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“I think I’ve just bought a networking business” – Simon Edmondson

Today on the Engaging Marketeer podcast, I am joined by Simon Edmonton, who runs the Business Network Chester. Simon helps business leaders to meet to generate business, create new contacts and share thoughts and experience with each other.

Simon and I are discussing everything that makes Business Network Chester different to other networking organisations, how he got started in the world of networking, and what the dos (and don’ts) when trying to get the most from your networking efforts.

Simon on his beginnings in networking…

Darren: There’s a lot of networking organisations around. What possessed you to get involved into networking?
Simon: Well, 14 years ago I joined the Federation of Small Businesses as a membership advisor, and at that time they didn’t do any networking. Nothing at all. I said “why are we not doing networking?” So we started a couple of small networking groups, and that went quite well. As you’ll know now, we sit down for lunch, 6/7 to a table and discuss who we are and what we do. The nice thing is you are able to meet some larger companies as well.

…on the difference between his group and other networking organisations…

Darren: What’s the biggest difference between other networking and the Business Networks?
Simon: A few things. We’re only once a month, it’s quite relaxed in the way that we don’t have everybody sat around one big area. In fact, our CRM makes sure that if you come one month, you will not be sat with the same people the next month. It’s more of a conversation than just elevator pitches, you know?

Darren: You mentioned that some people that go to the meetings end up staying there all day. So theoretically, you could be at a Business Network meeting from 9-5?
Simon: All day, yeah. The follow up meetings we do are more important than our lunches, really. The lunches are just an introduction, the follow up is the real thing.

…on how to join Business Network Chester…

Darren: Your setup is very different to any networking group I’ve ever been a part of or am currently a part of. If somebody wants to join, how do they do that?
Simon: Well, the website is the first place, of course. That’s if anyone wants to sign up through there. My LinkedIn as well is a good place to contact me and I can send them an invite.

…on how to (and how NOT to) network…

Simon: What we do is before the lunch, we send out the table plan so people know who they’re going to be sat with. And somebody might say ‘well, I’d rather sit with this person if I can’-
Darren: You mean they might ask to sit by anyone aside from Ryan from Engage Web? Sorry Ryan.
Simon: Yes, exactly. Or they might go ‘I wanted to speak to that person, I’m gonna pitch my little five minutes more aimed at that person than anybody else’
Darren: I’m glad you brought that up, because there’s a lot of people that go to networking meetings and think that they’re just going to turn up say hi I’m ___ from ___, I ___ and do ___, do you need ___ from me? Do YOU need ___ from me?
Simon: Yes, for sure. It takes time to build that trust with people.

…on his family’s history of networking…

Darren: Obviously, buying a networking event isn’t something you just do on a whim. Where did your networking journey start?
Simon: It actually starts back in 1976. I wasn’t networking in 1976, I was only 13. My mum had a shop in Sale back in the late 50s, early 60s. She was a businessperson, but had a phenomenal network of customers, and I always refer to the fact that she used that network to get me my very first job. Networking is not just going out business, it’s all sorts of social and sports and things that can help you along in life.

Darren: It’s interesting that you started this before BNI even began in 1985.
Simon: Sale Luncheon Club was, you know, the forerunner and it was literally all the professionals in Sale. But well, didn’t Dale Carnegie write his book in 1929 or something like that? So networking’s been going on for a lot longer than that.
Darren: A lot of people when they join networking groups, if they’ve got the right attitude, worry about being able to find referrals for other people. I’m from South Wales, I didn’t really know anybody when I first came in, but I’m still able to do it because, as you said, people come to you when they realize that you are the person that can connect them.

…on his advice for networking…

Darren: Have you got any advice for people going to networking meetings?
Simon: There’s 10 words that we go by: Turn up. Be nice. Listen carefully. Ask questions. Follow up.

…on the future of Business Network Chester…

Darren: So what’s the future of Business Network Chester? You’ve obviously done a lot different than other business networks, so what are you planning next?
Simon: We’re not going to change radically. The Business Network works in its format. We’re going to bring in a few extra events that are more social. We’re always promoting the network, and of course our members.

Remember to head over to the Business Network Chester if you’d like to join Simon’s organisation. You can also find him on LinkedIn if you’d like to learn more about how it works.

Huge thanks to Simon for coming on the podcast, it was a really enjoyable conversation.

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