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.

Why has coworking become so popular?

There has been a significant increase in the amount of coworking spaces appearing all over the country. Statistically, the amount of people using a coworking space has risen year on year. We thought we’d take a closer look at why coworking has been gaining popularity and what you as a freelancer or small business stand to gain. We discussed the increase in self employment and freelance work in our previous blog

Firstly, what is coworking? It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot but what does it actually mean? There are a few definitions out there, but we thought this summed it up nicely.
‘Coworking is working together under one roof, using the same resources but for different companies.’

Keep you and your business looking and feeling professional.

When freelancing or working as part of a small team, we often start out with an idea at our kitchen table. Part of growing your business can be making the decision to leave the kitchen behind and venture out to the big wide world. 

We’ve all been there. Meeting clients at random coffee shops and cafes. Coworking spaces can provide that professional feel to your meetings. They will often provide meeting room spaces with refreshments for you to host your clients comfortably and professionally. A lot of the time, they are located in a central, convenient location, making it easy for your clients to meet with you. 

As your business begins to grow, you’ll probably want to start thinking about having a fixed office address to protect your privacy. Using a coworking space, you will often be able to utilise virtual office services, giving you a fixed address and phone number and potentially storage for your business. Not only this, it will increase your company’s legitimacy

Meet and collaborate with others in your field.

Coworking spaces will often house others in a similar position to yourself. The spaces are much more than just a desk in a building. Newer offices tend to boast a modern environment to boost a creative and productive atmosphere. 

Put your brand in front of people that can help you with exposure. You never know who you might find in there, too! There might be just the service you’ve been waiting for to move your business on to the next level. Users of coworking spaces often have access to additional events, workshops or seminars to help you grow as a business. All of these events are a fantastic way of meeting like minded professionals both in your industry and others. 

Working solo can be isolating. Coworking spaces have allowed freelancers, small business owners and entrepreneurs to build new communities and soundboard their ideas. Partners of The Northern Affinity are able to use our designated coworking space, The Northern HQ as part of their package. The NHQ is a place for our partners to come and work, share ideas and catch up with other members of the community. 

You can find out more information on The Northern HQ on the website.

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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