Top tips if you’re new to networking

Walking into a room full of strangers can be an intimidating prospect, no matter how confident you are. Networking is a brilliant tool to get to know other like minded people and businesses in your local area, but it can be challenging. At The Northern Affinity, we’re all about helping you to build your very own business community. We wanted to bring you a few easy tips and tricks to make your networking experience a fun and productive experience. 

“Turn up, listen up and follow up!”

‘It’s important to remember not to be afraid to show up and participate in an event. Focus and listen, ask questions about the other person rather than talking about yourself and then make sure you follow up with the people you have spoken to.’

Ian and Tracey Earl – In Business

Walk in with a plan.

When you’re walking into a networking event, there’s nothing worse than feeling aimless. It might be your first time, it might be your first time at a different group. Whether you’re on meeting number 1 or meeting 100, it’s always a good idea to go in there with a plan of action

Everyone’s version of success is different. It’s important that you set out some clear objectives so you can measure your success. You might want to walk out of there with three new contacts, you might want 15. You might want to organise a workshop or presentation, you might want to arrange a coffee with a new contact. When you set yourself achievable goals, you’re much more likely to want to continue to go to the meetings and push yourself out of your comfort zone in future. 

When we say a plan, there’s nothing wrong with planning out a few open questions if you’re feeling nervous. Having a few transferable questions in your arsenal can really help ease some of those first time nerves and will get the conversation flowing. 

Be clear on your offering. 

It’s often referred to as the ‘elevator pitch’, but whatever you call it, it’s imperative you know what it is you offer. Not only that but you ideally need to be able to explain it super concisely within a few short sentences. We talked more about clarifying your mission, vision and values in a previous blog. Knowing all of these will give you a great introduction to your business. You’ll have no worries about mincing your words! 

Don’t spread yourself too thin. 

When you start networking, it’s easy to feel like you want to join every possible group in your area. But don’t feel committed to staying with everyone if they don’t suit you and aren’t helping you achieve your goals for networking. After all, becoming a regular at a few events is hugely beneficial. Once people start to get to know you, they can start recommending you to others they meet. Third party recommendations always go down very well. Don’t downplay yourself by burning the candle at both ends. 


The Northern Affinity is a vehicle to introduce passionate, friendly businesses to each other. We’re proud to have created a brilliant community who support one another and add tremendous value to each business. Our partners not only benefit from our meetings but can also join our partners, In Business for their weekly sessions around the area. Our peer group coaching sessions are also an excellent alternative if you’re wanting to discuss your challenges in more detail.

Mission, vision, values: what are they and why do you need them?

Your mission, vision and values are the very foundation of your business. They help you know what you do, why you do it, how you do it and where you’ll go in the future. Without them, things get murky and you might feel you’re lacking direction. It’s easy for these things to become generic and meaningless if they’re not considered carefully. Here, we’ll look at what a mission, vision and set of values really mean and how you can build a true reflection of your business. 

 

‘If you look at every successful business in the world, there is often one common theme: they live their mission. Their Vision, Mission and Values are core to every decision made; they run through the culture of the organisation and they are the basis of every marketing message. These things give you targets and allow you to set clear and measurable goals for the business, and so by defining and using them, you’re giving yourself a really clear focus.’

Laura Norman, Chroma Marketing

Mission

Have you ever gone to a company’s website, scrolled for five minutes and been none the wiser as to what they actually do? Your mission should serve as a functional statement (one or two sentences) that summarises what you do; allowing your customers to get a snapshot of you. Think of it as an even more concise elevator pitch. 

Be specific. It’s no good saying the same old thing as your competitors. When put side by side, what makes your offering stand out from the crowd? Is it the use of specific innovative technology? Do you work with a niche section of your market that your competitors have glossed over?  

Consider what your customers want or need from your business. Have you included a benefit statement within your mission? Remember, your customers want to know how they stand to gain from working with your business. 

Vision

When we set out in business, we all go in with goals and aspirations. These are the things you should keep in mind when you write your company vision. It’s a glimpse into the future; what do you want your legacy to be? How will you leave your industry a better place than it was before? 

Again, being able to summarise this concisely in a single statement will have huge impact when new potential customers and clients come across your business. Not only this, consider the power of your vision when thinking about hiring in the future. Candidates want to know they’re working with a business that’s going somewhere. You can show them with one well written statement. 

Values 

We all have them. We all put them on our website. But what are they? Your values are the things that make you tick; your ethos. Values are what help people connect with your business; they transcend demographics. In tough times, your values are what you can always come back to to remind yourself why you do what you do. 

A trap that many people fall into when creating values is picking attributes that people naturally expect from businesses. For example, most people would hope the business they’re working with acts with honesty and integrity. Those things should come as standard. What are the specific things that matter to you

Here’s a top tip. When designing your values, don’t think of them as a set of things to sell to your customer. Think of them as the things you would describe to a new recruit. What adjectives make up your working culture that will resonate with your customers? What do you live and breathe everyday? 

‘Your values are strong beliefs and actions and drive you to behave the way you do as a brand. They’re not made up or forced. Strongly defined values should come across through your messaging, behaviours and the work you do; there’s no need to add them to your website. If they’re not clear enough to your customers without explicitly saying what they are, it’s best to revisit them to make sure they’re as real and accurate as possible.’

Fliss Lee – Honest Folk

Why do you need them? 

When you put the three things together, you’re left with a perfect succinct summary of what you do and what matters to you – a great introduction to your business for both new staff and your clients and customers. Value based recruitment is a great way of building a team that is on the same wavelength as you

They also help to give you a clear picture of where you are and where you’re going with a way of doing it. As your business grows and evolves, you can instill these things into your teams to curate a company wide culture based on shared values and aspirations. 

So, is it time to dust off the mission, vision and values document? It’s natural for things to change as your business evolves. The ideas you originally wrote may no longer apply. Now’s the time to go back to the drawing board and start fresh. If you need help figuring out your mission, vision and values, several of our Northern Affinity partners can help you hit the nail on the head. Head to our partners directory and simply search for branding and marketing & digital. You’ll find all the experts you need. 

The Northern Affinity Partners Meeting – Friday 31st July 2020

Well, somehow we’ve arrived in August. It’s almost our first birthday! This latest virtual partner meeting was an opportunity to go through a number of changes ahead of September. All will be revealed soon. But it’s safe to say that The Northern Affinity is growing. We’re excited to have you along for the ride. 

One of these changes is the introduction of a series of ‘How To’ events. Thank you to all that have responded expressing your interest in running a session. It’ll be a great learning opportunity for everyone. Depending on the lockdown guidelines (we know these are currently affecting areas of West Yorkshire), our local meet ups will be happening throughout the next few months. These sessions are an excellent introduction to your local partners and an opportunity to catch up and discuss local ideas and initiatives. 

The Impact on SME businesses of Brexit

Amidst the grip of the pandemic, Brexit has been largely forgotten about. However, Craig and Julia of Stone King LLP  kindly walked us through the considerations we should be making as business owners hiring European nationals throughout the course of the Brexit transition. 

Stone King are one of the UK’s oldest established firms, dating back to 1785. With offices in Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds and London, the firm has grown without losing their client focused ethos.  

Firstly, anyone employing EU nationals should be aware of their right to work in the UK. Come 2021, the process of having the right to work in the UK will be changing to coincide with freedom of movement laws and working laws. EU nationals coming to live and work in the UK will be required to get a visa beforehand. There will be the option to apply for a skilled worker visa but as a business owner, you will need to be an approved employer sponsor. This application costs £536 for small to medium businesses or charities. The sponsorship certificates themselves cost £199 per person being sponsored. 

If you’re not already approved, this is something you should consider over the next coming months. If you’re approved, make sure to check the validity of your license as they expire every four years. For an European national who is already in the UK, they will be able to stay provided they register for the settlement scheme. The deadline for this is July 2021. 

From a compliance perspective, it’s crucial employers and employees stay on top of things. Immigration laws change regularly and it’s important things don’t fall through the cracks. 

A huge thank you to Craig and Julia for a very informative session. If you have any questions going forward, you can find Craig’s details on his partner profile.

Once again, thank you to all that attended the meeting. We’re hoping that in the next coming months, we’ll be able to welcome you back to The Northern HQ for meetings face to face. However, we’ve decided to keep going with the virtual format as well. If all goes to plan, we will hopefully be able to stream the meeting to you live. In terms of our next meeting, we’re finalising a date in September so as not to interrupt anyone’s bank holiday plans. We’ll let you know as soon as this is confirmed. 

Wishing you all a fantastic August. Enjoy the remainder of the summer and we’ll see you again soon.

Register Interest