Debate: It's good to talk

Conversations can help businesses grow. That was just one of the points that came out of our panel discussion on the value of networking held at Society One in Preston and hosted by Boost Business Lancashire.

Boost networking RT group

PRESENT: Ged Henderson ~ Lancashire Business View (Chair) • Andrew Leeming ~ Boost • Amin Vepari – Enterprise4all • Jaydee Davis ~ CB Partners • Catarina King ~ Society1 • Chris Hunter ~ HM Network • Kenny Currie ~ Guide Security Services • Sam Keenan ~ +24 Marketing • Norman Tenray ~ OBAS.

How do you choose the right networks to join?

Kenny Currie: It depends what you want to achieve.

We’re members of one network to support our local business presence and we also look at other specialist networks. We pick the networks that suit the business that we are after.

Sam Keenan: We networked for years just to build brand awareness and our local awareness and now it’s changed, the pure objective is to win more business and more referrals.

Andrew Leeming: Networking is absolutely essential. Every business needs to be out there networking, showing people what they are doing.

There is no one single network which is going to solve every single business issue.

We’re lucky in Lancashire that we have so many. There will be a network for every business which will add value.

One of the things we need to do a little bit more through the Growth Hub is help people understand the benefits of each different networking opportunity.

We should be helping people get more  engaged and involved and making them feel welcome.

It is how we open up this conversation with the many networks we have in Lancashire and about how we can work smarter together to encourage more membership.

Jaydee Davis: It’s funny though, isn’t it, because when you’re a child the one rule you’re taught is not to talk to strangers, and then you go into business and you’re told to go and network and you’re sent to a room and you’re supposed to go and talk to everybody. And if there’s no facilitation there, it’s awful.

Catarina King: A lot of people go into it thinking it’s just about selling and it actually should be a lot more.Everyone is different.

Personally I like a more relaxed atmosphere, so it doesn’t just become that cold sell.

Chris Hunter: A lot of networking events are great for established businesses with a product to sell, but they don’t necessarily invite people with an incubation project or an idea and who want to talk to professionals about something they’re thinking about starting.

Amin Vepari: It is about integrating people who may be new to business so they are able to meet people and perfect their message and be very clear about what their offer is.

It’s confidence building and not as scaryvas you think.

Jaydee Davis: You have to try everything at first, which is quite time consuming.

Casual events will work for some, lunch events for others and a morning event will work for someone else. Then you need to develop a strategy around ‘What is right for me?’

Norman Tenray: It is about having an open mind and being very focused on what you want to achieve.

Businesses need to understand what it is really all about and what impact it can have. Sometimes people are going to these networking clubs for the sake of going.

You have to be committed, because if you don’t invest the time, don’t have the right knowledge or the wrong person is at the event, it’s not going to have any impact on the business.