Many business owners will consider joining a business network group at some point. It can be a big decision as joining any networking or business community will require investment of either time, money or both, if you are to get the most out of your membership. The choice can also seem somewhat bewildering and, depending at what stage you are at in your business journey, different groups can offer very different things. In this blog we present a case study of one of our members, Anne Renshaw of Flamme Rouge Consulting.
Before joining the Hub
Anne was working for a large law firm in Business Development and had made the decision to start her own business after 20 years of working for others. She had wanted to start her own business advising smaller professional services firms on their marketing and business development strategy for years and a change in circumstances meant that she could now “take the plunge” and go it alone. So she was very much starting from scratch.
Change is quite often a big motivator to join a business networking or community group. Either starting up a new business or reaching a point in your existing one, where you feel you may be going down a different path, having that support of others that have been there and done that and can offer practical guidance is a huge bonus of joining a business group.
This was a strong motivation for Anne joining up as a member.
“I know very well the power of networking having been an avid networker in the past. I had a strong network I’d built up over the years but most of the people in that network worked for large employers and I felt like I needed to be around smaller business owners too – who understood what it was like to run your own business. A friend mentioned the hub to me, and what a great support network they were, so before I’d even left my job to start my “new life” I had signed up to try a meeting.”
This is quite a common opinion amongst many of our members. Whether they have worked for a company or are a sole trader, to not have that daily contact with work “colleagues” can be a very isolating experience. Having a group of like minded business friends that “get” what it is like, the highs and the lows, can be a very important factor in a business’ success.
But we get that even with the knowledge that you will get great connections and support from organisations like the hub, that you can still have reservations about joining such a group. The financial commitment of joining a group, especially if you are a new business, can be a worry. Thankfully as Anne says it is a very sound investment. We asked her – Did you have any reservations before signing up as a member?
“In terms of the group, no. At my first meeting everyone was so welcoming and I immediately felt like I was among friends. They all shared the worries I had about my business, and the excitement you get from running your own business too which was so refreshing. I was, as a brand new business owner with very few clients, worried about the membership fee though. Even though it’s great value I was still concerned about committing £40 a month of money I didn’t have yet. However it was the best thing I ever did. The support I’ve received from the group, and the friendships I’ve made, have been worth every penny.”
The other thing that can be a hard choice when you do decide you want to join a business network is which one? There are lots of groups out there and all offer slightly different things. Here at the hub we focus on building connections around learning. Each of our sessions are focused around a training talk on some aspect of business development relevant to our members. This helps create a vibrancy in the room and wider Hub community as members get fired up by new ideas and are eager to discuss how they will put them in to practice. Our members have a really forward-thinking attitude. Many groups are also based heavily on referrals, but this is not something we insist upon as we feel this develops naturally in a very efficient way when the group is engaged, as Anne explains.
“Over the years, I’ve been a member of various networking groups, and have been the chairman of a few such as Business over Breakfast. These meetings are great however they very much focus on referrals – and when you’re new to starting your own business you don’t always have referrals to give. The lovely part of the Business Hub is that it’s not based on referrals, it’s based on being a place to go for support and encouragement for business owners – there is no pressure to bring referrals. There are still referrals which take place which is fantastic but they come out of an understanding of each other’s businesses and a willingness to help each other rather than from expectation.”
Since joining the Hub
So once you join any sort of membership group you will have certain expectations and it is important for your success in any group for these expectations to be met. I was interested to see what Anne’s expectations of the hub were and whether they had been fulfilled.
“I was expecting to meet likeminded business owners and get to meet them once a week and share stories. I was also hoping to learn from the group about issues around running your own business which I wasn’t fully versed in. I got all of this but what I also got was great friendships. The people in the group aren’t just members, they’re friends. They’re there for support throughout the week, not just at meetings, and we have such a great dynamic between everyone. I would have been lost without the hub. I never thought that the people I was meeting would become such a huge support network for me outside of the meetings. Starting your own business is HARD, now I never thought it was going to be easy but I think I had played down certain elements of it in my head before taking the plunge. There were times when it was so hard that I might have given up and returned to the world of employment but the support and encouragement that I got from the hub was amazing. They also helped me completely reshape the way I thought my business was going to go, and helped me find the courage to make a big step which I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do. I literally owe the fact my business is what it is today to the hub and it’s members.”
The friendship aspect has been a huge surprise to me too. I have made some amazing friends in a very short space of time at the Hub. Friends who pick you up when you’re down, give you a reality check when needed and are there to celebrate the highs. Having honest business friends can also stop you making some catastrophic business mistakes as you know you will be getting reasoned opinions in your best interests.
At this point the Guildford Business Hub has only been existence 8 months, so is it too soon for our members to be noticing a difference? Anne started her business very recently and joined the hub almost straight away
“It’s still not even five months since I started Flamme Rouge but it’s changed immensely since I left my job and started thinking about how I would shape it. I have worked with three great clients and have two more in the pipeline to work with over the coming weeks. The business itself is still under construction in terms of refining the messages we give externally, but it’s going in the right direction and I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved so far. I’m very much risk averse in life so starting my own business was a huge leap for me, and it’s down to the support from the hub that I’ve got to where I have.”
The support that other members give to each other can certainly help build confidence for our members to go on and do even better things, but beyond that start up phase, is there much more that a group like the hub can do for your business? As Anne says …
“The ongoing support is the biggest benefit. And getting to Sunday night and looking forward to Monday mornings as I get to see the group – what a change from the Sunday night dread most people get when they’re employed. There will most likely be more referrals given and received however this really isn’t my main driver for attending this group. It’s to learn from our weekly presentations, learn from the other hub members generally and spend time with some of the most amazing, friendly and supportive people I’ve met for a number of years. With their support and encouragement I feel like I could do anything – so watch this space for the future of Flamme Rouge Consulting!”
We’re really proud of the community we have created at the Guildford Business Hub and to see the difference it makes to our members every day in terms of confidence, support and giving them the skills to make their business fly. We’re always looking for new people to join our community so if you feel that our special blend of business community could be just what you are looking for do come along for a free visit soon. You can see our events and book your free visit on the calendar below.
Also if you would like to connect with Anne Renshaw the star of our case study, here are her details
Book your free event here.