The Northern Affinity Open Partners Meeting – Friday 29th May 2020

Our May meeting was one of the biggest turn outs we’ve had since the start of The Northern Affinity. It was brilliant to see faces old and new, ready to connect, share and learn. 

We began with the usual updates from Michael. We’re pleased to say our website has now been updated with a full list of our available services; you can view them here. Secondly, The Northern HQ has (as of yesterday) reopened its doors and we’re welcoming a reduced number of users back safely and comfortably. Following the news of slightly larger groups being able to meet, we’re going to look into putting together a series of local, outdoor events so we can still connect whilst maintaining social distancing measures. 

La Vue Photographique

Our first guest speaker was Angela Higham from La Vue Photographique. Angela walked us through the benefits of using commercial photography in business. First things first, you never get a second chance at a first impression. The average time it takes to form a first impression is roughly 0.05 seconds so you want to know you’ve got it right. Put your best foot forward with professional photography to give your customers a real sense of you and what you’re about. 

Your professional photographs will help you tell your brand story across your platforms; your website, social media and in any PR pieces. It’s a cost effective solution knowing you can re-purpose your images in a number of locations. An added benefit is that these images will help your web developer optimise the images for your website, rather than the hassle of resizing stock images. 

Socialsendr

Socialsendr is an app designed to help those who are short of time to keep their social media profiles standing out. We were treated to a live demonstration from Michelle; showing us how we can all get started and get the most out Socialsendr.

The app is suitable for all desktops so you don’t need to worry about Apple vs. Windows. Users can personalise their experience to suit the needs of their business. You might want to add your own unique hashtags and URLs to fall in line with your wider branding. 

With LinkedIn content on the horizon in addition to Twitter and Facebook, the future is certainly an exciting time for Socialsendr. 

HR Dept, Leeds

Finally, Sarah Bradley took a break from talk of Furlough to deliver an interactive introduction to DISC profiling. DISC profiling is a technique commonly used in HR. A method of matching people and figuring out their preferable working styles, DISC profiling can help build team dynamics, increase self awareness, understand our working motivators and also develop a platform to reduce frustrations in the workplace. 

Having identified our own profiles, we had the opportunity to discuss how we might support people different from ourselves. There were many eye opening conversations and we all definitely took something away from it; how we can modify our behaviour when with people that fall into different categories and possibly why we react to certain things at work we maybe hadn’t realised before!

Thank you to everyone who joined us this month with particular thanks to Angela, Michelle and Sarah for sharing your expertise with us. Our next meeting will be taking place on Friday 26th June 2020. If you’d like any details from this meeting; information about desks at The Northern HQ, details of any of the guest speakers or about the next meeting, please get in touch with Michael. Let’s see how different things are by the end of June!

The Northern Affinity Partners Meeting – Friday 24th April 2020

Last Friday, we hosted our second virtual partners meeting. It was brilliant to see so many familiar faces and catch up. We’re all getting smoother with running the old Zoom meetings now! We were pleased to welcome several new partners to The Northern Affinity at this month’s meeting. Thanks for joining us and it’s fantastic to have you on board! Particularly during the current climate, it’s more important than ever to lean on one another for valuable knowledge, support and a listening ear. 

Latest news from The Northern Affinity.

Firstly, Mike kindly updated us on the many ways to get involved with The Northern Affinity. This includes making the most out of the platforms available. We want to be our partner’s cheerleaders and we’re always keen to get your news out there. That’s why we’re introducing guest blogging slots, podcasts, live video collaborations as well as updating our current directory with your latest services. 

We’ve also been working hard to improve the ways our partners can communicate internally; introducing Workplace, a number of collaboration sessions as well as our local events in Harrogate and Huddersfield (obviously on hold for now!) For those wanting support and advice, our peer group and accountability groups are running regularly and have received fantastic feedback. 

Caroline Joynson from Cheerleader PR.

Speaking of cheerleaders, we were lucky to be joined by Caroline Joynson of Cheerleader PR. Caroline walked us through the fundamentals of PR and the steps we can take to becoming our own biggest cheerleader in business. We learnt about the differences between PR and advertising; in other words, earned media vs. paid media. Gather as much social proof as possible as that third party endorsement will help your reputation going forward. Put yourself forward for podcasts, YouTube videos and blogs – anything you can do to make sure you’re sharing your brand with the world.

The shape of PR has changed since the rise of social media. Businesses now have the opportunity to showcase their own expertise through the use of different content marketing. PR and content marketing are a match made in heaven. This is why it’s important to focus your mind on your target audience. You want to make sure the right people are seeing your content. The final message we took away from Caroline was that PR is about getting ‘the right information to the right person at the right time.’ A big thank you to Caroline for sharing with us! If you’d like to present at a future meeting, please get in touch with Michael to arrange a date. 

Thank you to all our partners for another very positive and insightful meeting. It’s always good to see one another and catch up. Our next meeting will be taking place on Friday 29th May (on Zoom unless we hear anything different). To find out more details about the guest blogging, podcast and collaboration opportunities as well as the accountability and peer groups, please get in touch with Michael who can give you all the information you need.

Will networking go digital?

We’re all navigating our new normal for the time being; taking a step back from our usual day to day business processes and entering a new realm that’s entirely digital. Many of us have taken part in digitised versions of our usual meetings and networking groups over the last few weeks. Some are thriving with this new format, others are missing the old days. This poses the question – will networking groups eventually go permanently digital? 

Is classic face to face communication the way to go?
There are certainly many arguments in favour of face to face meetings. From both a business and scientific standpoint, we can all gain a lot from meeting our new prospects or colleagues for a traditional cup of coffee.

Body language makes up an enormous amount of what we say (without saying anything at all!) Through the digital sphere, our body language can get lost in translation. It can be difficult to fully read someone’s body language from the small box view on screen, not to mention see whether they’re distracted by their phone or an email just out of shot. 

When focusing on the words coming out of mouths, face to face communications can feel a lot less laboured. Conversation naturally ebbs and flows. This all goes towards helping build that rapport with the other person and hopefully establishing a deeper relationship that will be lucrative for both parties. 

Possibly the most obvious advantage of face to face networking is not having to worry about potential technical hiccups. No patchy connection breaking up your pitch or losing track because of the poor audio; in person, you can be solely focused on the task at hand without worry about disruption.

Digital all the way?
For some, this increase in digital networking and business transactions is much more convenient and stress free; particularly those used to working from home more regularly. Could it be that once things go back to normal, we see an increase in the number of businesses reducing the amount of travel by employees in favour of more digital processes? 

In our busy society today, it’s not always possible to find time to arrange a coffee or a meeting after meeting at a networking event. What could be a 30 minute Zoom call might turn into an entire afternoon’s chatting. For those wanting to maximise their time and cut out the travelling, digital might be the answer. In the same vein, results can often be faster when both parties are their desks, laptops at the ready. This cuts out the wait time between meeting someone and waiting for them to fulfil the actions from the meeting at a later date. 

One thing to be said for digital is accessibility. Webinars, online courses and meetings can be accessed by people anywhere, any time. Businesses can significantly increase their reach and ultimately widen their pool of prospects. 

There will surely always be a divide over best practice when it comes to this argument. No matter where you stand, there are many advantages to connecting with others. Everyone’s circumstances are different and it’s impossible to enforce a one size fits all approach. In the future, we may well see more of an amalgamation of the two platforms now we have all seen what’s possible when we embrace the digital sphere. 

At The Northern Affinity, we are still running webinars and industry collaborations on top of our monthly partner meetings. If you’d like any further information on this, please check the Eventbrite page or contact Michael for more details.

The Northern Affinity Partners Meeting – Friday 28th February 2020

Last Friday, The Northern Affinity welcomed some new faces for the first time in an open partner meeting. Thank you to everyone who came along. It was great to meet new faces and catch up with old ones. The theme of the day was protecting and growing your business. We were lucky to hear from several of our partners who delivered insightful and interesting presentations. 

Most of us get into business because we want to turn our passion into a reality. But that doesn’t always mean we’re the experts on everything to do with business. Luckily, we have partners who are on hand to help.

Firstly, we heard from Alex and Andy from ABL Business who gave us a practical guide to cash flow and why it’s important. Anita and Andrew (I Credit Management LTD) took us through how to keep your cash flowing to keep your business breathing. We then heard from Jeff Dunn of Spencer Hayes Group. His case study explored the importance of making sure you have the right commercial insurance. Finally, Gary Lumb (Yorkshire Rose Financial Planning) and Martin Hibbert (Alexander Calder) gave an insightful presentation on how you can protect you, your business and your future. Thank you to all of you for your time and expertise. 

Thank you to Aspire Igen who provided a fantastic buffet lunch for the event. Aspire Igen is a Yorkshire based social enterprise committed to helping change lives through access to education and work. You can find out more on their website.

The Northern Affinity News

We are planning to host a large number of future workshops, networking and training events at The Northern HQ and at least one other venue. These sessions will be £20 per person for two hours. Those interested in hosting a workshop should contact Michael for further details.

The Northern Affinity will also be expanding our services and switching up how we can help our partners going forward. More details of this will be unveiled at the April partners meeting.

Had a big breakthrough? Won a great new client? Please tell us! We want to hear all your good news. Please email Michael with any updates and we will help you share the news on social media.

The next meeting will be another open meeting on Friday 27th March 2020 at The Northern HQ

March Events and Workshops: 

Strategy – Business Plans and People Plans – Wednesday 4th March 2020

Introduction to The Northern Affinity – Thursday 5th March 2020

In Business – Marketing for busy small business owners – Thursday 12th March 2020

Declutter and Digitalise Your Workspace – Friday 13th March 2020

In Business – Networking – Tuesday 17th March 2020

Social Media Audit Masterclass – Friday 20th March 2020

Effective Leadership Skills – Wednesday 25th March 2020

Co-working open day – Thursday 26th March 2020

For further details on The Northern Affinity, becoming a partner or any upcoming events, please contact Michael.

Why we should support our local independents.

In The Northern Affinity, we love that we work with so many small businesses. It’s a great way of building community, developing leads and working collaboratively. However, it’s still challenging for independent businesses to make their initial mark. This week, we’re taking a look at why it’s so important to support local, independent businesses.

Keep your community varied.

Local businesses give the community flavour and personality. More people are making a point of seeking out unique, local gems rather than reverting to the ‘safe option’ chains. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again, never underestimate the power of referrals

A community of varied businesses can even have a direct impact on tourism in the area. For example, places like Camden Market are full of independent businesses and drive thousands of tourists and consumers there every year. Their uniqueness and independence is something that is celebrated.

Does your town have a talking point? If you stumble across a local surprise, spread the word! Take your visiting friends to your favourite breakfast spot. Tell them about that amazing service you found. 

Meet the people behind the products. 

Consumers are making more of an effort to know exactly where their products and services come from. The advantage of purchasing independently is not only being able to get to know the story behind the product, but getting to know the people behind the business.  

Make the most of the personal touch. Your locals can tell you all about the area and refer you on to other independents and offer customer service that’s second to none. Even customer retention of 5% can drastically improve overall profit down the line

Support the local economy.

In its most basic form, when you shop local, you know your money has a better chance of staying in your community. Compared to buying from large chains, research showed that nearly double the amount of money from your purchase will be paid forward to the local economy, pretty good right? Not only this, you’re helping an entrepreneur get their foot in the door of business. 

Knowing what’s available in your area also means gaps in the market can easily be identified. Leave the way open for potential entrepreneurs to get up and running with just the service or product that you need. 

Statistically, there has been an increase of people wanting to make the most of their local independent businesses. From greengrocers and gardening services to secret brunch spots and mortgage advice, business communities grow and thrive with support from local people. If you’re starting out on your business journey, take a look at your local networking events. We looked at the importance of finding your business tribe in our previous blog. If you would like more information about The Northern Affinity and how we can support you, please feel free to get in touch today. 

Why are is the number of self-employed workers still rising in 2020?

The number of self-employed workers has been on the up in the UK since 2001. They now account for around 15% of the working population. The figures dramatically increased after the 2008 recession forced a lot of larger companies to downsize their teams. Suddenly a ‘job for life’ wasn’t such a guarantee. But why is the number of those taking the leap in to self-employment still on the rise in 2020?  

Addressing the work-life balance.
Life should never be all work and no play. The phrase ‘work-life balance’ still feels like a bit of a buzz word but an increasing number of studies show that it is something to address. With burnout in the workplace causing a rising number of serious physical and mental health issues, the WLB is not something to ignore.

Becoming self employed is not without its challenges. According to statistics, those who are self-employed tend to work more productively and gain greater gratification from their efforts. Flexible working hours allow you to tailor your day to best suit your body clock and life commitments; allowing you to be more productive during your working day. 

I want to take control of my work.
For a long time, the ‘side hustle’ wasn’t seen as a viable option for making a living. Nowadays it’s celebrated. More people than ever are choosing to follow their passion in life and turning it into a career, even if it means facing more challenges than they would have done in employment. 

Studies suggest that autonomy makes for more satisfied and productive workers. That’s what makes being your own boss so desirable. As well as being able to decide what projects you do and don’t take on, choosing your own hours in which to do those projects can make your working life much more gratifying. 

The growing popularity of apprenticeship schemes and training programmes gives young people a better sense of ownership over their work. Entrepreneurship is encouraged from a young age. Social media is largely held accountable for the large rise in young people becoming part time self-employed. Whilst it isn’t a traditional career path, the new age of digital advertising and influencer culture is a huge market. It means an increasing number of young people are able to make money from the comfort of their own bedrooms. 

Looking after mental health and wellbeing has become a bigger priority. Part of that is negotiating the best working life possible. With this in mind, it’s hardly surprising the number of people choosing to step away from the traditional 9-5 continues to rise. Technology advancements and the development of coworking spaces have made it easier than ever to start a business anywhere at any time; allowing more people to follow their career dreams and make them a reality.

Finding your business tribe – the benefits of networking.

Maybe we’re biased, but we think networking groups are a pretty good idea. Whether you’re a regular at your group’s weekly meeting or part of a social media message, there’s a community out there for everyone. There’s many benefits to joining a group; we think we can sum them up to three main wins. 

Business

Whenever starting a new business, it’s important to be visible. A community can help get your business on the map and get your name out to a whole range of new clients. Some argue that visibility is as equally important as ability. Never underestimate the power of a word of mouth referral! 

There are many opportunities for business collaboration when you join a networking group. Your product or service might be the missing ingredient for someone else’s growth. Utilise your new connections to get a fresh perspective on business challenges and get lots of fresh ideas on how to move forward.

Education

Once we get older, we forget that we have a lot to learn. There are many opportunities to share knowledge when part of a network. Often groups will have guest speakers specialising in their particular field. You might even realise that that speaker is the key player in helping you implement your latest idea. 

Take advantage of the variety of different businesses you meet. You might meet the person who can help you elevate your business to the next level over a cup of tea! Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Chances are, you will be able to get an answer to every question from your new connections. 

Social

Working from home or on your own, whether you’re self employed or not, can be lonely. One of the most obvious benefits to finding your business community is the social life that comes with it. 

Business can be a tough game. It’s important to know you have others around that understand your challenges and can offer support when times get tough! Networks will often hold events for their partners. You can catch up with your connections and hear from many inspiring people in other fields. The Northern Affinity’s next partner event will be held on Friday 28th February and is open to non-partners so if you’re looking to find your business tribe, please book a place today. 

Finding your community in business boasts many different benefits. Whether you’re aiming to make new connections, learn something new or just looking to make some new friends, there’s something for everyone. If you’d like some more information about The Northern Affinity and how we can connect your business to other like minded professionals, please get in touch and arrange a meeting today.

The Northern Affinity Partners Meeting – Friday 31st January 2020

We enjoyed a fantastic partner event on Friday. It was a great opportunity to connect and share valuable knowledge. We will be hosting these events on the last Friday of every month at the Northern HQ

Business and Brand Strategy

Distinguishing a clear business and brand strategy can be confusing. However, we were lucky enough to hear from Brenda Etchells (Carduus Ltd) and Fliss Lee (Honest Folk) about combining the two to find the ‘sweet spot’ where your business values meet your customers values to create one cohesive strategy.

We have all experienced a business who don’t seem to practise what they preach when it comes to company values. We discussed at length the importance of defining your values; not just by using positive buzz words you think your customer wants to hear, but by delving in to what really matters to your customers and ingraining these in the way you run your business. 

Using some interesting examples, we learnt more about what makes up branding (it’s more than just a logo!) and how making some simple changes can strengthen your brand and help towards achieving your business goals.

 

Sales Mentality

In the afternoon, we welcomed Pete Evans (Ventas Sales) who took us through the sales process, with a difference. Identifying your sales mindset and knowing where your weaknesses are will ultimately improve your performance. Even simple things like putting your phone away before a pitch can make all the difference to your mindset when entering the room. 

One thing we often forget with sales is the importance of practising the process. Grab a friend or your business partner and go through your pitch so you’re confident before stepping into the room with the big players! There were lots of useful things to take away and I think we will all be spicing up our sales process and improving our mindsets to make sure we achieve our goals in sales.

The Northern Affinity News

Yorkshire Meetups

We are very grateful that many of you travel from far and wide to come and connect which is why we’re looking into arranging some future sessions in both Huddersfield and Harrogate to expand our community at The Northern Affinity. 

Dates for your diary: 

Our second round of peer group taster sessions will be running on Wednesday 26th February.
There will be a free open-day for hot deskers on Wednesday 27th February. Please share this with your connections who may be interested in trying out the co-working environment.
Sarah Bradley will be running a HR clinic on Wednesday 27th February for anyone wishing to discuss their HR strategy.
The next peer group coaching session for The Northern Affinity partners will be taking place on the morning of Friday 28th February before the next partner meeting. This meeting will be open for non-members to attend so please invite your connections along. Please contact Michael to reserve a space. 

For further details on The Northern Affinity and any upcoming events, please contact Michael.

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