How To Network Effectively
Having the right business contacts can really grow your business and open doors to new opportunities, and therefore I feel networking is so important for any business. It’s very important to choose the right network group for your business so I’ve added some links to network groups I’ve had personal experience with and that really work.
The first thing I do before attending a network meeting is ask who will be in the room, i.e. what type of businesses attend the meeting. That way I can go prepared, so I target the right audience.
How to make the most out of networking

There’s no point in telling a group of trades people what you’ve done for a financial business and vice versa, they just won’t get it. I’m always prepared to give a quick 60 second pitch, and only choose one thing my business does. The reason for this is a person will only ever remember the first or second thing you do so it’s important to do your research first by asking questions of the organiser. I never go into a networking meeting to sell myself. I’m genuinely interested in people and love learning what they do so make genuine connections that become friends over time, so we really want to help each other’s business. When I meet new people, I ALWAYS ask them what they do first. People love telling you what they do, so I LISTEN and never INTERRUPT.

I ask questions if there’s anything I don’t understand as this shows interest. It’s inevitable they will ask what you do too, and this is when I will start telling them about what my company does. We end up exchanging cards and keeping in contact. It’s very important, and I can’t stress this enough. NEVER sell at a network meeting. They are not there to buy your goods or service. They are there for the same reason as you. Yes, they want more business. Yes, they need more clients, but they may not necessarily need what you have. This is why it’s so important to listen to what they say and if you know of anyone who could do with their services or want what they are selling, then REFER them to the people you know once you’ve learnt more about them. Don’t expect anything back as they won’t necessarily know anyone who needs what you do. However, think about it. If you refer someone to this person and they gain a new client through you, they will be singing your praises to people they know who in turn will know other people. This is how word of mouth advertising works. This is how small businesses advertise as we don’t have massive budgets like larger brands and companies. Also, don’t expect after going to one meeting you will make such a good impression, they will remember you, trust you and refer you.

This takes time. However, it is a quicker way of growing your business against Social Media advertising.People buy people. If you come across as SALESY – people at network meetings will avoid you. I go with the aim of speaking to two or three people as I know I’ll never get around to them all. And imagine if you are trying to speak to everyone, you’d have probably 1 minute per person and you won’t come across as genuine, just someone who wants to get as many contacts as is available! Once you’ve met them a few times, or if you feel you can help them but there’s not enough time at the meeting, then arrange to meet up for a coffee to find out more about them. This is also an opportunity for them to find out more about you. One big mistake I made when I started networking was when people handed out their business cards, I’d take them all! Then I’d get home and forget who they belonged to! A good tip is if you are particularly interested in learning more about a person, write a little note on the business card so you don’t forget. I personally have a spreadsheet with all their details and have a comment section on where I met them as well as the reason why I thought they would be a good person to meet up with. This helps me remember so when I do make contact, I at least have some idea of what they do.

If the company has a website, I make sure I visit the website to find out as much as possible. Above all, be yourself, smile, be genuine. Always do what you say and follow up with what you said you’d do. Below are links to some successful network groups I’ve personally found have worked for me and other businesses. Please note, this list is exhaustive and there are many others out there just as successful, some free and some not, These are just a few of the ones I’ve personally found to be helpful who pass on business. Happy networking CarolUseful links Federation of Small Business has some free networking sessions, free legal resources, FSB for a small business is like having BIG business back up with HR resources and much more. (Keith Heffernan is the man in the South West area) https://www.fsb.org.uk/ Bristol Small business network group on Facebook free and run by business coach Jo Richings who is one of the best business coaches I’ve met. Jo runs this Facebook group in the Bristol area. https://www.facebook.com/searc…

BNI Global – great for small business owners and they have a great business model most follow as it works (specifically for the trade as they gain the most out of this but it works for all business types you just have to ensure you join the right group for YOUR business so don’t join a BNI group who have mainly Accountants for instance if your business is a trade business and visa versa). Click on the link below and find one near you and they are international. https://www.bni.com/ SMBN (Single Mums Business Network Group) – if you’re looking to connect with likeminded women and you don’t necessarily need to be a single mum then this has a very affordable joining fee and you will get all the help and support you need, Julie who runs it helps business women with her vast experience. Highly recommend this group. http://www.singlemumsbusinessnetwork.com

Business Chamber of Commerce There’s loads of business support out there for small businesses. I’d also recommend you join or look at contacting your local Business Chamber. I’m a member of the Weston Business Chamber and am a volunteer and help with their admin. It’s well worth it as they have many FREE resources, help and advice. https://westonchamber.org.uk/ The list above are the ones I’ve personally had success with and the list is exhaustive and depends on the area you are in. I’ve not included the many who meet face to face or those who are local to me only. I’ll be adding to the list as I go along.

If there are any you have attended and personally had success with, please drop me an email and I’ll add them to the list. carol@exec-pro-va.com

I always knew I wanted to be my own boss one day, but the right time never seemed to present itself.

On a camping weekend, I hurt my ankle badly and I simply couldn’t drive, the mega Corp I worked for as an Executive Assistant were surprisingly sympathetic and rather than just be off work sick, they arranged remote access to work from home, happy days, no commuting. Eureka!! I could do this on a permanent basis if I took “The Risk.”

I handed in my notice and started building my business, sourcing associate work to tide me over until I had my own clients.

One unremarkable day I had a query from a potential client who literally changed my life, she explained that she was Neurodivergent, (something that I’d had a little bit of experience with within my former corporate life) and could really do with a VA that could cope with her particular way of working. I finally realised it wasn’t just the commuting I struggled with, it was the whole corporate world that I didn’t want to engage with, my passion has always been to try and help/assist wherever I can.

Neurodivergent clients are simply the best, no one client is the same as the next and the feeling of accomplishment when I know I’ve actually made a positive difference can’t be beaten.

So if you’re a Neurodivergent business owner, take that “risk”, arrange a call with me, join my Facebook group or take out a membership and see how me and my marvellous team could give any assistance needed.

Taking a risk could mean leaving that job you’ve hated for years. Maybe you’re dreaming of starting your own business or thinking about going back to school because the degree you got the first time just wasn’t the right fit. Or perhaps, it’s about finally saying NO MORE to always trying to make everyone else happy.

To really grow—both personally and in business—you’ve got to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.

Do you have the courage to take a risk?

What’s holding you back?

Are you stuck in the “what ifs”?

Are you just surviving or feeling stuck in your comfort zone, struggling to break free?

If you’ve been thinking about making a change but fear of failure is stopping you, it’s time to ask yourself: What part of myself am I losing because I’m afraid to take a risk?

Only you know what needs to shift for you to move forward.

When I started my own business in 2018, I had those same doubts and fears. Leaving a secure, full-time job with no clients lined up was a huge risk. But looking back, I have no regrets. It was the right move for me, and it’s paid off in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

Now, I wouldn’t tell everyone to just quit their job. It was a decision that took a lot of planning and careful consideration. I was lucky to have a backup plan and the support of my husband. Without that, I couldn’t have made the leap.

Back then, I was stretched thin, working over 70 hours a week at a demanding full-time job. I realised I couldn’t give my all to both my job and my personal aspirations. The thought of continuing on that path, neglecting my own dreams, was fast becoming a non-option.

Leaving a steady salary behind was scary, especially with no clients lined up. But staying in my comfort zone wouldn’t bring the fulfilment and success I wanted. So, I decided to take the risk.

My boss thought I was crazy and even offered to let me stay on part-time, working 20 hours a week. For some, that might have been a good compromise. But for me, it wasn’t just about the money. I pride myself on giving 100% to whatever I do, and I knew that splitting my time would mean I couldn’t give my best to either role.

So, despite the uncertainty and scepticism from others, I chose to just DO IT and take my own path. By no means was it an easy decision and on my last day at work I felt physically sick!  As I walked out of the office for the last time and got in my car, for the 1000th time, that day I had doubts and what if’s running through my head!  What the bloody hell had I done?  And more importantly, now I was on my own, where do I start?  There was no one to tell me what to do and I was seriously thinking of going back and asking for my job back!

Now 5 years on, I can confidently say it was the right decision. It hasn’t been easy, and there have been moments of doubt, but the freedom to pursue my passion has been worth every challenge and sacrifice.

I love what I’m doing!

Taking risks can be inspiring, enjoyable, and help you grow in so many ways. Embrace it!

What are the potential rewards of taking risks in life?

Sense of Accomplishment: Taking risks is scary, but it leads to self-discovery. Many people I know had no idea where their journey would take them, but the sense of accomplishment and pride they feel is incredible.

They feel alive for the first time, I know I did!

Personal Freedom: Imagine working with people you like and doing what you really enjoy – this is your path to personal freedom.

Letting Go of the Past: Challenging old routines and assumptions can be rewarding. By taking risks, you can disprove old beliefs and free yourself from negative thoughts and “what ifs”.

Self-Discovery: This is a biggie; risks help you learn about yourself, your values, and what drives you. With new experiences, you can find what truly makes you happy. My journey from being an employee to running my own business has been a profound experience of self-discovery.

Increased Confidence: Each risk you take builds your confidence and makes you more flexible and a better decision-maker.

New Opportunities: Stepping out of your comfort zone can lead to new opportunities, both professionally and personally and it’s so exciting when this happens and I LOVE meeting new people and learning. No more stuck in that 9 to 5 waiting for someone to leave before you get the opportunity to get promoted.

Resilience: Risks teach you how to handle setbacks, building resilience and the ability to navigate challenges like a pro.

No Regrets: If the risk works out, fantastic! If not, it’s a valuable lesson that makes you wiser. We learn from our mistakes.

 

For those who are neurodivergent, taking risks can feel daunting, but it can also lead to incredible personal development and success. Using a Virtual Assistant can be a game-changer, providing essential support and helping to navigate uncertainties.

Starting to take risks can be scary, but that’s okay. It’s natural to want to stay safe. Trust me, taking risks can be fun too. There’s a whole world out there with endless possibilities. To figure out which risks are right for you, just go with your gut. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Even if something doesn’t go as planned, you’ll learn from it and grow.

Curious about how Virtual Assistant support can change your risk-taking journey with a business that understands what it’s like to run a successful business. Schedule a FREE consultation with me—no risk here, I promise!

 

Ps. Yes, that’s me jumping out of a plane for charity!

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