I’m sure that there are many of us, both males and females, who often struggle to create a work life balance and juggle the many roles they have to play and I watched hoping I might find out some sort of recipe or formula that could aid my success.
Like many things, the secrets of the ‘superwoman’ Sarah Jessica Parker plays boiled down to a few simple yet incredibly hard to find key ingredients. The mum, wife and high flying financial investor relied and thrived on three or four key relationships, special people that made her life manageable and her juggling act doable and as I watched the film, I began to think about the key people who do and have, made my journey possible.
Fortunately, I have a whole host of great people in my world from my amazing business partner Sarah through to my best friend Alex, who make it easier for me to make important decisions, find time to rest and keep going when things get tough. Thankfully, I have also developed a great business network over the last five years who always help me define and develop my ideas, work with me to make things happen and are often my clients, brand ambassadors and business advisors. Your network, your key relationships, really will be the difference between success and failure and just like Sarah Jessica Parker, can work with you to make sure you can have it all.
The question is, how did I do it? How did I go from a recent graduate with no idea about business, unknown to anyone in the professional world to an established player in the London startup scene? Well this, just like everything else, started with just one relationship. Luckily for me, it was a relationship with Oli Barrett who was once cited as the most networked man in Britain, who took speed networking across the Globe and above all is genuinely passionate about making valuable connections.
Oli makes networking seem effortless. His connections are always incredibly thoughtful, his relationships are always maintained and the events he runs are always worth working late, travelling across London or putting on your nicest pair of shoes for the day. As I think about my entrepreneurial journey, I realise that many of the best business relationships, decisions and deals have been made as a result of Oli, his introductions and the skills he has shared with me over the years.
So what are the secrets to this mans success? How do you become known and loved by everyone, how do you make business seem effortless and how do you make your network work for you?
Firstly, it is important that you do your research. To make meaningful and powerful first impressions, it is essential for you to understand the key people you are likely to meet at events, what they are upto and what will be important to them. The internet is a great tool for this, from simple searches through to setting up google alerts on key ‘targets’ or trends. Fifteen minutes research before an event could make the time you spend there fifty times more valuable so ensure you do something - even if its a quick search on the train. It you arrive unclear or unsure of your audience, my advice would be to listen - and listen hard. You will make a huge impression if you can empathise with someones current challenges, solve their current problem or suggest or introduce the service or person they have been looking for.
This brings me nicely onto the second thing I have learnt from Oli. In the five years I've known him I have never known Oli ask for anything. Infact, he is so aloof that few people even know precisely what he does yet everyone I’ve met would do absolutely anything for him and won’t have a bad word said about the man who has likely helped them at some point on their journey. This is because Oli gives before he receives and it is a great way to build relationships. Have the confidence to believe that the majority of people in business are genuine and if you give them something, whether it be your time, advice, service or even an introduction, they will be keen to return the favour at some point.
Thirdly, if you go to the effort of building relationships, make sure you find a way to maintain them. This could be as simple as flagging a link to your latest blog post, sending someone a personal tweet or simply sending an email to let someone know you are thinking of them. There is no doubt that the entrepreneurial journey can be challenging, and often lonely and it is great to know that we have a few friends who are with us for the ride - make sure you let people know that you are one of them, and part of the community.
Number 4. If someone is busy, in demand or have been away, don’t worry about sending an email twice. Oli said this to me a number of years ago and it is something I have always remembered. When you are starting out on your business journey, making the first few steps and making a hundred or so calls just to get one reply, it seems ridiculous that you could ever miss emails. I used to get a flip in my tummy every time my phone flashed, thinking that it might just be the one email I’d been waiting for. And yet, as your business journey takes full swing, you can read emails and forget you ever received them. You can open something and think ‘I will reply to that later’ and sadly, later just never comes. So Oli is right, don’t take no response as a bad response - you can always send a gentle reminder if you believe you can have a meaningful conversation with the recipient.
The final thing I have learnt from Oli, and my most treasured lesson, is that you should always take long shots. I met Oli thanks to a man called Paul Carr. Paul is the author of a book called ‘Bringing Nothing To The Party’ and after reading the book on a Sunday morning, I was desperate to become part of the entrepreneurial world he wrote about and meet some of the brilliant characters he had described.
Oli was one of those people and thanks to an email to Paul and an incredibly kind response, my Sunday morning daydream has become my daily reality. My initial success with Paul has given me the courage and belief to always ‘try’. Ultimately, the worst someone can say is no. The best scenario is a few years down the line you can call the man you sat reading about, a friend.
So, from one lazy Sunday morning reading a book about entrepreneurship, to a lazy Sunday afternoon watching a film about a woman that tries to have it all, I realise that it really is relationships that make it all possible. I feel incredibly lucky to have Oli and many other extraordinary individuals in my network and am delighted to have learnt the tips of the trade from the man that knows, certainly, how to make dreams reality, not just for himself but for the many people around him.