Olive Strachan North West Export Champion 2016
phone +44 (0) 161 209 3950


Having worked in a professional environment since the beginning of my career there has been a lot of change in the way organisations and individuals do business together. We were not encouraged to share information or work with others, we were told to; Go out there! Close that deal! Make it happen! This was reflected in your PDR’s when you would often be asked the question ‘what have you achieved?’ What added value have you brought to this organisation through your individual effort?

Fast forward to today and how things have changed! The word collaboration or being collaborative is part of most competency frameworks, with employees being encouraged to demonstrate that they are collaborating not only with colleagues within their business but with other organisations that may complement what they do. We are encouraged to increase our visibility through communication and influencing skills.

I have been on the Manchester Branch of the CIPD for many years and the values of the CIPD are around;

P A C E

Which stand for:
  • Purposeful
  • Agile
  • Collaborative
  • Expert
Once again that word Collaborative features as part of the values they hold dear.

As the CEO and founder of Olive Strachan Resources the word collaborate is a call to action. To be collaborative we have to reach out to others and demonstrate the business benefits of working together. In October of this year I experienced collaboration at its best. On 6th October we collaborated with TLT Solicitors to organise The Olive Branch networking event for professional business women. The event involved professional women sitting together to plan an event that would inform, interest and inspire people to come along and give up their valuable time.

TLT were gracious enough to host the event and provide us with a beautiful venue together with a delicious healthy lunch which was extremely popular. The event was in two parts, eating for maximum brain health and managing and retaining your talent. The feedback was extremely positive with everyone saying how worthwhile the event was and they had found it very beneficial. I was also asked ‘when the next event would take place’.

The second successful collaboration was with Hays recruitment specialist who were kind enough to host the CIPD HR Leaders event on 8th October. This was a breakfast event and Chris Maguire the Editor of Insider magazine gave us an insight into the world of newspapers and the changes he had observed over the years. It was rewarding to see a variety of organisations network over coffee and croissants. This event also involved Hay’s inviting along some of their clients who are HR Leaders to network with CIPD Chartered Fellows.

The feedback was fantastic and everyone had appreciated the opportunity to meet other North West businesses and enjoyed sharing insights into current issues. A benchmark of a good event is when an hour after the event has finished, there are still people sitting there reluctant to leave.

What are the benefits of collaborating?
  • We bring people together who would normally never meet in the scheme of things.
  • We learn from each other, each person has a different view point and methodology
  • We form new friendships and links that could be life changing
  • We learn new skills
  • We grow our business
  • We raise our profile in the business world and I could go on and on…
What should you do?
  • If you haven’t already then add collaboration to your marketing and PR plan.
  • Look for organisations that complement your own.
  • Clarify the outcomes of the collaboration so that there is no ambiguity
  • Have planning meetings so that on the day it runs smoothly with each person understanding their role and their contribution to the event.
  • Review and evaluate so that you can make any improvements next time.
Social Media

Use Social media to create some excitement around the event and raise awareness; we made use of twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. It is very important to liaise with the organisations you are collaborating with so that you have a clear and consistent message.

Big NO NO’s

If you are using a speaker always see them in action before you use them and clarify that if they are good enough their product or service will speak for themselves. The lasting impression is how good your service or product is and NOT a big sales pitch. There is nothing worse than taking time out to go to an event when the speaker does not divulge the information you expect to be imparted. Instead they give you a teaser then proceed to ask you to view their website or read their book or register on their next event costing x amount so you will hear the rest!!

There you have it! So go ahead, collaborate! Share! Enjoy. I felt a sense of pride and achievement at both of my events this week and plan many more! If you feel you would like to work with OSR on future events email olive@olivestrachan.com

OSR networking

In my previous career in the recruitment industry with Reed, Blue Arrow and Adecco, we were taught the importance of networking. This was in the days before LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, so we had to do it the good old-fashioned way: go out and meet people! This involved running events, assisting clients (such as Astra Zeneca and Matalan) with 'Learning at Work Day' events, and speaking at as many events as possible. The important thing was to get your leaflets out and speak to as many people as you could, as well as collection loads of business cards (which all then needed to be followed up). This had to be undertaken within the first 3 days of meeting that person before they went off the boil. At this time, the word 'Business Development' was a dirty word!

Move forward 20 years, and professionals - including accountants and solicitors - now have business development as part of their remit.

As an SME, and having run my own consultancy for 17 years, you may well ask what networking has done for me, and whether or not I have any hints and tips to share. For me, there are 3 key things that I feel are important in relation to networking:

Communicate

Decide what you are going to communicate. You have to ask yourself "what is my brand?" and "who are my audience?" before you launch yourself into any on or offline networking. At present, there are so many events that you could spend every day attending a different one. How will this benefit you or your business in the short and the long term? I often meet people at events who do not have a clear strategy as to what to communicate regarding their product or service. So clarify who you want to communicate to, what you want to communicate, and how you are going to do it.

Connect

You are now ready to make some connections. So, how are you going to do this? An obvious method is social media. There is so much choice nowadays; I find that Facebook is useful for long-term contacts that have been clients and are now friends. Twitter has proven successful for sharing my message, and LinkedIn for maintaining visibility and creating and reinforcing my brand. But I have found that, after the initial connection via social media, the face-to-face meetings are where you cement that connection and decide if you can do business together.

Netowrking isn't just about gaining business; you also give business to others when you meet them. One of my suppliers, Greenlight Computers, has taken care of my IT needs for the past 7 years, and this started from a networking event organised by the 'Federation of Small Businesses' (FSB). We met, connected, and have worked together ever since.

A good networker uses different communication styles to make their networking effective. With social media, look at the words you use and the tone of your communication. With face-to-face networking, look at the impact you make when walking into the room and put forward a compelling case to attract your fellow networkers to make contact with you. Don't do what one complete stranger did to me at a networking event: interrupt the conversation, invade someone else's personal space, thrust a business card into their hand, pitch your business, then move on to better prey without listening to a word from the other person.

Form an Alliance

This is about meeting someone, finding common ground, and getting them to commit to an ongoing relationship. Initially, just meet for coffee and explore the relationship, or - if they have a need - you can offer support; it could be 'I know someone whom I feel you should meet', or 'I am going to an event, would you like to come?' It is crucial that, at all stage, you remember the golden rule: 'Do not take and not give back'. There is nothing worse than the network grabber who asks for your help and takes it, but when you call them, they are never available. Then, when they want something, they give you a ring! Always give back, share, and try to help if you can.

Olive Strachan and others

If you would like to hear more about my knowledge of networking (spanning over 20 years) and how to make the most of your network, our next course, Networking for Business Success, will be hold 14th May at our offices at Regus, Peter House, Oxford Street, Manchester.

Tel: 0161 209 3950 // Email: olive@olivestrachan.com

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