Archive for June, 2011

Networking the Easy Way – 1 ‘what’ and 9 ‘who’

With so many business networks to choose form – and each set up as a business to make money for its founder – it’s not always easy for a newbie networker to know where to start.

And here’s a heretical thought: Maybe you don’t need to invest in becoming a member of any of them until you’ve got into the swing of things and worked out what type of networking suits you…

Why is it that when we start doing something new to us we often make it a lot harder than it need be and don’t look on our own doorsteps?

Firstly, what do you do for a living?

  • Do you have the best bakery in the area?
  • Provide the best IT service?
  • Run the best recruitment service?
  • Are you a brilliant web designer?
  • Do you give unparalleled coaching/ training in a specific area?
  • Are you a great Independent Financial Advisor?

Spot the adjectives: best, brilliant, unparalleled, great?…

BIG TIP for the ‘what’:
Drum up some enthusiasm about your business or you’re likely to end up ‘dead in the water’ :-(

It doesn’t actually matter what you do. What does matter is that you’re passionate about it and know you’re darned good at it. I believe this is a classic and crucial test of the integrity of every one of us who networks.

  • If we can’t get excited about how we help people (and we’re not talking zealots here), how do we expect anyone we know to be even slightly enthusiastic?
  • If we’re not genuinely convinced about the value of what we have to offer, how can we, in good conscience, allow them to buy from us, recommend or refer people they know to us?

Some HAVE to make their networking work

Let’s take a quick look at IFAs, who aren’t allowed to be zealots.

If you were looking for advice on money matters, would you feel happy picking a name from a local directory or would you rather talk to someone you know or has been mentioned to you as a good ‘bloke’ by a person you trust?

Independent Financial Advisors can buy in ‘leads’, details of individuals allegedly wanting financial advice, from specialist companies but they’ll only use this service when business is slow. That’s because they know that the leads are often of iffy quality and they are also well aware that friends, referrals and recommendations provide virtually all their business.

Because of all this, and increasing legislation on what they can and can’t do/ say, they also understand the value of building lasting relationships and trust: They can’t ‘go over the top’ in their dealings without running the risk (literally) of ending up in jail.

So all good IFAs build and carefully protect their reputation and personal ‘brand’ as they’re only too aware that it is crucial to their survival and success. And that reputation can be further enhanced if they’re able to introduce people who could help each other, without any obvious or immediate personal gain to the IFA.

Now that’s the ultimate asset value to strive for in networking!
It also keeps us focused firmly on the fact that people do business with people…

The ‘who’

Get ready to start naming names and be prepared for a nice surprise on just how many you can think of first time round with our little nudge list to help!

  • Work/ business: Former employers and co-workers, and people who provide or have provided services to you might like to know what you’re up to nowadays – you might be able to refer business to them or provide a service for them or vice versa
  • Your local community: It’s not by chance that the two buildings you could guarantee to see by the traditional English village green were the church and the pub/inn – one looked after your soul, the other your stomach and circulated news brought by travellers taking a break!
  • Your neighbours
  • Your relatives and any of their friends that you know
  • Old school mates – What do they do for a living? Could you help each other, collaborate or provide contacts or referrals?
  • Co members of golf/ cricket/ tennis/ football etc. clubs
  • Team sports members: If you play a team sport you are gradually bound to get to know more about your teammates and what line of work each of is in.
  • Your local gym – After exercise it’s not unheard of to repair to the bar (even if it’s a coffee and juice bar in the case of a modern sports centre) where it is acceptable to strike up conversation with like-minded souls. Then, if you ‘click’, it can just be a matter of time before the subject of what each of you does for a living crops up. Bingo.
  • Hobbies – any that involve contact with other individuals would be a great way to help you to spread your net over time, whether you are a member of a card club, writers’ group, a musician in a band or orchestra, regularly go to your local art gallery or museum…

Here’s a quick sum to spur you on

Not all of the above are going to apply to everyone but enough will to allow anyone to drum up at least 50 names for starters – how many people do you think each of these 50 know who aren’t already your mutual friends or acquaintances?

If each of these 50 knows 10 people who are currently not in your circle… that’s potentially 500 additional folk who you don’t know yet could know about you and what you do in time!

…And what about the people they know?

It may be a while before have time and you need worry about joining any of those business networks… :-)

PS Take a look here if you want lots and lots on ‘how to’ on networking – even the newest, shyest networker will find something that only stretches their comfort zone a little bit :-) !

Could YOU Trade or Train YOUR Skills?

What skills do you feel you need most right now?

Do you need to learn them or could you buy or barter with someone else?

What skills could you offer?

I’m a firm believer that there is a wealth of talent amongst you, our regular visitors and followers and your networks. Some of which we’ve covered rather well, especially sales and marketing communications, others of which we haven’t really touched on much over the past five years, such as:

  • Business finance
  • Business accounting
  • Legal advice

The above immediately spring to mind as areas where many small businesses aren’t necessarily getting the best advice and help they could and deserve in these radically changing times: Could you help? Would you be prepared to contribute your thoughts and tips on a semi regular basis?

Sure, there are bound to be country legal and cultural differences to be aware of and top line prior knowledge of those would help a client wishing to venture into markets outside of their traditional sphere to make better informed decisions. Those of you who have an understanding of these, without giving away your core value, are in a unique position to help and demonstrate your credentials. Just have a think about it for a few minutes…

Then there is the whole exciting sphere of online skills:

  • Creating, maintaining and growing effective company blogs – blogs loved equally by potential customers and search engines
  • Growing an online following that converts followers to customers
  • Using continued interactive marketing techniques to grow customer value

We touch on these from time to time and have contributions from guest bloggers yet are now actively seeking our own resident contributors.

Think you might fit the bill or know somebody you’d recommend? Contact us direct or get them to get in touch!

Let us know!

Linda Mattacks - Small Business Training

Franchisee: For Better, For Worse

For richer, for poorer

The idea of a franchise, to my mind, is to ‘plug the gaps’ for those who have maybe been employees and want or need or have no choice but to get out of employment by one person or company but don’t have rounded enough business skills to make a go of it on their own.

Okay, that’s a very broad generalisation but it fits an awful lot of people and circumstances: Ideally a good franchise should resemble a painting-by-numbers business option:

  • Manual
  • Systems support
  • Marketing support
  • Supplies support
  • Tool kit
  • and so on…

…to make a specific type of business an almost foregone success.

In fact I’d go as far as to say that a good, successful franchisor would definitely not want franchisees to be entrepreneurs – entrepreneurs are way too unpredictable and they’d be like herding cats for the franchisor: No. Nightmare in the making :-(

The franchising model works best as a symbiotic affair where franchisee and franchisor each know, understand and live up to what is expected of them. While they each do that to the very best of their ability it can be a marriage made in heaven… when the rules or the behaviour changes it’s likely to be the beginning of a rocky ride than can end in the ‘divorce’ courts…

Take a potential scenario

Specsavers started up in Guernsey in 1984. The timing was great:

  • Mary and Doug Perkins had sold their first Bristol venture of a group of 23 opticians for £2million in 1980 before ‘retiring’ to guernsey to be near Mary’s parents
  • Margaret Thatcher’s deregulation of marketing and promotional activities for various of the professions, including opticians, in 1984 must have seemed like an omen to the Perkins
  • They started small, outlet by outlet
  • The Specsavers group has a fifty percent stake in each of the outlets, with the local opticians owning the other half – The Perkins describe the arrangement as a joint venture rather than a franchise (I’m not clear on the difference, but there you go
  • 😉 )

Consolidation or continued growth?

To all intents and purposes, Specsavers were doing and have done well by their franchisees or JVs:

In fact, come 2006 they spent £27 million on advertising. Specsavers long-running and successful advertising campaign is famously based on the catch-phrase ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’ which appears on the company’s TV advertising.

But maybe there was a more sinister side to this seeming bid for not just UK but possibly world domination? Specsavers certainly, along with the other High Street players, had a go at closing down competition in the form of Glasses Direct which was selling direct on the Internet and undercutting them.

By all accounts that I’ve tracked down online it got very aggressive between the Glasses Direct MD and the Specsavers Chairman yet ended up as something of a Mexican stand off (for now, anyway 😉 …)

And that, as the saying goes, would have been that from the point of view of our little tale, except for the sting in the tail… (sorry: I just couldn’t resist…)

Franchisees’ worry about Specsavers’ next offensive

Purely as an observer of information that can readily be found online, this is where Specsavers HQ strategy seems to leave the rails.

It’ll help to bear the following in mind to grasp just why the franchisees were so up in arms:

  • The business had been built on fifty-fifty partnership (franchise) basis, with store owners concentrating on customer services, while benefiting from Specsavers’ marketing expertise and international supply chain.
  • In return for a substantial payment to Specsavers, franchisees are promised that Specsavers will not open another store nearby.
  • Specsavers, in order to beat Glasses Direct at its own game (?) now aimed to offer prescription spectacles for sale online from a starting price of £29.99, a fraction of the hundreds of pounds that Specsavers’ customers can expect

The upshot?

I don’t know but I’m sure you could easily find out if you’re interested… 😉

My point here is purely to suggest that, if you’re thinking of going the franchisee route, I suggest you make sure that you have the option to alter your terms and conditions pursuant to any changes made by the franchisor in the future :-)

Linda Mattacks - Small Business Training

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