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If you’re lucky enough to work in the Oxfordshire/Berkshire/Northamptonshire/West London area, you’ll find there’s a whole wealth of networking opportunities on your doorstep for practically every day of the week. But how can you select a group that gives you the return you’re looking for, for your investment of time and money?

In this blog we’ll look at some of the questions you’ll want to ask yourself before choosing a networking group, and we’ll explain how Heart of business (Hob) works. If you’d like to know more, you’d be welcome to try out one of our upcoming meetings. We have groups in the Oxford and Slough areas and are looking to start more in north Oxfordshire, the A34 corridor, and/or west London in 2016.

1. What’s the philosophy?  

Some networking groups are about meeting new people in a relaxed environment, hearing interesting talks and presentations on a variety of topics, and gradually extending your contacts. If you’re looking for organic growth, this approach might be just right for you.

But if you’ve set yourself an ambitious target and want to ensure everything you do directly contributes to achieving it, the Heart of business approach might suit you better. We’ve developed a very specific, results-oriented formula that inspires business owners to become more efficient and effective, through innovation, creative ideas, building trust, challenging one another, pushing out comfort zones and taking action.

2. What kinds of people will I meet?  

If it’s more than socialising you’re after, you’ll want introductions to new people that match your client profile. You’ll also want to meet suppliers and trainers who can equip you to do things better. Finding trustworthy people of the right calibre, with the right experience, can be hit-and-miss – especially in groups that are open to everyone.

Heart of business takes the effort out of finding those quality contacts. Members are carefully selected and placed in teams of 25-30 ambitious business owners committed to helping each other – and their clients – achieve breakthrough. Around five of the members are business coaches and mentors; the others represent services that help clients implement their plans. These Approved Delivery Partners can include for example website, marketing, IT, HR, financial, administrative and printing services, as well as personal development.

The Heart of business ethos is that ‘together we’re stronger’. How much more robust would your offering be if you could team up with reliable partners to deliver a whole package of services to help your clients meet their goals?

3. What are the chances of getting new business?

Some people find traditional networking groups result in new business in a short space of time. Others discover they have to kiss a lot of networking ‘frogs’ before meeting exactly the right client ‘prince/princess’. Heart of business’s results-oriented model makes referrals a key driver of growth. Hob members are financially incentivised to create business opportunities for each other. They refer valuable leads who have already identified specific needs and have the funds available to get the job done. So there are rewards for everyone, whether you benefit from a referral, or make one. It’s even possible to earn back the membership fees and make a profit from the referrals you make.

4. When and where are the meetings held, and what happens?

There’s something to be said for evening networking events that allow you to shift down a gear at the end of a busy day, or breakfast meet-ups that extend your working day into the early morning.

Heart of business events take place during the working day. That’s because our three-hour meetings are carefully structured working sessions that combine networking with Continuing Professional Development. The main event kicks off at 12 noon with a Hob signature ‘getting to know you’ exercise, followed by lunch. An interactive session in the afternoon serves to build the team and stimulate thinking. Recent topics have included:

  • How to structure and deliver short talks that inspire
  • How to create a social media strategy for your business
  • LinkedIn business development tips
  • Problem solving – case studies
  • HR top tips – case studies

Members are expected to attend at least 75% of monthly meetings, and are likely to be invited to lead a session once or twice a year.

Current venues include The Lambert Arms, just off Junction 6 of the M40 and Grovefield House Hotel in Burnham near Slough. Two more venues will be added this year.

5. What’s the cost 

Membership fees for networking groups vary widely. As with everything else, you’ll want to think not just about the cost but about the value it represents. The monthly membership fee for Heart of business doesn’t just cover the in-depth workshops, networking opportunities and referrals system … you’ll also benefit from exposure through a shared marketing platform that includes blogging opportunities and a Heart of business client newsletter.

6. Is there an opportunity to try it out?

Most networking groups offer an introductory session before you join up. If you’re interested in finding out more about Heart of business, check the dates of our upcoming Taster Event on 19th May at the Jury Hotel, North Oxford and sign up as a guest (for just £50 +VAT including lunch) to experience it for yourself. Alternatively, to arrange an informal chat just drop us a line.

7. Can I get involved in Leadership?

Heart of business is currently looking for Hob group leaders (including business mentors, coaches, financial directors and trainers) who are looking for a strong networking platform for their business and would be prepared to work with us launching and building groups of like-minded professionals. If you think this could be you, please  get in touch.