Week 3 – is anyone buying?

Right now we are just entering the 3rd week in the UK of our social isolation and distancing, for those who can work from home.  There are many people who have lost their income totally, and many others who may be on Furlough or shielding themselves or family members, or looking after the children, so they can’t go to work.

In my other business, my ‘day’ job with Silicon Bullet Ltd, I train bookkeepers and I have been super busy as everyone struggles to work out what they are entitled to from the daily government announcements, writing blog posts with practical tips on processing payroll and how to manage the grants and allowances when you claim them.  But for many people, it’s still a waiting game to know what they will be entitled to, if anything, and when they might get it.Aly Zoom Background

Remember though that in a couple of weeks time there will be people who are earning their 80% pay but they have greatly reduced their outgoings.  No daily commute to pay for, no take out coffees, no meals out or trips to the pub.  Also, the novelty of staying home will be wearing off and boredom will be setting in.  I know my daughter, at 20 , is starting to look at online shopping sites so when she gets her furlough wages from her part-time pub job she can buy a nice outfit for when she can go and see her friends again.

So don’t think that there is no-one around to buy your Forever Living products, or your home crafted items, or whatever it is that you sell.  Now is the time to use your enforced lockdown to be your most creative, learn how to use TikTok, learn what to post on Instagram and how to connect with people on LinkedIn, learn how to promote your business and build your connections with online networking on zoom. Whatever tasks you have been putting off because you never had time, now is the time to get on with them.

Weds bob 2 Hats day

Do your ‘homework’ now so you can grow your business, whatever it is, in the future when you are once again free to go out and socialise. Personally, I am also advocating the self-employed getting your tax return done and submitted now while you have admin and downtime, so when you are free to get out again you know a) how much tax you are needing to save up and b) you can concentrate on income-producing activities when you have more freedom.

So that’s one of the reasons I have returned to blogging here when I’ve not had time to love the last year, and I’m talking about how the wonderful Forever products are so kind to the skin when you need to wash your hands so often.  What ‘homework’ can you do ?

Aloe Aly


Business Networking for Network Marketers

I have been attending business to business networking events since 2009 and I have met many other network marketers at my meetings over the years.  Some who totally get business networking and others who you can see just don’t get it.

In fact, when I started networking back them I wasn’t a network marketer myself, I was promoting my bookkeeping and IT business Silicon Bullet. I met a Forever Living distributor and tried their products and fell in love with them so decided to join.  Then I learned about the business behind the products.  It’s a slow conversion but a comfortable one, and I am proof that Business to Business networking works for a Network Marketer.

Don’t go in for the hard sell

We are often taught in Network Marketing to introduce the opportunity to everyone we meet, get names on our who do you know list, and it’s a numbers game, to get people to attend our presentations so they can then make an informed decision about if the opportunity is for them.

Business networking though is different.  People do not necessarily attend networking groups to buy. Everyone is there with their own business and won’t take kindly to a hard sell, or to an invitation to a coffee or ‘one to one’ where you whip out your presentation if they have not expressed an interest in your company previously.  Don’t meet people and be the one to do all the talking.  You will make a far better impression if you are the one doing the listening.

How can you make  Networking work for you if you are a Network Marketer?

  • Go with the mindset of getting to know the people in the room.  Listen to them and see how you can help them.
  • Take your products along and talk about the benefits of using them, but don’t take too much, focus on one thing at a time.  Have samples for people to try, taste or rub on, whatever is appropriate.
  • If it’s possible, get involved with running the meetings. I now attend 4 Networking where the meetings are run by members who take on a team role.  It increases your visibility in the group and enables you to show off your organisational or other skills to members.  It also brings you closer to the other team members at the meetings.
  • Try and do something memorable in your 40 second or one minute pitch (I quite often sing as that’s my hobby).
  • Be a product of your products and a shining example of your company.
  • If the networking group allows it – offer to give a talk about something related to your business or an area you are knowledgeable about.

Meeting 4 Sight photo Aly MK Lunch

Don’t give up !

Give it time.  Don’t expect quick results.  I was attending a group for over 6 months before I started to get any sales.

If you follow these simple tips you are bound to make connections with people who will become your customers first and may go on to be team members later, or who might refer people to you who could join your team.  When you start to make sales then always ask for recommendations within the networking community to use in your social media.

When I think back to the lady I met all those years ago who did Forever Living at my first networking group, I think at least 50% of the people in the room are now her customers or team members so I can see from example how it really works.

4 Networking

I joined 4 Networking in 2017 and quickly joined a team to help run the local meetings.  In 2018 I was promoted to being a Regional Leader for the network, overseeing a number of meetings in my local area.

If you would like to find out more about this business networking organisation, which prides itself on it’s relaxed but still business-like meetings then do get in touch I can share the details of local meetings.  You can take a look at the 4 Networking Website yourself to see where the nearest meetings are to you, they are spread all over the UK, but not yet available in other countries.


Making Networking Work – Givers Gain

Some people get networking and some people don’t.  If you arrive at the meetings with the wrong mind set and attitude then you won’t get anything out of it.  You will leave thinking this networking group is rubbish, I didn’t get any business.

The first thing to need to do when you arrive at a networking group is think about why you are there.  Are you there to spend money and buy products and services?  No? If not – then why would you expect anyone else in the room to be any different to you?

If you arrive thinking I must tell people about the wonderful services I offer because I need to sell sell sell to the room, then you will most likely go away disappointed. You need to change your own mindset first in order to make the most from a business networking environment.

MK Lunch Nov 2017 OPen networking


Networking is about making connections. The clue is in the name!  You are building a network of contacts.  Linking with people from many different business backgrounds and really getting to know them which is the first step in a longer relationship which will in all likelihood lead further down the line to useful referrals and more business.

Recently I joined a different networking group, 4N.  Their Mantra is Meet – Like – Know – Trust.  These 4 steps take time, dedication, regular attendance and actually showing an interest in the people you meet, and in my 6 months in 4N I have seen first hand how this change in mindset really works.

Towcester Lunch 2017 Duncan Brad

If you take the time to really get to know the people in the room, see how you can help them, connect to them outside of meetings on social media channels then the old mantra of givers gain comes into play.  Imagine if everyone in this room had this attitude then you will find you will be on the receiving end of others generosity just as you give to others.

MK Lunch Squats November 2017

Thank you to 4N Member David D’Souza Photography for allowing me to use his pictures from 4N Towcester Lunch and 4N Milton Keynes Lunch.

If you would like to learn more about 4 Networking then do get in touch and you can come and visit one of my meetings in Olney, Towcester or Milton Keynes.


Working as a team.

I have run my own business now since 2000 and I’ve always been the sort to try to do everything myself.  If I can get the task done and I have time, why should I pay someone else to do it?
Trying to do too much.
Since I have been a keen networker, though, over the last four years I have gradually learned that doing everything yourself is not necessarily the most cost-effective and best way to run your own small business.  When those jobs that you really don’t enjoy start to pile up, isn’t it better to outsource them to someone who can do them quickly and efficiently and then get on with the jobs you know that you are skilled at? I have now met many other small business owners, and by trading services and assisting each other, we can all help each other to grow.

I joined Forever Living in June 2012 and I am learning even more how great it is to work as a team.  My expertise is in IT and Bookkeeping.  It’s something I can talk about forever, excuse the pun, and it can be really satisfying to be able to help team members who often have never been in charge of their own accounts before, making sure that they do the right thing and keep the correct records, and helping them to find the right tools for the job.

I also recognise that in building a strong team in my Forever Living business, with people from different backgrounds and with different skills and knowledge, the sum of the parts working together can be stronger than the individuals each working on their own.

Forever Living has an ethos of those who are further on with their journey sharing how they have got there, and what has worked for them. When you go to the company trainings and team events you will always hear inspiring stories and useful practical advice on how you can improve your business.  We share resources online as well as in person, too, and it means that team members become great friends as well as colleagues.

So, I am looking for people with particular knowledge and skills to grow my team, as there are sectors which I know our products are perfect for but I know little about. If you know anyone with expertise in any of the following areas, please put me in touch with them, as the other thing you learn when networking is one good referral is more effective than 10 cold calls!

And just think – who would you like to work with to make your business more effective.  If you ask for referrals yourself, you might just find that your job gets easier too by spreading the load.
Working Together

Networking in Milton Keynes

As I said in my previous post, Making Networking Work, I am a keen networker and get an awful lot from attending the meetings. I am quite choosy about where I go, though, as I could have breakfast, lunch and dinner every day at a networking meeting if I didn’t actually need to do some normal work too!

The previous post focused on networking in Northampton, but I also attend a few meetings in Milton Keynes …

WIBN Milton Keynes – Women only – Meet at Abbet Hill Hotel, Two Mile Ash on the first Tuesday of the month from 12-2pm.

This meeting has the same format as the WIBN Northampton meeting I mentioned in my previous post.  Also members at both meetings get to take it in turns to make a longer 10 minute presentation to the group, and one of the members also runs a ‘training’ slot which usually covers some aspect of business development or ways of making the most of your networking. The Milton Keynes group has recently moved from Stony Stratford and been re-launched, and as such is growing fast.  The meetings are informative and fun and also include a buffet lunch in the hotel. I find WIBN a great mix between being more formal and business like compared to the groups which do not demand a membership fee, but also relaxing enough that you feel you can be yourself. You need to commit to come every month to get the most out of these meetings, and bringing guests is encouraged as long as their sector is not already covered. See a list of members and contact details at the WIBN website.WIBN

Business Biscotti – Meet at The Living Room, The Hub Milton Keynes, on the 3rd Wednesday of the month from 9.30 – 1130am.

I have only managed to go to this meeting once, but it is another good meeting for dipping your toe into networking for the first time, as the cost is low but the meeting I went to was fairly busy.  You can just turn up, and tea and coffee is included – but it is up to you to choose who to chat to and if you want to swap cards, as there is no formal part to the meeting. You can find contact details of the Ambassadors who normally attend the meetings on the website.

Coffee and Cake – Meet at Dobbies Garden Centre, Fenny Stratford, every other Thursday from 9.30 to 11.30am.

Run by local IFA Jennifer Nicholls, who is also a Business Biscotti ambassador, this is a great meeting with a mix of the formal and the relaxed. We gather in the conservatory of the garden centre and when everyone has had a chance to enjoy a drink (the cake is optional!) then Jennifer calls us to order and we all give our 1 minute pitch about our business – you will see from my posts that quite a few groups have a 1 minute slot so it is best to have one prepared if you don’t like talking off the cuff.  Once we have handed round cards, people break into smaller groups to chat, which is made easier by the fact that you will have had the chance to decide who you want to connect with during the 1 minute talks. Coffee and Cake has a Linked In group page, or you can email Jennifer for more information on jnicholls@tamarifa.co.uk.

Nova Networking – Meet at Odell House, Newport Pagnell, on the 2nd Monday of the month from 12 – 2pm.

Chaired by Jules White of The Last Hurdle, this is probably one of the most relaxed networking meetings I have been to, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t professional. This is another group which when you join your sector is ‘locked out’ so you need to book in to check if you are able to attend. You need your ‘1 minute’ prepared and we also have a testimonials slot which always shows how much business is being done in the room. It’s a great group to join, as the members are incredibly supportive and there is a vibrant Twitter community which stems from the meetings – look for @NovaNetworkOrg on twitter and check out the website.

I hope that these two posts about local meetings prove useful, and I would love to hear about the networking groups you would recommend, too.

Nova Networking

Nova Networking

Making Networking Work

I am a keen networker, and have been for three years. It serves more than one purpose for me. Apart from the obvious advantage of finding new business leads, I have met and got to know other excellent local business people, I have made good  friends, and it gets me out of the office and gives me the social element that running your own business often lacks. In fact, most of our new customers over the last three years can be traced directly back to someone I originally got to know through a networking meeting.

Once you have met someone through networking, the best way to get to know them better is to have a follow-up meeting or a one-to-one, where you find out about each other’s business. I tend to meet people in a local coffee shop or for lunch. It is quite often a revelation how much you have in common, or how business ideas or possible partnerships can come from these meetings, even when you thought your business was nothing to do with the business of the person you are meeting. I also find it useful to meet people who are in the same business as myself, as we can often refer business to each other, or have extra niches of expertise that can prove very useful.

I find I am regularly asked at these one-to-one meetings which other networking meetings I go to – and what I get out of them – this gave me the idea for a couple of blog posts about the local networking meetings I do attend – to save me copying and pasting the information into countless emails!

Networking in Northampton

Synergy Networking Group – Meet at Yeoman of England, Wootton Village, Northampton 9.30am to 11.30 – usually on a Monday once a month – contact Mandy (mandy@forever-yourfuture.co.uk) for details of the next meeting.

This is a low-cost  meeting (£6 including drinks) which varies in size for 3-4 people up to 15 in the most popular months. It is an excellent first networking meeting for nervous new networkers. We sit around a table in the pub and chat and catch up – and even when the meetings are small they are excellent for getting to know other local business people.Synergy

WIBN Northampton – Women only networking – Meet at The Old White Hart, Far Cotton on the 3rd Thursday of the month – this is a ‘lock out’ group, so you can only attend if your type of business is not already represented – take a look at the website for members and contact details to book.

WIBN Northampton was my first ‘serious’ networking group – and by that I mean the first one I joined for which you need to pay an annual membership fee, although visitors are welcome.  It is more formal in format and members get to present a 1-minute talk about their business to the room, pass business cards and flyers round, and also give testimonials about work done by other members. It is a great place to take a prospective client, as if you are established in the group other members will most likely say great things about you!  You need to commit to attending every month if you join, but it is well worth it, as the connections you make can go far.WIBN

Northampton Business Breakfast (FSB) – Meet at Westone Manor Hotel, Weston Favell on the  2nd Friday of the Month from 7.15am to 9am. Visitors are welcome and pay a little more than members. email jo@office-octopus.co.uk who is the branch secretary.

There are many breakfast networking meetings in the area, but as a busy Mum with school runs to do I cannot often free my time to go. I visited this group first, though, and really enjoyed the format, the people and the food – so I have now joined the FSB and make the effort to go every month.  While breakfast is being served you have the opportunity to present your business in 1 minute to everyone on your table – so selecting where you sit is important if you want to make new connections. Business cards and flyers can be displayed and handed out round your table too.  There is a talk each month which usually proves interesting and informative. If you wish to visit as a guest, please let me know, as we both get a discount compared to if you just book for yourself! FSB - ogo

I hope my small insight into these three different meetings proves useful. I will follow up this post with a similar Networking in Milton Keynes post soon, as we live directly between the two towns, so I am ideally placed to network in both places.

Maximising the power of networking

Many of us realise the power of networking and how it can bring in new business, but how can you make sure you make the most of going to those meetings – and ensure that you remain in the forefront of people’s minds? I thought I would share some techniques which really seem to work, so when people need a some Aloe Vera they think of me. When I return home from a networking meeting it is usually with a handful of business cards. As soon as I can I enter the contact details of who I have met into our ACT! contact management database, with a brain dump of who the people are and what sort of business people are looking for. I include which meeting we met at and when. This means I remember who I have met, and I can easily put people in touch with each other if relevant. Next I will send an email out following up any promises I made in the meeting, putting people in touch with each other or passing on useful information. In this email I also remind people who I am and ask if they would like to receive my monthly e-newsletters. I don’t assume everyone wants my newsletter, and ask people to opt in, as I know how annoying unsolicited email can be. This two pronged approach of recording the details of meeting people, with a timely follow up, ensures that I stay in the forefront of people’s minds. It also helps me to measure the success of the meetings I go to. This week I had a call from a company wanting an upgrade of their Sage accounts; they had got my details from their IT services provider, who in turn had heard about me from a local firm of accountants. I was able to look up in my ACT! database where I had last met someone from the accountants firm, and send a personal thank you. It turns out I had met them right back in February this year at a  Towcester Business Club meeting, but they had been receiving my monthly e-newsletters. I am sure that is why, when they were asked for an expert in Sage 50, they thought of me. By acknowledging the referral and thanking them I will hopefully be thought of again when a similar situation arises. So make sure you too become a ‘good networker’ and make the most of the time you spend going to meetings. You never quite know where that next referral is going to come from. If you are a novice networker then take a look at the post my friend Liz Broomfield, an editor, writer and proof-reader from Birmingham, has published – Networking for Newbies.

Small Business Partnerships

We small business owners need to stick together and support each other. We are very good at what we do, but the very nature of a small business means we can’t always solve our clients’ issues alone, or we don’t have all the skills required to promote, manage and grow our own business.

I think many of us are guilty of feeling we have to do everything ourselves, and we can’t afford to outsource work. I know this is something I am guilty of.

Shaking Hands

This is where we can help each other, stick to our strengths and set up strategic partnerships with like-minded business contacts with complementary skills. If there is a job you don’t enjoy or don’t have the skills for, when you pass that to another small business you can then concentrate on your core skill set, which hopefully you do enjoy; otherwise why did you set your business up?

I find the best scenario is when you can swap skills directly with another company. I have managed to do this a few times myself. A very apt example is to do with this blog. Liz Broomfield of Libro Proof-Reading and Copy-Editing Services proof-reads all my posts to correct my terrible spelling, mistypes and grammar, and in return I can offer bookkeeping advice.

Also recently I approached an IT company and offered to be a consultant Sage expert for them. They were then able to visit a prospective client to review their IT systems, and as it turned out they were the only ones who offered Sage support and advice as part of the service. This gave them a unique selling point which made them stand out from the IT crowd. We can now both benefit from this sharing of skills.

So think about where your strengths lie, and where alliances could be made – then we can all support each other and grow.

Photo: Aidan Jones on Flickr

How sharing your expertise for free can pay dividends

I had a call this week out of the blue from someone who needed Sage training.  As part of our monitoring of new leads we always ask people how they came to hear about us, as I do quite a lot of networking and social media marketing and it is good to monitor how effective these are at bringing in new business.  This person had done a Google search, and postings I had made on a forum had come up high in the results list so they followed the link in order to contact me at Silicon Bullet.

This seems to be the most common source of our enquiries these days. An IT services provider I met networking also said they had a problem with their Sage instant accounts and Googled “changing your financial year”, and again my advice post came up quite high on the list, even several months after the advice had been given.

The particular forum I contribute to mostly is UK Business Forums where I have been a member since 2009.  I mostly hang out in the Accounting and Finance area, ready to give advice if anyone has a problem with Sage software.  I  have been able to ask for advice too when I have been unsure about something.

So without updating my website, and worrying about search engine optimisation, my name is coming up when people do a Google search, and what is more I am proving my credentials and expertise by the advice I have given. And I can quantify the new business I have had as a direct result.

Also you become known on the forums for the advice you give, so I have also had direct enquiries from other forum users for my Sage software and services, and I have had bookkeeping enquiries passed my way also; so there are two ways I have benefited from membership.

So think about where your expertise lies – is there a forum where you could share some knowledge?  Who knows, it could pay dividends for you too.

UK Business Forum message header