Five years ago, I had this crazy idea to start my own training and network club.
Fuelled by the idea of hosting a regular event I’d wish to attend myself I decided to strip out all the things I disliked about business networking and poured in all the things that would attract me.
For starters, it had to have purpose. My bag is media, communications and marketing and I figured myself and our chosen partners at my burgeoning company Chris Green Media new a thing or two about how to market a business.
We gave it a title – Business Media Club as it was for business people, broadly about the media (though marcomms really – ‘media’ is just a shorter, sexier sounding word) and it was to be a ‘club’ for members and regular attendees.
Our brilliantly talented designer, Brendan McMahon of Classic Lines Design, gave us an immediate brand identity.
We decided to host it on Friday mornings – IN work time rather than a rushed silly o’clock scheduling so people could commit to it properly.
Being on the final Friday of the month so it was near enough to the end of the working week and monthly calendar to pause and take stock – ‘my own business ‘me’ time’ as one of our early members described it. Exactly what we had in mind.
Food wasn’t to feature – no distracting clinking of plates or arguments about what constituted an acceptable breakfast or lunch (I couldn’t believe this seemed to matter more to some networkers than the content of the event itself).
Ours was to be a learning experience and a structured programme so it would not feel random or repetitive.
Although we hoped people would club together we didn’t feel it was right to burden them with a demand to refer business to fellow attendees. If it is forced, is it always genuine?
Instead, we created space for interaction so people could contribute and explain how they felt about things.
In doing so they would reveal so much more about the character of their business and reasons for other to seek to want to do business with them rather than having to stick to a short spiel boasting about how great and fabulous their business was and why you’d be a complete numbskull for daring to go elsewhere for the same service.
Excuse my French – it stripped out the bull**** and focused on the positive. Our members could even vote for the theme of the following meeting.
Some 24 people attended that first meeting – hosted at Wild Wood Rooms which was the perfect venue as Fay Hildred and her team knew how to look after us – and 22 stayed with it for the first ‘proper’ meeting two weeks later.
We were gobsmacked – and soon started a second monthly meeting for differing club regulars. A year later we opened a Birmingham club which ran for three years (we closed it to focus on our own permanent Media Centre in Worcester).
Down the years we’ve helped dozens of businesses and business people be they owners, marketing and comms folks or professionals seeking some CPD.
Although the club has gone through many changes and, as you’d expect, people have come and gone, we’ve rejigged the 10 meeting-a-year programme to keep it fresh.
We’ve had our success stories – sometimes dramatic changes that have shifted the immediate focus of a business, others have been slow burners and in many other cases we’ve shifted some mindsets and provided a forum for fresh ideas and dollops of inspiration.
Without being ordered to, we know people among the group have done substantial business among each other and still do.
More than anything the club engenders an amazing, warm, sharing spirit.
The sharing of ‘lightbulb moments’ (we encourage people to stop the meeting to share such a moment with the group should they wish – always a dramatic and often heart-warming intervention) and our ‘all egos left at the door’ ethos is a key difference to other networking groups.
Above all else, people like to be heard and to share experiences good or bad. No one gets lectured or sold to and anyone seeking simply to sell without contributing soon gets found out. The person who turned up to simply dole out their business cards and quickly disappeared had them thrown in the bin.
Most of the ideas that get written on our flipchart come from the attendees themselves – we merely facilitate and offer and add our bits of insight, experience and take on things. Why wouldn’t we?
We also have a club charity – currently Mentor Link – with members and visitors urged to make donations and show support for this amazing charity in a proactive way.
Our fifth anniversary meeting will celebrate five amazing years with stories from members, past and present – a reflection on what has happened and with an eye on the future.
In fact, we’re going back to the future – stripping the club down to its bare essentials with the return of Lightbulb Moments and some popular big main themes.
The Business Media Club will remain about Ideas, Inspiration, Motivation (to act) and Implementation (to hold you to account).
It is going to be a great Business Media Club year.
Fancy joining us at our fifth anniversary meeting at the CGM Media Centre on Friday, September 28 from 9.45am to 12.30pm?