About four years ago I decided that I would re-join the ranks of the self-employed and set up a consultancy business that was focused on giving other companies the knowledge and skills to use the Internet and the web more effectively to grow a business. I called it Grow a Better Business which now, four years later it has merged into another called Internet Mentor. However, the important thing about this was not the fact that I started this business, it was that I happened to live in Dorset which is one of the few counties where the Business Link service (soon to be defunct) provided real and tangible value to local business people. That value could be summed up in just two phrases ‘BusinessXchange‘ and ‘Rural Clubs‘. These were two networking groups (one breakfast and one supper) where you could go to meet others just like you.
So, off I went; I joined both groups and over the last four years have met some amazing people along the way. I can literally say that this was the start of a process of major change, not just for my business but for me personally. Laura McHarrie stands out particularly – thanks Laura 🙂
Over the years I have become an ‘informed’ networker (that is someone that understands networking is more about how you can help others achieve their goals than about yours because what goes round comes round). I have to admit to having a little help in this process because of the people I came across, who were great at demonstrating the benefits of networking too, so I just followed their lead.
At the same time, I started to pull together the online relationship skills I have been developing through The Hysterectomy Association into something that made sense for me on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Slideshare and Twitter, and life really started to take off.
Over the years, I was invited to present at many of the networking meetings I was attending, explaining some aspect or nuance of social media for online business. My work led me to being invited to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts – because I focused on enabling people to use the Internet to build sustainable business. I started to get larger and bigger contracts because of being recommended by others both in my face to face networking and my online networking. I was invited to present at larger events and conferences and finally I wrote another book, LinkedIn Made Easy to help me deal with the number of emails I received asking me questions.
Yesterday, I was asked to be the face of Social Media for my region in BNI and next week I’m off to present at the NFP Technology Show at the Business Design Centre in London next week. I have started to build relationships (albeit at a distance) with some of the most notable networkers in the UK. Andy Lopata offered my book as a prize in one of his monthly competitions and he also listed it as recommended reading in the latest edition of And Death Came Third; Rob Brown of the Global Networking Council interviewed me and called me a LinkedIn Guru 🙂 and in October I’ll be doing a guest spot with Ola Agbaimoni on her show Tycoon Women Moments.
But perhaps the biggest achievement that has come about as a result of networking so far and this time with the help of all the lovely ladies on the Hysterectomy Association forums and Facebook page, is that I was selected as a Woman of Achievement for 2011 and will be attending the Women of the Year lunch in October.
Networking has been the single biggest catalyst to change in my business, professional and personal life and it could be in yours too.