Category: Networking

Has swearing become acceptable…or am I just getting old?

Recently I attended a virtual networking event that had a speaker. It was interesting, thought-provoking, and motivational. Really, that’s not bad and I think we would all be happy if we gave such a presentation, and someone said that about it. However (and you knew that there was either a ‘however’ or a ‘but’, didn’t you?) throughout the talk he kept swearing. Not real Anglo-Saxon stuff but the speaker seemed not to know the word for “Rubbish” and used a much shorter word. So, part of the ‘thought-provoking’ was me wondering “When did swearing become acceptable in an obviously business environment?”.

I began to think it was me, and that it was because I’m no longer young, because I’d noticed similar usage on LinkedIn (patently a business platform) in newsletters and blogs etc. Each time I saw these words I stopped thinking about what was being said and I became distracted by the words being used. Now, let’s be clear—I can swear (and I think you need a flat vowel to be really able to swear) but, for me, in a business environment amongst people who you may not know very well or know at all, I think it is unacceptable.

Today I was with a Group of people all aged between 20 and 30 and so I used this as an opportunity to ask them what their thoughts were about swearing in general and in a business environment. They were also accepting of swearing in a personal social situation, but not in a business environment. They also differentiated between ‘mild’ swearing and full-on, as my Mam would say, “effing and jeffing”, and also when swearing is continuous and part of everyday conversations. Again, I agreed with these points.

In a business environment I am always representing my business, my brand and I work too hard to project that in a positive, professional way to undermine it all by swearing. Of course, I could be getting it wrong, and I am sure you will let me know.

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It’s all about respect for others.

Recently I ventured out and started to return to face-to-face networking with people other than my ebn Groups. I am wary because, at the moment, I’m a bit unsure about meeting people I don’t know well. So, a few weeks ago I went to an exhibition for an hour, wore my mask and kept my distance, particularly from those people who wanted to stand very, very close to me.  Then last week I went to a small networking event, and it was great. I took my mask with me, just in case I felt the need and I tried to remain mindful of distance. It all seemed familiar but a bit strange, then I realised that it was all about respect for others and that has never changed.

So what has stayed the same? Previous to all the malarkey we have been going through we didn’t crowd each other, we to a certain extent took our lead from others and wanted to be respectful of others. I have experienced instances where that respect has been in evidence and some where it has not! So, let’s look at some of these latter occasions, and all of them have happened to me:

  • People charging into a conversation, pushing cards, or leaflets in everyone’s hand and then moving on to their next ‘contact’,
  • Spraying bits of food around as people tried to eat and talk at the same time. (Worst case was the person I call ‘vol-au-vent man’),
  • People using inappropriate language, perhaps thinking they were with mates rather than contacts,
  • People looking at their phones while talking to you and—my particular favourite (not)—people who look around rather than at you when they are talking to you.

So, times may be different but respect for others has not changed. So, let’s all just be aware and build our future by making and maintaining new contacts.

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Am I now a Southerner?

I come from Salford and I lived in Salford and surrounding areas for about 32 years, then I came on a training course in London, met my beloved and 2 years later I moved down South. I saw all this as a new adventure, but my dad never quite got over me moving passed Watford Gap and staying! I learnt what colloquialisms not to use (ask me when you see me), I learnt to talk slower and slowly my accent changed to the point where, as my beloved says: “I’ve got all the flat vowels I’m ever going to need but the edges have been knocked off”. When I went ‘home’ people would ask where I had got the daft accent. Years passed and slowly the number of people I kept in touch with reduced to the point where I hadn’t gone back for about 10 years.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, my beloved was at a conference in Manchester and I decided to go along and meet some Christmas card people, all of whom I hadn’t met for about 40 years. I also planned to visit some of the houses I had lived in, and go to Bury (said with a flat vowel please) and buy the best black puddings in the world, proper link black puddings. I went to one of my past homes and didn’t recognise any of the areas and spent most of my travelling time thinking “Where am I?”.

I had a lovely couple of afternoons catching up with my contacts. We spent quite a lot of time doing that “Whatever happened to…” and “Do you remember when…” All in all, however, I came away feeling slightly sad, because I realised that I no longer fitted into the place I had known so well. Coincidentally, a couple of days after I got back, I had to drive into central London and I suddenly realised that I knew that area well, I knew shortcuts, found ways round traffic jams, and knew where there were parking places. In fact, it all felt comfortable, familiar and like home. My home is here, my friends and contacts are here and my life is here.

I think it is true to say that cut me in half and I’ll have Made in Salford at my core. That being said I have come to the conclusion that I may now be a Southerner, so I’m off to buy some vests. There might be a cold snap this winter and I might start being less hardy. I’m not prepared to chance it. BTW I also now have half a freezer of link Black puddings if anyone wants to try one cooked the correct way i.e. boiled.

So where were you born and, if you moved as an adult, where do you call home?

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Let me ask you a question: How are you doing?

On 23rd March 2020 I made a promise to myself that, whatever happened, I would come out of this malarkey in a good place mentally and I would help others to do the same. Why did I make this promise? Well, as those of you who read my blogs know (thank you, and for those who don’t—good to meet you) on that day two things happened. 1. On paper I didn’t have a business and 2, I was told I was extremely vulnerable and—to quote my GD—Covid 19 could well kill me if I got it!

So, while dealing with potentially having no business I also had to deal psychologically with this new label and its potential implications. What I did was decide that I would be open with these issues, tell people how I was feeling and how I was coping. That’s not the way people in business interreact with other businesspeople. Right? Wrong! We decide how we communicate. I surround myself with people who are humans and not robots, people who have lives, both inside and outside of business, challenges as well as opportunities. What I found was that by being open with how I was feeling, as well as how my business was doing, people felt able to tell me how they were doing and feeling.

When I asked how are things going? I let them decide what they told me and which area of their life they wanted to tell me about. I’ve had men and women crying because they were worried about their family, friends, staff, business, and the future. Together we have shared, supported, and moved forward. In fact, we built our relationships…and as we all know, that’s what networking is all about. Each working day I rang three people who I might have previously emailed. Some were members, some contacts, some randomly chosen, others people who I could have sent an email. Each time I asked my question and waited for their reply. Some chose to talk as they would before Covid 19 came on our radar and changed our lives, others who talked about other things.

In the main things are getting better for us all. One thing I hope is that we retain some of this talking about our mental wellbeing not just how our business is going. So, are you with me? And, how are you doing?

Since networking is about building relationships, please accept my gift of Top 20 networking tips Just complete the form to download your copy.

Have fun, stay safe.


Grieve and release.

Recently I was talking to a business contact about a problem she had had with technology. Now, technology and I don’t get along, so I was commiserating without really understanding the problem. What I did understand was that a great chunk of her work had disappeared and could not be retrieved. Now, I may not have understood why or how this had happened, but I felt my stomach drop as I thought about the implications of what had happened. What would I do if this had happened to me and my business?

She seemed very calm and philosophical about the whole thing and I said this to her. What she said made me think. She said that she realised she had gone through some of the stages of grieving. She grieved and moved on. At that point we had to move on, but she had started me thinking. So, when I got back to the office, I looked up the stages of grief and apparently it is generally accepted there are 7 stages. They are:

  • Shock and denial.
  • Pain and guilt.
  • Anger and bargaining.
  • Depression.
  • The upward turn.
  • Reconstruction and working through.
  • Acceptance and hope.

Once I read this, I realised that in business if something catastrophic happens we rarely have the luxury of time to ‘grieve’, as we must deal and move on. We need to learn from the experience rather than allowing it to stop us. It may be that ‘grieve’ is too strong a word and perhaps the process is actually ‘breathe and move on’.

What do you think?

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Have fun, stay safe


Owning a business? It should be fun.

In the last couple of weeks, I have had some conversations with people who are relatively new to business (less than 2 years) and who were finding it all quite difficult. One said, “When does it get easier?” Another said, “I’m always working” and another said, “It’s just so hard to juggle everything that needs doing”. All these are valid points about owning a business and I certainly have thought them all in the first couple of years. So, for each one we spent some time talking through their issues, starting with their comments.

Before I look at this though, I want to start with how it was for me when I started my first business 25 years ago. I left my corporate job because I was not having fun. I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I did know I didn’t want to stay doing what I was doing and had done for nearly 24 years.

What to do? Well, what I did was talk to friends and ask them what I should do. In fact, I networked!

 I also realised 3 things:

1. I needed some “Rules to live by”

2. I didn’t, and couldn’t, know everything

3. I had skills which people would pay to use.

How did that go?

1 The rules I set were:

  • Whatever I did had to be fun, otherwise I could stay employed not having fun but getting a very good salary plus bonus etc.
  • I would never do anything I didn’t want to do; with anyone I didn’t want to do it with. I would choose how my business grew and who I worked with and for.
  • I would never go back to working full-time and permanently for anyone ever again. So, in the first year when money was scarce, I did part time and temporary jobs that added to my skills for example I worked in a call centre doing cold calling.

2. I networked and found people who enjoyed stuff like accounts, IT, HR, marketing, admin etc. Things which I didn’t want to do. This meant that I could focus on building my business, getting and doing the work, which were things I did want to do.

3.  I was very well trained when I worked in the corporate world. I managed a large budget and two large teams, and I had some national responsibilities. I saw the worth in what I had been trained to do and knew that most, if not all, were transferable skills.

These were my rules and they worked for me.

Now let’s look at the three observations I started with:

“When does it get easier” Whatever the size of your company there will be difficult times and these don’t come in a linear fashion, because it sometimes seems just when you think things are going well you hit a bump. This, for me, is part of the excitement, the challenge, and sometimes this can be frustrating but on each occasion I learn. It does become easier with more experience but that can be said of anything I think.

“I’m always working” When you run your own business this is always true. I now have a rule that I don’t work after 6.30 and never at weekends. But by this I mean physical work, so I never stop working because my brain may have a lightbulb moment and I may need to give it some time to develop the idea, and this might be after 6.30 or during a weekend. Of course, I now have a business where people rarely contact me and say “I need to network now” which was not true of previous businesses I’ve had, where customers would need something urgently, e.g. a last-minute corporate lunch that needed catering.  But with the customer who did this fairly regularly I came to the agreement that I would always sort it for her but she would have no choice of what was provided. This meant I had a degree of control. Others I would not take the booking but pass then to another catering company who were happy to have that lack of control.

“It’s just so hard to juggle everything that needs doing”. Yes it is, but by developing suppliers you can focus on what you do best, things that make you money to pay suppliers and make a profit.

Owning a business is not for everyone but I love it: the challenges, the adventures, the successes. I could never go back to being employed, and as my beloved said once “You never did bosses well!”

The three people I started with are all deciding whether they should go back into employment. My question  to each was and would always be: are you having any fun? Because if you are not having fun, stop doing it. Go and get a job, and if that is not fun at least you have a regular salary that you can use to have fun outside of work.

What are your thoughts?

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Don’t talk in code…unless you are a spy.

Recently I was sending an email and used C/F instead of Chelmsford. The recipient said that she had taken some thought to work out what it meant. Fortunately, I know the person well but imagine if I hadn’t and had caused her this inconvenience.  I think we all use “shorthand”, usually work based, and assume people understand, but the reality is that we are potentially building barriers, and this doesn’t help with building relationships. Because communicating well is one way we build relationships.

This applies to not only how we communicate verbally but also in writing, and particularly how we communicate on our website. I can’t tell you7 the number of times I’ve gone to look at someone’s website and come away no better informed than when I started about what they do. Management speak, buzz words (Some of which never seem to disappear and are still incomprehensible to outsiders), and industry specific phrases which people outside that particular industry don’t come across. My C/F for example is Post Office shorthand which I last used professionally 25 years ago.

Yes people can ask, query, question but how many do? Most just move on to someone else, another person, another supplier, and we might be the person who could have been that supplier. What to do? My solution for long pieces of communication (Websites, policies, strategy reports) is to get someone to write it who does that professionally, for shorter pieces (Blog) is to get to someone outside my industry and ask them to read it. I ask the questions 1. Is it worth reading and 2. Do they understand what I am trying to communicate? Unfortunately, when communicating by, say, emails or when talking this separate check is impossible or would be too unwieldy. So, I try to be aware of talking in code but as my recent contact proved, I sometimes get it wrong.

What are your thoughts?

To help build our relationship, please accept my gift of 20 Top networking tips Just complete the form to download your copy.

Have fun, stay safe


Networking?…it’s not really working

At the beginning of the year I was talking to a business contact about why his networking seemed to have stopped being so effective. He thought it was because people felt they couldn’t spend money because we are living in uncertain times or, he said, it might be because he was not meeting people face-to-face. So we started to talk in more depth because, he said, things were really not going well and they had been going very well.

The first question I asked was, had anything changed with his marketing? Well, of course, we were no longer allowed to meet face-to-face, but I know many people who had flourished despite having to use virtual meetings. So, not being able to meet face-to-face couldn’t be the problem, or at least not all of the problem. I also know many companies who have managed to maintain, and even grow, their business throughout the difficult times we have been living through. So, there is money out there that people want, or need, to spend.

Then he said “I really don’t like networking at virtual meetings”. (I’ve paraphrased a long monologue that he needed to get off his chest about what he really didn’t like about virtual meetings). Some of the things he mentioned are covered in my blog “Would you do that if we were meeting face to face?”

The main thing that came out was that he was networking less, so he was not meeting new contacts, and he was not nurturing those contacts he had made before March 2020. So we made a plan (I love a plan). We looked at what had happened to those networking events he used to attend and, for those which had started meeting virtually, we developed a diary of events he could attend. We also looked at what events were now available virtually and added them to his diary. He decided he would start by attending two or three a week. Finally, he decided to set aside half an hour a day for getting in touch with people he had lost touch with, to renew and develop the contacts he had worked hard to nurture. He actually made a promise to himself to do all this because, as he said ”I never break a promise.”

Every couple of weeks we would have a quick catch-up telephone chat, and guess what? Money is coming in! The reason it worked? Because you have to work at networking and keep working at it, otherwise it doesn’t work.

If you want more networking tips go to: Top 20 networking tips or get in touch if you would like me to work with you to improve your networking.

Have fun, stay safe.



Meeting etiquette

Recently I was in a breakout room with someone who I had known since the first lockdown. Usually, she was great to spend time with: upbeat, knowledgeable in her field and not pushy. Today it was different, she obviously had to get something off her chest. It seems that, in the main room, someone was eating while being on camera, and she was irate!

My understanding of what was being said was that she thought this was unprofessional and disrespectful since, she said, whilst concentrating on eating, full attention was not being given to whatever was being said. Also, part of the problem was how close we are when we are meeting via a screen rather than when in a face-to-face meeting. Suffice to say once she had her say, she calmed down and became the upbeat, knowledgeable-in-her-field and not-pushy person I had known so far.

Now, I hadn’t seen the person eating, but her strong response got me thinking:

  • First, is eating during virtual meetings acceptable?
  • Next, if no, what is acceptable to consume?
  • And finally, the issue of people multi-tasking during meetings.

So, let’s look at each issue a bit more.

Is eating during virtual meetings acceptable?

Well, I’d rather not watch someone eating, and some people, I think, forget they are not sat on their own in their dining room. They shovel it in, munch away and keep inspecting whatever food is left in their hand. I don’t really like it and I do think it looks unprofessional. After all, how many meetings do you go to with potential customers where you eat your toast during the meeting? I don’t feel very strongly, but I would rather not see it in a virtual meeting. Furthermore, there’s no travelling time, so this saved time could be used to have the food before the meeting.

If eating is not acceptable, then is anything acceptable?

Now, I must admit to a challenge I have. I drink cappuccinos and, when I do, I have to stop myself from licking the spoon. There. It’s said, I’m working on it and trying my best. Phew! That’s better now it’s in the open. Anyway, from that you can see that I think it’s OK to drink non-alcoholic drinks during a virtual meeting—but from a glass, cup or receptacle that has been produced for drinking from. Not, as I saw once, drinking from the container it was bought in.

Multi-tasking during meetings

My contact was in part annoyed because she thought if people are eating, they are not concentrating on what is being said. I agree, and if you want to know more about this go to:

What do you think?

(And, in case you are saying, “Don’t ebn meet over breakfast?” Yes, we do, and we stop any kind of presenting while we all eat breakfast and chat to our neighbours, and we sit further apart than we do when we meet virtually.)

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It all happens subliminally.

Recently I was talking to a business contact about someone we both knew. He said “Oh I’d never refer him to my contacts, he’s always late and disorganised” I was surprised since I also thought the same thing. I was interested to work out why we had come to the same conclusion but we both didn’t really know why.

We discussed it further and realised that it was based on two things:

1 Arriving late at meetings, even virtual ones!

Now, neither of us had actively thought about this individually, but both of us thought he was always late, without being able to say when he had been late, how late and how often. We just both thought he was always late, and we wouldn’t make any introductions because we assumed he’d turn up late to any meeting.

2 Not prepared.

Again, we realised that we hadn’t made a decision about this, we just thought he was ill-prepared. My contact said he never came to a meeting and seemed to have thought about the meeting. In addition, my contact had once seen him give a presentation at an event and he didn’t seem to know what was coming next…and it was his presentation! Oh, and he had turned up late!

So why is any of this important?

We need to know that we all make judgements: “Wouldn’t have put those shoes with that dress” at a base level to “Wouldn’t refer him/her to my best client” at a much more important level. The problem is that some judgements we know we are making, even if we try not to.  Some judgements we make subliminally and those are the ones that are much more difficult to deal with.

The important thing is to know that subliminally we are all being judged, and so perhaps we need to behave as if we are trying to make a first impression.

What do you think?

If you want more networking tips go to:

Have fun, stay safe