Having just organised the CIMA Members in Practise (MiP) two day annual conference – along with a great team – I thought it would be a good time to explore the theme of volunteering.
For most of us running our businesses is a fairly all consuming activity and we can generally fill every minute of our working day. This makes us feel that taking on any additional work as a volunteer would just be too much hassle.
However, I have found that unexpected dividends can come from doing that bit extra.
Firstly, I have been taken well out of my comfort zone. Accountants, even management ones, are not generally called upon to find great speakers on a limited budget, to fill a two day programme. We are not natural marketeers and struggle to ‘sell’ to anyone. But I have been forced to address these issues and conquer my natural tendency to avoid tasks I find difficult.
In the short, medium and long term this will stand me in very good stead when looking to grow my own business.
Secondly, I have been able to ‘give back’. When I started my businesses there were several key people without whose help my journey would have been much more tortuous. Top of the list of these key people were long standing MiPs whose insights helped me to make important short cuts.
Conference is a key way for new MiPs to take similar short cuts by getting the help of established members in practise and excellent CPD they may not have access to otherwise. So by being involved as a volunteer I feel I am thanking the guys who invested in me.
Finally, volunteering has helped me to make life-long friends with some really great people. I have got to know my fellow volunteers really well and feel I have broadened my support network in a way I would not have been able to do otherwise.
So if you have the opportunity to become involved – take it!!
I thought as a conference I am organising is just around the corner it would be a good time to revisit the theme of professional conferences.
I have been to the CIMA Members in Practise conference for years and have always got key benefits from going:
- The conference is excellent for CPD, which as a professional management accountant, is vital. Although I don’t do tax or compliance myself I do need enough knowledge to help point clients in the right direction and conference is a good place to top up my knowledge.
- As well as specific CPD on accountancy issues we also have great key note speakers who motivate me to have the best business I can.
- Finally on the CPD front, sales and marketing is always a challenge for me and we have great workshops on how to get our messages across.
- For me, though, conference is about much more than just getting CPD. Because conference is full of like-minded individuals it is a great place to build relationships, which can carry me through the year. Working on our own can be a lonely place and these relationships help me to keep a balanced view of my world.
- And let’s not forget the gala dinner, disco, and the ‘craic’ at the bar! We have such a good time and, as I don’t get out very often, it is one of the few evenings in the year when I feel like a grown up!
I am really excited about what I will learn from this year’s conference but there is a sting in the tail.
Again I am chair of the conference (no pressure!!).
Last year the conference nightmares included not bringing the speaker slides and having to wing a presentation because one of the speakers didn’t turn up (could happen for real!). My nightmare of choice this year has been that a random eastern European pipe band crashes the event and plunges us all into chaos.
Nightmares aside I know it will all be OK because we have put many hours of preparation into it and we know we have a great programme.
So, if you are cogitating about whether to go to your professional conference (especially if you have not gone before) my advice is ‘give it a go’. You will probably get much more out of it than you ever imagined!
I have long believed that effective networking is key to business success. This is particularly so for business to business services. However, it is always difficult to decide which of the numerous networking groups are best for your particular business. It is very easy to waste time and money doing lots of ineffective networking – by ineffective I mean networking which does not result in building ‘real’ business relationships.
I believe that successful networking is less about the format and the networking organisation and more about the individuals in the group. Are they the type of people who are moving in the same markets as you? Are they talking to the people you want to talk to? Can you see yourself building great referral relationships with them? If the answer is yes to any or all of these questions the chances are you have found a netwoking group which may well work for you.
So how do you get the best out of networking meetings?
Having a plan is an excellent start. Some groups provide a list of people who have booked for the meeting so look at who is going and decide who you want to talk to. Groups with a sit down meal often give you the opportunity for you to request to sit next to a particular person – or at least on the same table as that person. So use this facility.
If you have been invited to a group by a member discuss with them in advance who in the group would be good contacts for you. If they can introduce you to each other through LinkedIn or by email in advance you will be happier approaching them at the meeting.
After the meeting FOLLOW UP! However, well you got along with the people you meet they will soon forget you if you don’t follow up with further ‘get to know you properly meetings’ (or 121s). Remember everyone in the room will be meeting lots of people all the time – you need to find a way to make sure they keep you in mind if you want them to work with you.
So, I would like to sign off by saying that it does not matter how many people you meet during your networking – what matters is how many of them you follow up and build a mutually productive relationship with.