Online Business Networking

All forms of Business Networking need to be viewed with cynicism.

Brilliant marketing creates the idea that new opportunities come directly from the events or your online presence.

Can that really be true? Learn from the experience of others.

Business Networking Experience – Online

Over the years online business networking has contributed to the growth of Ontogeny. However, a short piece of research linked to use of time in the workplace provided a stark lesson.

For example: An average week for a small business owner started clearing the weekends email messages. 

20% of the messages were junk. – zero impact as all deleted

50% existing customers and staff. – 2 hours to respond to all the correspondence

18% enquiries generated from direct marketing and website enquiries. – as much time as it required

12% Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter DM. – 3 hours to review all the content, one item a genuine contact.

The value of the business owners time came into the equation. The Return on Time Invested made interesting reading. Online Business Networking required a disproportionate commitment of additional resources for a neglible financial return.

Business Networking Events

Experience is an excellent tutor, however, choose to learn from others. Reading feedback from the businesses that use the network events to sell products and services is often the only preparation involved.

When deciding which events to attend ask 3 questions:

  1. Who is running the event and what do they really know about business in my sector? (Trade shows are always a better investment)
  2. Who provides the positive feedback on the event site, are they businesses that primarily sell advice, legal or accounting?
  3. What am I sacrificing to attend, could my time be more effectively used?

Time is the resource you are spending, once committed there isn’t a way of recycling it or reusing it.

Most business networking events have a theme, therefore, be selective, chose to attend for a purpose.

Dangerous Place to be informed

The Business Online Networks are dangerous. The information presented as factual often needs a health warning.

A couple of recent incidents highlighted this. Two Small Business Owners use the largest online Business Network.

Signing up to a group exposed both to advice provided by someone purporting to be a veteran business marketing consultant. Having read the article and the plaudit comments that followed both implemented the marketing adjustment.

Both lost contract because they no longer complied with the EU Directive for GDPR. A simple mistake, they didn’t check the advice. However, it highlights the issue that individuals can hide behind the networking site, cut, copy and paste articles, sell ideas and create mayhem.

Oh it may be worth pursuing the advisor through an insurance claim, the odds are that the author doesn’t have any.

Luddite, Cynic or Realist

Every tool in your box can work effectively, but it requires skill. Therefore, address the real issue, is Business Networking enhancing our operation?

It is a great distraction, a great way to meet people and chat, but are we making it work for us? Do we really know what we want to achieve through the networking activity?

If employees or directors insist that this is a great use of time, get them to explain where the benefit has impacted on the business and how this is a platform for the future.

The mantra is “It’s good to talk”. Sometimes, more often that not it is better to be selective about who we talk to and what we decide we want to talk about.

To attend an event with the idea that sales will come from it review how effective that has been.

Once a business owner asked us to prove the point. So we agreed that he would attend 2 breakfast events and then we would use the same amount of time cold calling at a local industrial estate.

He bought a new printer, agreed to go out for drinks and sponsored a charity. Our salesperson converted 4 cold calls to repeat business clients, which paid for the purchases and sponsorship.

Conclusion

Make informed and educated choices. Your time is precious, when at work don’t waste on business and face tot face networking if the sales conversion rates can’t justify the commitment.

Remember online Business Networking Sites are the most effective place to prey on the unprepared. The online world is dangerous.

Create a clear strategy, understand what you need to get from the network and never commit more time than you can afford.

Strategy and Planning Tools

The need for expert guidance is always important, we provide our clients with access to our Professional Directory. The people you contact know what they are doing and quickly establish the safe practices every business needs.

Contact us to access our Professional Directory.

 

Further Education – Funding

UK Further Education funding is a strange culture.

The provider needs to understand they are a business, therefore, avoiding unnecessary risks by management teams. 

Retail in contrast

At the local takeaway , I noticed that cameras were directed at the customers and the staff. The owner sent a clear message “this business is monitored!”

An overt and sensible approach. We expect that level of scruntiny in that type of workplace. 

Further Education

However Further Education providers appear to accept much activity on trust. 

The average learner has a cash value.  

The provider asks staff and subcontractors to complete the learning package. Self assessment and form filling is a primary tool. 

The rest is taken on trust. This is unsustainable.

This is a recipe systemic abuse. The results speak loudly. Providers fail audits because the core evidence is missing.

Time to change

Prevention is the First Step

Prevention of systemic abuse by providers is the goal. However, a recent monitoring visit highlighted:

  1.  The failure to use technology
  2. Poor monitoring of staff
  3. Poor internal auditing systems
  4. Lack of fraud prevention tools

This demonstrated that the Directors failed to understand the importance prevention. The process of their product enables staff to take short cuts. 

As both and Assessor and Tutor it has always been clear to me that time was the enemy. They are pressured to get the learners through quickly. This creates issues.  

So the first duty of the FE provider is to prevent systemic abuse.

Funding Body Pressure

The College or small provider is also pressured by the funding body.  The funding system is skewed. It fails to treat the providers as businesses.

To eat the takeaway we must first pay for it.

To engage a training provider the funder uses instalments. In arrears. Payments include an outcome component paid much later.

This model lends itself to exploitation and corruption. 

The immediate answer alternative payment models. Use technology, direct learner linked transfers.

Offer a simple pay you learn system. 

Consequently it is the Funding body payment arrangements that create the systemic pressure. Use a prevention model to remedy the issue. 

The Conclusion

30 years in Adult education and things don’t change. Therefore, create at least two alternative strands of unrestricted income. 

FE providers are businesses. Therefore, the product demands protection. Additionally,directors must build the safety measures into day to day activities. 

Staff and the learners know the value of the product, consequently they expect you to protect it. 

Make learning count, therefore, appreciate quality of teaching. Remember that further education is a business.  

Services and Support

Therefore, we provide:

  • education funding services;
  • business support;
  • education compliance support; 
  • quality system development;
  • prevention tools;
  • Robust audit systems;
  • Create strong income streams; and 
  • Advice 

Contact the team for more information and of course bid writing support. 

Strategic Planning

The importance of strategic planning in small and medium sized businesses  is easily overlooked. The business owner or senior manager that fails to plan strategically is creating a recipe that inevitably leaves the business on the back foot. 

Plan the route to success.

Developing Strategically

Creating Success

“My target is to run faster than anyone has ever run before!” a simple statement, or how about “I want to own the best car sales business around”. Two great statements but they have one thing in common – both require and reality check.

Personally I’m 60 years old, overweight and have coronary problems – I couldn’t achieve the first but physically it is now impossible. Nor could I achieve the second because I have no interest in cars and my enthusiasm would soon wain. Is that what I mean by a reality check?

No. To achieve anything worthwhile, we all need a clear plan.

The “reality check” is the planning process. We have to ask the right questions and respond with honest answers.

When Usain Bolt decided he wanted to run faster than anyone before him he knew this, the same with every highly successful business. Many successful business owners don’t realise they have a plan but they implement the key components.

To be successful in business requires that we understand the importance of maximising the skills, talents and resources we have.

A clear overview of what you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it is a basic form of strategic development.

A Strategy requires a Target outcome!

So, strategy creation follows a five-stage process:

  1. Analysis
  2. Opportunities and options
  3. Bench Test
  4. Evaluating 
  5. Selection and progress review

Many have heard of TOWS, SWOT, PEST, PESTO but experience demonstrates that you have all the tools and put them to use, however, it is critical that these are applied with a strong dose of realism.

Strategic Analysis

“Know thyself” is often thought to be the basis of this but again knowing your business isn’t enough, we must position the business. One tool seldom used now is analysis of local market share. If no one is buying locally why will that change if you suddenly decide to become international?

Leadership Capacity

The critical question must be am I skilled enough to create business growth? “I started the business – so of course I am” is a poor starting. Learning in business is the key to strategic and operational growth. Therefore, my next question is “what new skills have I gained and what skills do I need?”

Recently I was asked to calculate the hourly rate for company looking to grow. Straightforward enough but how had they set the figure before? Asked around to see what competitors were charging and priced themselves £2 an hour lower. This was ridiculous!

Isolate the capacity you require, either learn the skills or buy them in at a fixed price. Never fall prey to an open-ended consultancy, create a project based approach.

Business Capability and Capacity

We can all review our resources, liabilities, capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses.

Explore the Core Competencies of key members of your team. It could be time to part company with some of the management team or staff. If you are buying in skills from consultants that senior staff should have then be honest with. Train them or replace them.

Understanding and working with the unique strengths of the business enables the team to consolidate, focus and develop.

This analysis can lead to painful outcomes but remember your teenage years – growing is painful. The greatest asset and liability of any business is the people who work in it and yet they remain critical when setting yourself apart from your competitors.

Once you have an understanding of your own capacity, capabilities and a realistic target for the business systems then apply the same rigorous approach to:

  • The business environment
  • the marketplace
  • existing customers
  • Target customers
  • competitors
  • direction

Introduce Strategic Planning 

                                                                                                                                  

I was always taught that plagiarism is a fools game in the education sector because if I found something of interest on a subject the likelihood is that my tutors will have already used it. So I am going to credit every other blog and newsletter writer I have ever read because I know that many of my ideas and comments are not unique, however, they do reflect those who influenced my business development approach.