Feast or famine: Look after your Network.

Feast or Famine, a familiar phrase for many consultants. You know how it goes. You get out there networking to market your services. Then you get really busy, too busy in fact to spend time to think about, let alone go networking. Then suddenly your project comes to an end and so does your income. So you gird your loins and go along to the next networking event and start the whole process over again. 

Our new normal is full of uncertainty but what we do see is a new feast and famine emerging. A distinct polarisation across businesses, and the consultants that advise them, between those feasting and those facing famine. The over-busy consultants who are offering “must have” advice about such matters as redundancies and social distancing in the workplace. Then there’s the underemployed who tend to be involved in longer term projects, such as strategic planning or staff development. It’s not that business leaders don’t want these services, it’s just a hesitancy to spend the money whilst waiting for more market certainty or simply until there is cash in the bank.

Whether you’ve got a full order book or staring at the empty spaces in your diary, my advice is look after your network; these are the people who are the source of your success. Invest in them now and it will come back to you in the future. Building productive business relationships is like having an emotional bank account – you make deposits now so that you can make withdrawals later. It does require a different mindset. An early piece of advice I had was to consider your referral sources as your best clients.

I suspect that you’re never too busy to take a call from your best clients or to touch base to make sure things are going well. So, with your close business relationships factor in dedicated time for others, especially if they are struggling. You can often accomplish a lot for someone in a short period of time. Can you really not block out a couple of hours a week to focus on others in your network who are finding it tough?

If you’ve got too much time on your hands, think how wonderful it is that you can spend time helping a friend who is too busy. Or maybe getting back in touch with people you haven’t spoken to for ages and check out if they are OK too.

The emphasis is always about how you help the other person. Here’s some examples drawn from my network. 

With the start of lockdown when we were all in shock and learning how to work shut away in our spare bedrooms, I started a support group for my top 12 business relationships. We would have a virtual lunch together with no agenda, just mutual support and share what help we needed.  Everyone came to the first meeting and pretty much everyone has attended fortnightly ever since. So when I asked the group if they would attend a briefing meeting to understand how they could help me with referrals they all came and an increase in referrals has followed.

Sometimes it is not about referrals but about business advice from the coal front. I attended Roger’s virtual coffee morning of his trusted network where members shared their experience of what is actually happening in their industries, what opportunities were available and also some words of caution.

Think about how you might help those whose market has really collapsed. How about forming a collaboration between the over-busy and too quiet? One of my clients whose market has shut down completely in lock down is helping his over-busy business friends with much needed behind the scenes administrative support.

So whatever stage of your feast or famine cycle you are at, look after others so that they, in return, are willing and able to look after you.

Jacky Sherman
Asentiv Northants and Milton Keynes
07970 638 857

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