The Northern Affinity Partner Meeting – 29th January 2021

We were thrilled to have so many of our partners together for the first time since November (virtually of course). Thank you to everyone who came along; brilliant to see so many faces in what is a really exciting time for all of us at The Northern Affinity. 

The latest from The Northern Affinity. 

A lot has changed for us in the last couple of months. We’re so excited to be expanding The Northern Affinity community into Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire in the coming months. Spaces are limited on these launch events so if you haven’t already, please make sure you’ve booked a place. There will be a number of webinars courtesy of our partners as well as plenty of opportunities to connect with others throughout the day. 

A huge thank you to Anna Short and Andy Hogg who will be taking charge of these new areas. We can’t wait to see new partners connecting and growing their businesses. 

As well as our community, our team is expanding too! Sarah Small will be on board to help us with the operational side of things as we move into this new period of growth. The Northern Affinity was also approved to take part in the government’s Kickstarter scheme; an opportunity to help a young person access work. We look forward to introducing the successful candidate when the time comes. 

Our partner platform has now migrated from Workplace to Mighty Networks. We hope by now you’ve managed to log in and get to know the platform. We’d love any feedback and ideas on how to get the most out of the new system. 

Finally, a quick thank you to all the partners that took part in The Northern Affinity Podcast. Lots of great conversations and insights. We’re excited to get cracking creating more content for you. 

But enough about us!

Thank you Rachel Mather who spoke to us about successful bids and accessing funding. In the current climate, this was useful information for everyone. Rachel is a relatively new partner to The Northern Affinity. Her business, &mather was born in 2020. Rachel wanted to push boundaries, reach new audiences and help more businesses succeed through secured grants, funding and contracts. Welcome Rachel!

With so many of us currently balancing working from home, home schooling and other responsibilities, hearing from our next speaker was very timely indeed. Anyone who has worked with Sarah Small knows she is a process wizard. Sarah showed us what to think about when outsourcing to a VA or another service provider and some useful techniques for juggling the current pandemic work-life balance. It’s safe to say we’re very happy to have Sarah as part of The Northern Affinity team going forward! 

We’re looking forward to having you along for the ride. 

Over the past year, when in so many instances it’s felt difficult to connect, we’re immensely proud of the community within The Northern Affinity. It’s more than networking. It’s a supportive group of people who have found genuine connection over shared passions for business and making things happen. 

Our next steps are incredibly exciting. We can’t wait to see how our community grows and the people we’ll meet along the way. Make sure you don’t miss the next partner’s meeting on Friday 26th February. If you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to drop us a message.

2020 Round Up

Well, what a year that was. None of us could have ever expected the events of this year and what it would mean for our businesses. But here we are, approaching the beginning of 2021. And what will hopefully be a year of positives for us all. 

Everyone has worked incredibly hard this year to overcome the obstacles thrown at us either by the pandemic or the looming Brexit deadline (remember that?) 

We thought what better way to see what’s been… Let’s just say, an ‘interesting’ year with a few highlights. 

The Northern Affinity grew.

There has never been such a need for a support system and community, and that’s something The Northern Affinity is proud to be for our partners. Despite the odds, we welcomed a number of new partners on board. To those of you who have found us in 2020, welcome. We’re chuffed to bits that you’re here. 

We’ve now filled all our available spaces; something we weren’t sure we’d get to say back in March. And yet here we are. 

As we look ahead to 2021, we’re working on ways in which The Northern Affinity can continue to grow; offering the support and circle of trusted colleagues to others in the north. Keep your eyes peeled for this and sign up to our mailing list if you haven’t already. 

If 2020’s proved anything to us, it’s that we need to stick together through troubled times. Pandemic or no pandemic. 

We expanded our online presence. 

Being at home for a large chunk of the year has given a lot of business owners the opportunity to turn attention inwards. Time to put some real time and effort into their marketing and business development. 

We made sure to get busy at The Northern Affinity, too. We took our online presence to the next level by starting our YouTube channel and The Northern Affinity Podcast. A big thank you to all the partners who have taken part in a live video, hosted a webinar and been interviewed on the podcast. Thanks to you, we now have an impressive library of media for everyone to enjoy and learn from. 

We were also able to introduce Workplace as our central hub for all our partners to chat and share their successes, ask for advice and generally, have a bit of a laugh. 

We’re looking forward to continuing these projects in 2021, as well as constant improvements to our brand. Definitely a perk of the rest of working slowing down. Have you been able to spend some uninterrupted time on your business this year? 

We had a laugh along the way. 

Through so many obstacles and hardships, our partners have been able to remain positive. Especially as a large proportion of our partners are self employed, at times this has been a pretty mean feat. 

But through it all, we’ve had plenty of laughs, good spirits and we’ve all learnt valuable lessons throughout the year. Every cloud has a silver lining and all that.  

What is there left to say other than thank you. Thanks for sticking with us this year. We’ve loved having you along for the ride and can’t wait to see what the future has in store for The Northern Affinity. 
If you’d like to get to know us better in the new year, why not come along to our first ‘Getting to know The Northern Affinity’ session on Friday 8th January? We’d love to see you there.

Avoiding HR Headaches at Christmas

Your HR department will probably be a little busy at the end of the year. Not because they don’t enjoy the festivities, but because there’s a lot to think about when it comes to Christmas. It’s important to consider staff well-being, provide clear guidelines, and be encouraging and motivating to help your team cross the end-of-year finish line on a high.

Christmas policy

Every workplace has different policies when it comes to Christmas working hours, bonuses, holidays, etc. You need to make sure that you’re giving clear and realistic guidelines over the Christmas period.

If you leave it too late, it’s going to have a bad impact on employee morale. People want to plan their Christmas holidays in advance, especially if they’re travelling to see family (well, under normal circumstances anyway). And with the slightly lighter Covid Christmas guidelines, that’s still the plan for a lot of people. 

Try to be realistic – not many people will want to work over the entire Christmas period. Some employees will need a break, especially after what 2020 has thrown at them. Others might be happy working the entire way through. It’s about finding the right balance and communicating with your teams.

Motivate, encourage, include

Everyone’s exhausted by the end of the year. 

You could provide incentives like flexible working. That gives your employees space to plan for Christmas (which will probably be trickier this year) without worrying about falling behind on work.

It’s important to remember that not everyone celebrates Christmas. Make sure you don’t inadvertently discriminate by not including everyone in the festivities. And don’t go the other way by forcing them to join in either. 

It’s worthwhile to consider flexible holidays too. Some workers might prefer to work over Christmas and take the leave at a different time that’s more important to them. It’s just about knowing your staff so that everyone can be comfortable.

Another big one is saying thank you to your team. It’s important that they feel valued and appreciated.

Gifts

Is it really Christmas without some presents? We all love to rip open the wrapping paper, but it’s worth taking a few things into consideration when it comes to gift-giving at work.

Communicate a clear corporate gifting and entertainment policy that’s relevant to giving and receiving. It helps to avoid accusations of bribery or favouritism. 

Secret Santa is always a fan-favourite. Everyone can be included, and it saves you spending on presents for the whole office!

January Blues 

It’s widely considered that January hosts the most depressing days of the year. With post-Christmas bills, failed New Year resolutions, short days and cold weather, it’s a recipe for discontent. 

According to research conducted by Leetchi.com, the 31st January has been found to be the day most Brits hand in their notice!

Make sure you’re thinking about staff well-being after the holiday season too. January blues are real, and people really appreciate the support.

No Christmas party

One thing you don’t have to think about this year is the office Christmas party.

Often this can make the HR Department a bit nervous. There are no guarantees when drinks are flowing. But this year, with many work-dos happening virtually, or not at all, that’s one you can cross off the list!

Remember, Christmas is about caring and community. So when it comes to HR at Christmas, if you’re starting with these values, it’s hard to go wrong. 

At the Northern Affinity, we love community, caring, and Christmas! And we’re always looking for more people to join the family. If you’re interested in joining us, we’d love to hear from you.

Has corporate social responsibility changed in 2020?

A number of our partners immerse themselves in projects and causes close to their heart away from their businesses. Whether local or national, it’s always important to give back where possible. 

It got us thinking about what corporate social responsibility looks like 2020. And why is it more important than ever? 

The pandemic happened. 

Businesses, families and countless individuals have been hit hard by the pandemic. With businesses closing their doors and workers losing their jobs, it’s been tough. 

Charities and organisations have felt some of the hardest stings; losing enormous amounts of money from large fundraising events being postponed and other similar events being cancelled all together. It’s estimated charities lost around £4bn due to the London Marathon being called off. When you think of all the other large scale fundraising that’s been axed, that vital lost funding doesn’t bear thinking about. 

Large scale charities have been able to at least weather the monetary storm, even if the restrictions have meant they can’t carry out their usual work. However, smaller local charities have faced serious doubts about their viability. 

What can we do to help? 

It seems that industries all over the world have been doing what they can. From schemes providing discounts or free products to key workers to larger corporations stepping in to help their smaller counterparts get through the worst of their financial struggles. There are people out there trying their best to do good. 

But how can you help? You, the person reading this blog. Well, first of all everyone has been hit by the pandemic differently. You may not be in a position to financially help right now. And that’s okay. But could you volunteer time? Do you have a vehicle you could offer to transport food to people who need it in your local area? Are there sectors that could really benefit from your skills on a pro bono basis? There are plenty of ways to get involved.

Getting started with CSR.

If you’re not quite sure where to start when it comes to which organisations to back, start by thinking about what your values are as a business. You may be able to provide a platform for them to raise awareness of their work. You may be able to volunteer time or resources to help them with a project. There’s so many ways to get involved without necessary There’s room to get creative! 

This year, The Northern Affinity has nominated local Leeds homeless charity, Simon on the Streets as its charity partner. Throughout the pandemic, some of the hardest hit have been homeless communities throughout the UK. This has only been exacerbated by the increased number of redundancies. We felt it was our responsibility to support the local efforts and the Leeds community. 

For those attending our last partner meeting of the year, we’re asking (where possible) for a small donation to the charity as part of your registration. If you’d like to find out more about Simon on the Streets, you can visit their website. Michael also had a discussion with Natalie Moran about the work and support SOTS are currently providing to the homeless community in Leeds. You can find this on our Instagram or our YouTube channel

Our top tips for freelancers.

There are a number of people who have seen the pandemic as a blessing in disguise; the perfect opportunity to take the leap of faith into freelance work; the chance to be their own boss, call the shots and pursue work they’re truly passionate about.

A large part of our community is made up of wide ranging freelancers. Going self employed is a dream for many and we’re glad to welcome such a diverse group of people and skills in The Northern Affinity. With this in mind, we thought who better to ask for tips for those going freelance, than those who have been there, done that and got the t-shirt. 

Find a strong support network. 

This is something that came up time and time again. Anyone going from a bustling company to go it on their own can miss the hustle and bustle and support of their colleagues. 

It’s a lonely place so make sure you have a good support group around you’

Brenda Etchells

It makes the world of difference knowing you have a diverse and supportive network of like minded individuals you can lean on for advice. You’ll also increase your likelihood of collaborations and also, you’ll just learn an awful lot about other industries outside your own. What’s not to love? 

‘The freelance network is amazing – I feel like I have finally found a place I belong after years of feeling like an outsider. So much camaraderie, support, help, cheerleading and virtual brews (and biscuits). Prepare to be asked what your favourite biscuit is – it is a hot topic in the freelancing world.’

Helen Hill

Money matters. 

Us Brits aren’t always that transparent about talking money. But how do we know if we’re getting it right if we can’t discuss these things? First time freelancers have a habit of under selling themselves. Know your worth and don’t be embarrassed about charging what you’re worth. 

There’s lots of useful guidance out there about calculating your rates. You might find an hourly rate isn’t actually suitable for you. Take a look at this handy article from the Freelancers Union

Be open to trying new things. 

Like with anything new, it can take a little while to find your flow. It might take some trial and error before you land on exactly what your offering is. You might even find that your freelance career takes you in a different direction entirely! 

‘Try to avoid the temptation to just keep your head down, get your work done and get money in . Keep exploring opportunities to connect with others both within and outside of your industry, be open to reading and learning generally about business and marketing (not just your industry).’

Kate Stansfield

The NA - Kate Stansfield

In the first instance, you’ll need to be your whole business; the marketer, the accountant, anything! So it’s good to keep an open mind. Read as much as you can. Ask trusted colleagues and friends for advice. Don’t be afraid of exploring outsourcing opportunities. We can’t all be the bees knees at everything. 

‘Be open to trying new things – it can bring a wealth of new opportunities you didn’t expect! For example, I have worked in industries and areas that I hadn’t before, written for an industry journal, do live interviews and broadcasts, and developed new services.’

Helen Hill

Business communities and networking groups are ideal for budding freelancers. You never know who’s around the corner that could help you learn, grow your business or that you could work with in the future. 

At The Northern Affinity, collaboration is at our core. We’re here to help you make those connections so you can do what you love to do. After all, love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life, right? 

For more information on becoming part of The Northern Affinity, please contact us today.

How to maximise your presence on LinkedIn

Because of the very nature of The Northern Affinity, we spend a lot of time on LinkedIn. This online networking platform allows users to build up their connections and curate a feed of like minded business people who might be the key to their next big opportunity. Many of our partners are very active on LinkedIn. You can find each of their profiles at the bottom of their partner pages. Today, we wanted to discuss just a few ways you can get yourself noticed on LinkedIn and maximise your results from the platform. 

Make sure your profile is complete.

Think about it. You wouldn’t show up to a job interview with half a CV would you? Consider your LinkedIn profile as your online CV. It’s other people’s first impression of you and as we all know, you don’t get a second chance at a first impression. This is when it’s a great idea to make sure your brand assets are all aligned, a clear branded LinkedIn banner and profile photo will help you stand out from the crowd and let people know what you’re all about. 

LinkedIn will guide you through the process until your profile is complete. It looks great to have recommendations and endorsements from former or current colleagues on there for good measure. Who wouldn’t want their experience and references all in one place? 

Connect with the right people.

The more people you connect with, whether they’re in your industry or not, the more LinkedIn will start recommending your profile to others. Not only is this a brilliant way to connect with people you know and hear their professional updates, you can connect with those who inspire you. Fill your feed with educational, inspiring posts. There’s always something to learn from the people around us and filling your connections with a diverse group of people is an excellent way to achieve this.

Engagement gets you noticed.

Much like the real life working world, you get out of LinkedIn what you put in. If you’re someone who set up your profile and hasn’t looked at the platform since, chances are you won’t be getting much return. However, if you’re active and engaging on a variety of posts, whether that’s liking, sharing or leaving an encouraging comment, the chances of you then showing up on more people’s feeds is significantly increased. Who knows who may spot you down the line? 

This is when becoming part of a community like The Northern Affinity can be really beneficial. You have a ready made group of cheerleaders ready to sing your praises and help you get noticed by your future connections.


Did you see our LinkedIn live with Judy Parsons? We discussed general tips for improving your engagement and activity on LinkedIn as well as some tips and tricks to make your profile the best it can be. To hear more details or for more information on how to become part of The Northern Affinity, please get in touch with us today.

How have podcasts shot to success?

The earliest podcast dates back to sometime in the early 2000’s but it wasn’t until the 2010’s that the medium really started to gain momentum. Currently, the number of podcasts available is fast approaching 1,000,000. Despite a world that’s dominated by so much visual content, listeners have continued to grow year on year. Whatever you’re interested in, there’s probably a podcast for that.  

So, the question is: how did this new form of radio become one of the most successful forms of media on a global scale? After all, the average marketing video has roughly 60 seconds of audience attention before someone will switch off. So how does these episodes (usually lasting around an average 40 minutes) still listened to for 90% of their duration? Let’s take a look. 

The ability to multitask.

Unlike TV, film and online video content, consuming podcasts doesn’t require you to be stationary for any length of time. You can be going about your business all while catching up on the latest episode of your favourite show. Some creators film their episodes and upload them to YouTube but the primary way of consuming the medium is still simply listening. 

The most common instances people choose to listen to podcasts are while driving, working out, and doing household chores; likely because they can improve what can be a mundane task. 

There really is something for everyone. 

Variety truly is the spice of life. This year, the top five categories have been society & culture, business, comedy, health, news & politics. Every one of these categories has numerous sub sections and sub categories to suit every need and niche you could possibly wish for. 

We all love listening to discussions about the things we’re passionate about. Often, we want to learn as much as we can about a topic and podcasts often allow us to become experts in our own right. Alternatively, comedy podcasts serve as pure and simple entertainment; a way of escaping day the day. There’s even podcasts to help with you guided meditation and getting you off to sleep at night. 

Building communities.

The more popular these podcasts have become, their audiences have grown both in size and diversity. Much like beloved TV shows and films, devoted fans find one another and form communities. Such is the popularity of podcasts, many of them have gone on to write accompanying books, release additional merchandise and even produce live shows to international acclaim. 

For example, particularly popular podcasts are now seeing the demand to take the shows on the road. Some have played large, prestigious venues around the world. Their dedicated fans flock to the theatres to hear additional material and get to know their online community. 

There are a number of popular business podcasts available for those wanting to work on personal development, hear stories from other like minded people or have a laugh at some of the failures we all make along the way. 
A number of our partners already host successful podcasts, sharing their expertise and unique point of view. If you’ve always wanted to start a podcast but not quite known where the best place to start is, The Northern Affinity is now offering podcasting as part of our services. You can find more information here.

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. 

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