The importance of back to basics networking..

In recent years I have moved from working in a large corporate entity to a role where the necessity for day to day contact with colleagues has been replaced by social media/video conferencing etc. Living and working 300 miles from my colleagues at head office can be challenging and when you focus on national or international business rather than local business opportunities for face to face contact with other professionals can be limited. If you are not careful you start staring at the wall and talking to yourself!

This is why, as well as working with Cotterell & Gifford, I also spend about 10-15% of my time working on local projects with local businesses which rarely have anything to do with my primary industry specialisation. Part of this is motivated by my strong belief in involving myself in the local business community. Since we made the decision to move from urban, Edinburgh to market town, Hexham this is far more in your face. Yes, I could buy my printer paper from Viking but then again, I could pop round the corner to the PC Support shop and buy it there, it might be 5p more expensive but, if that PC Shop closes I’ll be the first to moan about the shops all becoming bookmakers and charity shops. If I want to live in a town with a thriving center, a strong economy and decent property values etc then it is my duty, as an inhabitant of that town, to ensure that I use my expertise and purse for the benefit of the local area.

The other part of my motivation is that getting involved with local client and businesses when you are a self employed consultant is a good way to stop getting cabin fever!

This morning I attended the Willow Wednesday Breakfast  networking event organised by NorthEastBiz. Now, obviously, being home based I am used to a 15 second commute – a shuffle with coffee from the kitchen to the corporate hub of my home office so this was daunting. I had to be 40 miles across Northumberland by 8.00am. Fortunately my choice of egalitarian transport, a 30 year old Volvo 244 decided to start and I made it in good time. I am very glad that I did. I met several people who I will do business with at some point in the next 12 months, of that I am sure and one of whom we are already discussing forming a strategic partnership which will benefit my main, national business occupation. On top of this, the injection of enthusiasm and the energy of like minded individuals is infectious and it gave be a good dollop of drive to counter the “August – no one’s around” blues.

In this era of in bound marketing and social media it is easy to ignore traditional business networking. However, groups like NorthEastBiz are doing superb work in facilitating these networking opportunities.

Even if your main occupation is interim management or highly specialised, there are always businesses and organisations locally that could benefit from your experience and, OK, whilst you will probably not be able to charge your full rate, you won’t be diluting your brand either and the wins are far more than just on a fiscal level. I would recommend getting involved with your local business networking groups to anyone who is self employed or running their own business even if you doubt that it will help, it’s amazing what you can find on your doorstep.

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Don’t ignore opportunities with local businesses, you can be surprised what you can find on your doorstep

 

 

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The end of the UK Big 4?

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In the last 12 months we have seen a fundamental shift in the retail food sector in the UK. With the big 4 losing £3 billion in till receipts and the discounters seeing phenomenal growth, industry analysts are announcing a tectonic shift in the FMCG market in the UK. How is this going to affect our industry? Is this a threat or an opportunity?

Inflation hasn’t been followed by wage packets. Our economy is growing but our earnings aren’t. For years in the UK the consumer was happy to purchase from an increasingly smaller pool of suppliers. In energy and banking our options are limited, competition is nonexistent, anger and frustration rife, the only  recourse the consumer has is government backed industry enforcers. Mrs Thatcher, love her or hate her had one thing right when she identified two biggest threats to individual freedom being big government and big business. By big business she meant companies that were so powerful they totally dominated their markets killing choice and competition. The reality of the credit crunch has changed consumers, whilst their options in banking and energy markets are limited, the one sector where they can show their new muscle is in their grocery bill and flexing them they are. Is our sector becoming the whipping boy for the frustrated consumer?

In the last 12 months £3 billion has left the tills of the big 4. Consumers are far more cynical, their shopping habits have moved from the convenience of a big weekly shop at one store, a new breed of canny shopper has emerged. Worryingly, for the big 4, there is evidence that the professional classes are now leading this anti-consumerism; the basics are bought in discounters and the luxuries in Waitrose and M&S. A recent Channel 4 Despatches Documentary last week identified this trend and anger in consumers who, rightly or wrongly, feel that they have been ripped off by the big 4 for years. Those doing a one stop weekly shop are now seen as wasteful, it’s fashionable to be canny. It’s a fundamental shift; probably the biggest in the last 20 years and it shows no sign of slowing down or changing.

So, what does this mean for those of us who work in the food manufacturing sector? Is this an opportunity or a massive threat? Whatever it is, the speed of the change will have huge implications.

Are our business models fit for purpose?

The average big 4 superstore has over 30,000 products on its shelves, the average discounter, 1,500. What does this mean for the manufacturer? Our business models have been honed to service the demanding buyers of the big 4. Customer auditors have lorded it over our factories. The demands of the big 4 have been brutal and the level of control such that they have been able to effectively dictate to suppliers for years. We all have war stories of how the big 4 have enforced their demands. The problem is, that we have, through necessity, complied with these demands. This has created models that are ideal for servicing the big 4 but with the disintegration of their power, how relevant are they for the future? The consumer seems to want basics that are more basic and luxuries and fresh that are local, have provenance and high quality. Those suppliers wholly dependent on big 4 supply contracts could be in for a very nasty time.

 

The big question is, what can we do about it? Are our businesses sufficiently savvy and fleet of foot to cope with the changes in the market?

 

 

Improve your Linkedin profile it is your key to your next assignment

the world of the Interim Manager you hear all the time how vital it is to keep your Linkedin profile up to date, problem is many of us don’t know where to start and lack the time. Those of us who started their careers without a computer can be especially challenged by this. Increasingly the service that most ‘recruitment agents’ use to find interim managers is LinkedIn. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important for everyone, in particular professional interim managers to ensure that their Linkedin profile is not only up to date, but contains information that will allow the recruiter to find their profile quickly and also allow them to ascertain how relevant the profile is for the role they are hiring for. Now, when I was an interim manager I was pretty bad at keeping my Linkedin profile up to date. You know how it is – when you are looking for a contract you are on Linkedin all the time (as well as all the relevant ad sites) when in a contract, work and life seems to take over and we become less than diligent in updating and checking our Linkedin account for updates. Linkedin is a movable feast, in the 10 odd years I have been a member the site has changed hugely and it continues to change and develop. One of the things that is changing is that your position in Linkedin searches no longer relies solely on the number of key words you have in your titles and profile etc. Increasingly your participation in regular and relevant online activity is rewarded with increased profile. Therefore it is vital that you respond to blogs (starting with this one J) and consider contributing your own content as well as logging in regularly and giving your profile as much attention as your tomatoes. For some, this will require a major change in the way they look at Linkedin. Linkedin is your online presence, it is even more important than a CV and therefore it is vital that it contains the information that allows you to be found by recruiters and others in your sector. I’m not saying this to make my life easy, but rather to increase your profile within your area of expertise. I don’t view Linkedin as social media and neither should you, the very word social implies non-professional, leisure-time etc. Rather see it as your primary tool in securing your next assignment.

Here are a few tips

  • Ensure your profile and experience reflects not only what you do but what you want to do and contains key words
  • Ensure your profile has your name – Initials don’t work, yes, in the old days of Linkedin when the world and their dog could contact you it did help to restrict spam BUT these days you need to be standing out.
  • Don’t EVER attempt to elevate your Linkedin position by filling your profile with key word lists. If Linkedin find an account like this they will simply delete it with no warning
  • Ensure you log into your Linkedin account at least once a week when ON ASSINGMENT and every day when off assignment, hirers will be using Linked in to contact you about work so ensure your smart phone has the app installed and is activated. If you don’t have a smart phone, get one
  • Start to interact with others, keep it professional, no stupid photos or non related humour – pics. of your cat and kids are for Facebook, keep it that way
  • Ensure you have a photo, don’t make it too cheesey and formal (like some of our American cousins) but also don’t make it too informal, people don’t want to see your sweaty body on the beach or in some mid-life-crisis-extreme-sport-activity (yes I know my photo makes me look like a beachbum – I will be changing it)
  • Consider starting to contribute to topics you read
  • Consider starting to post relevant content to your skills set
  • Consider paying for a Job Seeker or Premium account, I would recommend this, and no, Linkedin aren’t paying me for saying this. It makes you more visible and extends your reach.
  • Be careful with your network, If you are an Interim Food FGM then ensure that your network reflects that and is peopled by those in your industry and sector, don’t accept every invitation just because someone wants to connect, if your profile is right then the right connections will start to come to you

These are a few starting points some of which will take you 5 minutes and will seriously increase your likelihood of being found. There are many other things you can do and should consider doing and this is just a starter. These points are relevant for anyone on Linkedin but are particularly important for the Interim Manager. Invest time in this, it is essential. If you are really stuck then there are always those who offer can offer you professional help.

If you would like more advice on this then please feel free to get in touch.