21 October 2009

Business Referral Network

I attended a Co-operativesNW event yesterday and had a revelation. 30 or so co-operatives in the room stood, and told me about their business. What they want, who they want to talk to, and that dream contract they would like to land.

Although we talk to each other about values, promoting the movement and improving society, how often as co-operatives do we actually talk about what our business needs are and what business opportunities we could help each other with?

Not as much as we should, and not as much as many other businesses. Whether through the local chamber of commerce, sharing a round of golf, or as a member of a select club or Network, businesses with less history of co-operation are co-operating with each other to increase their business opportunities.

One of the priorities of the worker co-operative council is to improve trading between worker co-operatives. So we asked Co-operativesNW if we could hold our meeting on the same day and run a session at their event. Sion Whellens from Calverts a long standing member of the BNI ran a session on this topic.

Sion started by talking about the BNI, the point of it and the amount of business referrals received from these weekly meetings. He then invited attendees to do a 60 second pitch about their business:
  • Name
  • Where they are based
  • What they provide
  • Why people should buy from them
  • Who you want to talk to:
Although we didn't have time it is also usual to reverse the process, with everyone returning to the stage to tell the room what business referrals they can make, based on what people have asked for. This really would get you paying attention to other peoples pitch!

The session went incredibly well and people hung about at the end far longer than usual, to catch each other and to share contacts. It somehow felt right, and as if we should be doing this more often.

As a way of enabling co-operatives to find each other work, of helping individual co-operative grow and building the co-operative commonwealth as a whole, business referral networking is part of the answer. It’s what Principle 6 – co-operative amongst co-operatives – is all about. So if you are and experianced at business networking get in touch with us or your local Regional Co-operative Council and get organising!

1 comment:

adrian ashton said...

nice and timely reminder - it was also one on my ongoing messages to all co-ops that I supported whilst managing a local CDA some years back; and it formed the basis for our organising co-operative trade fairs at the end of the 90's: the real benefit exhibitors gained wasn't their getting exposure to the public or procurement officers, but their having the opportunity to get to know each other better, and spot ways to trade together for mutual benefit.