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.

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.

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

Welcome to Lucy Colquhoun from!

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 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

This Month We Welcome…

May 2, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Posted in Member Stories | Leave a comment
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Each Month, we will be profiling some of our new members and their businesses.  This time, Athena Reading South welcomes two new members – Isabel Roy of Cherry Services and Raquel Waxler of legal firm, RX Consulting.

Isabel Roy, Cherry Services


The Cherry Girls!

Describe your business in 10 words or less.
We are a VA service (PA without the desk costs). Cherry Services aim is to reach out with a service to assist you with your busy lives and businesses and ‘picking up where you left off’.

Which three words describe you best?
First class, perfection and professional

How long have you been in your business/company?
Our business is 1 year old but we have been PA’s for over 15 years

What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Organising – we love making someone else feel organised!

What first attracted you to visit the Athena Network?
For their
professionalism and positive known reputation.

What are your objectives/your hopes for your Athena membership?
To build long lasting business relationships

What would be the ideal referral for you & your business?
Individual or small business that need help with a “bit of everything” diary management, hairdresser appointments, data entry, chasing invoices – we love having a mixture of things to do! We enjoy getting to know our clients and being their right hand person!

Raquel Waxler, RX Consulting

Raquel Waxler, RX Consulting

Raquel Waxler, RX Consulting

Describe your business in 10 words or less
Tailored, quality, practical legal and business risk advice and solutions

Which three words describe you best?
Determined, passionate and incisive

How long have you been in your business/company?
A little over three years

What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Providing businesses with practical solutions

What first attracted you to visit the Athena Network?
An opportunity to meet like-minded women passionate about their businesses

What are your objectives/your hopes for your Athena membership?
To build business contacts to ensure the networking “circle” works.

What would be the ideal referral for you & your business?
A medium-sized business that has no in-house lawyer and wants tailored advice on a retainer-basis

Why Join the Athena Network?

March 27, 2013 at 10:46 am | Posted in Member Stories | Leave a comment
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What kind of women join The Athena Network? Here we’ve asked two of our newest members to tell us about themselves, their businesses and what brought them to Athena.

Fiona Nicolson, Cognitive Hypnotherapist

Fi Nicolson Describe your business in 10 words or less:
I am a Cognitive Hypnotherapist working with a wide array of client issues.

Which three words describe you best?
Professional, compassionate and insightful

What do you enjoy most about what you do?
The huge satisfaction I get from helping my clients achieve the freedom they want from the wide range of issues that hold them back.

What are your goals for your business in 12 months time?
Successfully running my weekly clinic in London with a high proportion of my clients consulting me for stage anxiety and stage performance issues. Continuing to work towards achieving my Masters Degree in Hypnotherapy. Writing relevant articles for mainstream magazines and journals.

What first attracted you to visit the Athena Network?
Excellent reputation in the marketplace for networking with professional women.

Athena’s main aims are to encourage inspiration & support, to develop skills and provide opportunities for connections to be made. Which of these aims are most important to you and why?
Inspiration from different sources is very important to me as it part of a good hypnotherapist’s role is to inspire their clients. When you yourself feel inspired, it is easier to inspire others!

What would be the ideal referral for you & your business?
Artists, agents and contacts working in the Artists and Repertoire division of Sony or other music companies.

Fiona Nicolson

Alison Ashford, Meadway Travel

meadway%20travelDescribe your business in 10 words or less:
Meadway Travel is a retail travel agency established in 1980

Which three words describe you best?
Passionate, dedicated, humorous

How long have you worked in your industry?
30 years

What first attracted you to visit the Athena Network?
I liked the idea of meeting like-minded, professional women.

What made you become and Athena member?
I saw an opportunity to expand my business and client base, whilst at the same time meet new people and enjoy a different kind of social activity.

Athena’s main aims are to encourage inspiration & support, to develop skills and provide opportunities for connections to be made. Which of these aims are most important to you and why?
Providing opportunities for connections to be made was my main aim, as word of mouth has always been a powerful tool to use as a form of advertising

What would be the ideal referral for you & your business?
Introductions to people who have a disposable income and time on their hands to travel.

Alison Ashford,

January’s Networking Tip

January 3, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Posted in Networking Tips | Leave a comment
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Tell me what you want (what you really really want)

presentBefore you attend any networking events, there are two questions you have to answer:

Firstly, what do I want to get from this event? And secondly, what do I have to give at this event?

So, what do I want to get?  And if you need a little prompt, how about these: What would make this event really successful for me?  What will make a really big difference to my business right now?  Answering these questions as specifically as you can will help you get really clear on an objective for the meeting.  And when you are really clear, you can make it clear to the people you meet and they can get on with making it happen!

Secondly, what do you have to give?  This is one of the big secrets about networking that can be so easily overlooked.  Remind yourself of the great connections that you already have.  Who are your “Go-to” people?  Who would you recommend or refer if someone is looking for a connection in a particular field? And remember, your network goes beyond your immediate connections.  Take a look at your network’s network – LinkedIn is wonderful for this!

Here’s to your powerful networking this month!

By Stephanie Smith, Co-Regional Director, The Athena Network, Reading

Create your Dream Team for 2013!

January 2, 2013 at 10:48 pm | Posted in Articles | 1 Comment
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My “Dream” Team

I love running my own coaching business.  It gives me flexibility, independence, the opportunity to do something I thoroughly enjoy every day.  And yet, there are bits I don’t like so much.

For instance, if I have an idea, I find it hard to make it real without having a conversation about it – hearing how it sounds, asking and answering questions.  There are jobs that I NEED to do but really don’t enjoy (tax returns anyone?)  And there are those “yuk” days – where everything just feels like hard work.

So, what are my options?  Talk to myself? Try to do all those jobs that NEED doing but I’m no good at? Suffer in silence? I don’t think so…

If 2012 was the year of individual excellence (stunning Olympic golds, Diamond Jubilee) how about we make 2013 the year of the Dream Team?

Dream Team: It’s more than finding people to whom I can outsource certain tasks.  It’s that wonderful combination of skills and personalities, working towards a common goal, where the whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts.

Sounds good doesn’t it?

So, if we just put the common goal to one side for a moment, who would be on my Dream Team?

I’m thinking Monica Galetti for her uncompromising standards and brilliant facial expressions– I can imagine conversations with her would soon sort out the excellent ideas from the rubbish.

Then, Stephanie Flanders, BBC economics editor –a figure head in every meaning of the word.  Obviously, being called Stephanie is a plus (in my mind!) and, although I can do numbers, they are not my strongest point.

And to make the perfect quartet, step up Dame Jenni Murray.  Her warmth and gentle but stunningly effective questions would get me out of any slump – and I think she’d be pretty hot at those big contract pitches too!

I reckon that being part of and, yes, leading a team like this would be fun, focussed and very effective.

OK, so let’s get real for a moment.  The chances of meeting Monica, Stephanie and Jenni are remote.  So how could I get the aspects of that team with people that I could meet – or even have already met?

Every week I meet business women who each bring something unique to what they do.  Skills, experience and strengths – including, creativity, perseverance and connection.  At each Athena meeting we come together with common goals – to grow our businesses through developing meaningful relationships with others, to share our skills and experience and to support and inspire each other in everything we do.

I can easily bring to mind members who regularly demonstrate their commitment to high standards, who make numbers easy and fun(!) and who emanate calm professionalism.

With these women, the common goals is there too!  To grow ourselves and our businesses.  What would it be like if I recruited them to become part of my Dream Team? Thinking about it, I’ve already started.  Juliette and I share ideas about Athena and can sort through them pretty quickly.  Perhaps we could do the same for our coaching businesses? We have some wonderful accountants and bookkeepers that will do lots of those jobs that I keep putting off – and maybe one could help me find a way to make money more motivating too? And for those “yuk” days?  I have a few people in mind already.

And maybe MY skills would be helpful to them?

Suddenly my Dream Team seems much more realistic and so do my plans for business growth in 2013.

So, what about you?   What skills are you looking for? What kind of personalities will really take you and your business to the next level?  With all the wonderful Athena Reading members to choose from, imagine what you can achieve with your own Dream Team for 2013!

By Stephanie Smith

Are you being yourself, when you network?

September 27, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Posted in Networking Tips | 2 Comments
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I once read an article in The Times, titled “Why women are such bad networkers”. The premise for the article was actually “Women are not natural networkers”.

Women are naturally curious and therefore make great networkers but are they confident enough to be themselves when networking?

I would partially agree with the female journalist – but only partially.

Following years networking in a mixed gender environment, when I joined The Athena Network, I heaved a sigh of relief.

Spending most of my networking time with people who appreciate the value of building relationships is like a breath of fresh air. Generally, the women in Athena are not just interested in talking about their product or service; they want to get to know each other.  It’s refreshing to be part of a conversation where there is curiosity.

I get curious though when I hear women say “I’m not a confident networker” or “I can’t be myself when I network”, as if networking requires training and the acquisition of new skills.  Networking requires the ability to communicate and connect.  It’s about building relationships and that’s what women are good at.  If you believe you have to be someone else, just because you are “networking” or are in a business environment, it’s likely to reduce your confidence.    What would it take for you to have the confidence to just be yourself?  I use the word “just” because it’s that easy.  After all, who else are you going to be?

In order to refer my contacts to someone else, I want to know the person I am referring to.   I want to know if I can trust them and whether they have similar values to me.   Knowledge and trust are likely to be significant in any future business dealings we may have with each other and crucial if we are to feel comfortable referring on to third parties.

Don’t under-estimate the power of that all-important follow-up meeting – the “1 to 1”.  In a networking environment, ten minutes with another person is enough to get a sense of whether you would like the relationship to develop.  Then it’s time to exchange business cards and move on.  The follow-up and really getting to know each other comes later.  How many women don’t have the skill to sit and chat to another woman and get to know her? Isn’t that part of networking?

Where I do believe the Times’ journalist has a point in her indictment of women’s ability to network, is in her observation that “we are more likely than our male peers to hide our talents”. She’s right. Men do appear to have got over that “terribly British” affliction of being “frightfully” modest, so why can’t we?

I think we need to start changing some of our assumptions and fears about what others might think about us if we publicly declare our skills, qualities and values.

Think about what would compel you to do business with someone else or refer them on. Just knowing what they do? Or also knowing they have integrity and are enthusiastic, talented and well-thought of?

Well, they are likely to want to know that about you too but how can they if you don’t tell them?  It’s great to be curious and a good listener AND to network effectively you also need to be confident about who you are and what you do.

Come on girls – we’re natural relationship builders so let’s get over ourselves and show people what we’re made of so we become natural networkers too.

We need to replace our modesty with confidence and our fear of derision by a belief that people want to know about our talents. To quote Marianne Williamson: “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”

Juliette Smith

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