I have been to 9 in 9 days.
The answer to the ultimate breakfast networking question is at the end.
I made the rash decision a fornight ago that I would dive back into the world of business networking in North East Essex and Colchester in particular.
I say back, but I have been networking in Ipswich /Suffolk for the last four years.
Let me explain. My introduction to business networking was 10 years ago, when Yellow Pages still worked and before Blogs / Linked-in etc. I joined Colchester BNI for two years and it’ was good for business, it then became the “Can I have an ink cartridge” type of meeting so I left, I think I really didn’t get the BNI model so I became the ex-BNI ex-networker (Cynic).
Most of our business is in the northern half of Essex and in Suffolk it based on the A14 / A12 / A140 corridor.
In 2008 Suffolk business was shrinking because of mergers, closures and takeovers and because of the recession, Business with shipping related companies literally sank in a few months (pun intended). Suffolk went from 37% of our business to 10% in one year.
We had a meeting, its always good if you want to do something direction, and I run a “democratic dictatorship”. This means I ask everyone what they think and then the directors usually endorse my decision.
The solution everyone at CMX came up with was to get more work in Suffolk! – BRILLIANT! What deep thinking! I was moved! I did ask how and the consensus was to send me out into the public as apparently I am the right person and with my public speaking experience, training and lecturing ability coupled with the fact I have done it before made me that natural choice for everyone else.
So off I went, researching, phoning and discussing. Not being one to make enemies I will tell you what I found.
The timing choice
There is no “best” time for a networking meeting. I rise at 5.30am for BNI, I have finished by 8:30am so it doesn’t dent my day, well it does, I have to have a 20 minute doze sometime during the day. 7:30am / 8am starts mean that I will be back in my office at 11am by the time I have wound up my talking ( I can chat for England and probably France too).
We are then in to the lunchtime networking, These usually start at 12 but I need to leave work at 11am which means starting to clear the decks at around 10 which is 30 minutes after I have seriously got my head down to work.
The meetings are over and I am back at the office at three, ready to handle everything that happened while I was away having lunch.
Evenings are fatal for me, I spend two nights a week working with youth. So if its a free evening I tend to be with the family, eating and relaxing. Most evening do’s are in bars and are when my stomach is expecting replenishment and not masses of diet coke. I dont drink and drive.
What networking groups are there?
Networking in NE Essex & Colchester seems to be a well kept secret. Its quite difficult to find the groups. However, I think I have cracked it. I have been to ColBiz, BNI, 4N, Tendring Breakfast club and five others. Thank God I had a weekend to oversleep, although my wife did wake me up with a cooked breakfast as a joke on Saturday!
Now to the groups:
They are all different but I have come away with the following information from each:
They all think they have found the best networking answer
They all think their breakfast / lunch / beers are great
They all think BNI (except one) is rubbish, too strict and expensive
Some just “Do breakfast / Lunch / Drink” and its like a cheapo rotary to build relationships.
They all will lead to business and I can get the people I met business too, BNI experience will teach you that this is most importatnt.
Colbiz 8pm Alternate Friday’s Balkerne Gate Colchester
Colbiz is a Friday night at the Balkerne gate, you get to stand which aids mingling, you get a turn to hold the ladle, which allows you a minute’s pitch and you all get to hear a ten minute presentation, there is also a raffle based on business cards. Nice relaxed fortnightly get together to build relationships at the end of the week. Total cross section from the small business person to the suits. I found coke at £2.50 the best value drink, it was “bottomless”. I’ll be back
Tendring breakfast club 7.30am 2nd Wednesday, Charnallies Bar and Restaurant, Clacton
I have never been to a monthly meeting before, the nearest to this was, the sadly no longer, Larking Gowen meeting at Hintlesham Hal.
This was relaxed and seemed to be mainly a “Suits” occasion. You stand talking and drinking the usual Tea and Coffee. You then sit to eat your breakfast and someone does a presentation. I was surrounded by three bankers, two solicitors, an insolvency practitioner and a dentist. Nice people, we discussed Bury theatre and shows in London. No business but a real mix and chat with “suits”, not a plumber or Utility Warehouse person anywhere near. Nice bunch, I can easily live with this one at once a month.
BNI 6.45 in Colchester and Ipswich
As I can’t go to either the Castle or Heritage BNI in colchester as thgey have a one seat one profession, I went to my own chapter in Ipswich. I love BNI, it works for me and the Ipswich chapeter in particular. I have been in BNI for 6 years and four of that in Ipswich. Nuff said.
4Niz 8am Alternate Friday’s Balkerne Gate Colchester
The website doesn’t tell you much and I didn’t know what to expect but it’s brilliant, I am joining, and it doesn’t conflict with BNI membership. You can have several people from the same profession, its fortnightly, you have to book in or you don’t have a place as its limited to 33, you get three ten minute 1-2-1’s with people you choose, and there is a ten minute slot where you can’t do the hard sell.
When I went it was about charity cycling in France with a “Minion” mascot. There were also three BNI’ers there I knew. I did more networking in one meeting than I have ever done before in one go. I had meaningful sessions with three people, got to know about the 10 minute speaker, had a good breakfast with TWO fried eggs, did my 40 second presentation and was invited to an Ipswich meeting.
Outstanding, lets measure the business after a years membership.
In conclusion the ones I have mentioned I will do again, the others I havent mentioned (I bet you know who you are), Sorry I am there to give and get business. Period,
I can have the best breakfast and start early/late at home. But without networking I cant meet and build relationships face to face with everyone in the room, give and get business.
My top favourites have got to be BNI and 4N, thats where my membership money is going because I will get profit back that exceeds the cost. I will stick to social things to get social-business for my networking friends and business-like things to find business-business. I will receive business in return
The answer you are seeking?
I hope you read all the way through first but the ultimate question – The best breakfast? It’s got to be 4N and BNI Ipswich. I hate mountains of stiff scrambled egg, watery bacon and value, undercooked or over-herbed sausages. 4N best on quality but BNI gets the quantity vote but there is a lack of bread. One oeveriding point I always carry mustard in my briefcase, no one else seems to supply a decent one, if at all, for breakfast