during the worst weather for the half marathon for six years.

Not content with the physical and psychological challenge, the ladies also raised a massive £2800 for charity.

Inspiring achievement ladies.  Congratulations.

April’s Networking Tip – Make an Impression Without Saying a Word!

March 28, 2013 at 6:37 pm | Posted in Networking Tips | Leave a comment
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word cloudWe have only a few seconds and one chance to make a first impression. And first impressions last!

In your networking, when do you make your first impression?  When you do your Monthly Minute? When you introduce yourself to someone?  When you walk into a room? When you get out of the car?

What you wear says a lot about who you are and how you do business.  In a way, your clothes are a form of business card.  So, when preparing for your next networking event, think about the following:

  • What three words describe your outfit?
  • Do those words line up with how you want to portray yourself & your business?
  • What will help people remember you?

Remember, many people have visual memories.  This means they will find it easier to remember you if they have a strong visual cue such as a piece of jewellery, a bold pair of shoes or an item of a stand-out colour.

Find the style and colours that suit your personality.  This is about choosing things that make you look and feel great so that you can exude confidence and enjoy your networking.   Showing you take care of how you present yourself can reassure others that you take care of your business and your clients.

When you walk into a room, walk in boldly and confidently.   Make sure you smile, stand up straight and walk tall.  If you’re thinking positively, you will present a more positive impression.  If you feel confident, you are more likely to give others confidence in you and your business.

Get all that right and you’ll make a great impression before you’ve even opened your mouth.

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