Category

Uncategorised

2021 review – under the microscope

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

So, another year is almost done. For me, it has been a bit of an up and down year but it’s always a good time to reflect on what went well and what could have been better, so my last blog this year is a 2021 review.

My 2021 review month by month

January

We’re in deepest darkest lockdown – again! Of course, as we all moved online back in 2020, I’m kept more than busy with my networking groups. The month flies by and before we know it, it’s the month of love.

February

If you haven’t ever tried networking, you may not realise the benefits and how well it can work when you have a committed group of people. My groups are all very different – they are of course, the sum of their members, but one thing they have in common is that the women that attend are all keen to do what they can to help the other members out. Spread the love!

March

This month saw the launch of Step Up To Success, a group for like-minded, professional business women to come together several times a month to help each other be more successful. I’m thrilled when I get 18 members in the first month. Exciting!

April

Step Up is starting to get into its stride now and we have a monthly programme that includes two mastermind sessions, four brainstorming sessions and a business skills workshop. Initial feedback is very positive.

May

Things are opening up a bit more now, so I’ve started to have small gatherings with some of the members of Step Up To Success and my Athena groups. It’s so wonderful to see people in person at last – how I miss the simple pleasure of proper in person human contact. Looking forward to many more meet ups over the summer months.

June

With the weather better and the situation returning to more normal activity, I’ve found myself feeling a bit more upbeat and keener to move my own business forward. If the past couple of years have taught me anything, then it’s that you should fight for what you believe in and try to work in a job that makes you happy. I love helping others to be more successful in their businesses and I can’t imagine what I would be doing now if I didn’t have Athena or Step Up To Success.

July

This month we got the news that our structured lunchtime meetings will remain online in the future. For members who want face-to-face networking, this is a blow, but many of them are now coming round to the idea.  We are now offering an option which means ladies can visit any group across the whole country FREE OF CHARGE which is a fantastic benefit of online membership.

August

This month is inevitably quieter – we don’t have any formal lunchtime meetings in August, although we do still run the informal coffee mornings over Zoom. I have a chance to re-group a little after the change in July and get a bit of much needed downtime. Holiday time. Whoop whoop! It looked doubtful at one point, but I finally made it on my holidays – some much-needed R&R.

September

Back and raring to go for the long haul to Christmas. This month is always about renewed energy for the last 4 months of the year and working hard to meet those goals that were set back in January. I think the Step Up To Success members are really appreciating having the frequent opportunities to focus on working on their business as well as in the business.

October

The past couple of months have been challenging because of the decision not to go back face to face. I’ve lost a couple of my long-standing members so that’s been tough. On the upside though I have gained a few new ones who were looking for online only networking so that’s good. I wonder what the next few months will bring?

November

Being able to meet in person albeit informally outside of Athena has been great for keeping up my morale and the morale of my networking members and Step Up To Success members. This month we had a couple of Step Up To Success members who won Best Business Women awards which was gratifying to see as they had put in a lot of work this year and really deserved the accolade.

December

As there are no formal meetings in December, it’s another quieter month on the networking front, which allows me to do a 2021 review and reflect as well as plan for 2022. Next year the focus will be on finding new members who are actively looking for online groups and the benefits that can bring. With COVID ramping up again, it looks as though any face-to-face meetings that are going on could soon be back online anyway.

Visiting Step Up To Success group

Step Up To Success is a membership group with heart. An all-female group, we actively look for ways to support each other to reach our business goals. Whether that’s providing ideas and inspiration at our masterminds, developing new skills through our training workshops or simply helping each other stay focused and on track with our business buddy system, this group has helped dozens of ambitious business owners in 2021 to move their business forward. If you’d like to try it out, all you have to do is give me a call on 07733 076775.

Visiting the Athena Network

If you are a woman business owner who would like to meet other like-minded professionals in a non-pressured environment – the comfort of your own lounge – then please get in touch. You may visit one meeting and one Cappuccino Connections before you need to decide about membership.

We welcome women from all walks of life and all business disciplines, although there is a lockout in each group, so chat to me to find out which group would be best for you.

My groups meet each month and are:

Harrow – 1st Thursday

Watford  – 2nd Thursday

Bushey – 3rd Tuesday

Rickmansworth – 3rd Thursday

Kings Langley – 4th Tuesday

Do come for a visit – you will be warmly welcomed by all my members.

If you’d like to chat to me to find out more about the benefits of online networking or being a member of a supportive, female business owners group, please email me at debbie.diggle@theathenanetwork.com or ring me on 07733 076775.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

Advent Calendar of Networking Questions

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

Advent Calendar of Networking Questions

When you are building a business, it’s important to grow your connections to raise brand awareness. One way to increase your sphere of influence is to attend business networking groups. However, this only works if you are curious about others and want to learn about how you can help them to be more successful. So, I thought this month it would be a good idea to give you an advent calendar of 24 networking questions.

24 networking questions to ask other business owners

  1. What prompted you to set up your own business?

This question can often help you to understand the why and the ethos and behaviours of the person behind the business.

  1. What’s your backstory?

When you ask someone about their personal and work history, you can usually find some common ground which is great for helping build and grow the relationship.

  1. How would I recognise your ideal client?

Asking this question gives you very specific information that will bring the person to mind when you meet their ideal client later on.

  1. What problem do you solve for your clients?

You might think you know what the person does – after all, accountants deal with your tax so what is there to know? If you don’t ask this question, you may never find out about all the ways that other clients can be helped by this person.

  1. What’s different about you?

If they can give you a clear reason why they stand out, then you can make great referrals when you meet people who need their services.

  1. Why do you love what you do?

The most interesting of networking questions in my view. Finding out what the person loves about what they do will get you close to their true purpose.

  1. What’s your vision for your company?

Business owners can often get caught up in the day-to-day operations of their business and might not have spent time reflecting on where they are going recently. This networking question gives them an opportunity to explore possibilities for the future.

  1. What are your targets for next year?

Following on from question 7, this question can help the business owner to start to formulate more detailed plans for the coming months.

  1. How do you find new clients?

When you know what the business owner is currently doing, you may be able to suggest new approaches that help them to greater success.

  • What’s the biggest challenge for you now?

The answer to this question is a goldmine of opportunity for you to help other members of your network, or perhaps even offer your own services.

  1. What’s your favourite part of your business?

Most business owners went into business because they have a passion or interest in a particular area. Find out what that is and help them do more of it.

  1. Who do you need to meet next?

A great question for opening this person up to your personal and work network. Who can you introduce to them that could transform their business or provide collaboration opportunities.

  1. When do you do your best work?

Some people like to work in the mornings, some in the evenings, some in coffee shops or on the train. We are all different and that’s what makes the world interesting.

  1. How much time do you spend working on your business?

Sole traders and micro businesses must wear lots of different hats and it’s easy for business development to drop off the task list when you are business delivering service or product to clients. This question will prompt them to reflect on whether they need to spend more time on business development.

  1. What would your best client say about you?

Word of mouth marketing is THE best form of marketing. Why say it yourself when you can tell people about what you do through the power of your client’s words?

  1. Who was the most difficult client you ever worked with?

This is an interesting question because it can reveal a lot about how a business owner manages conflict or challenging behaviour in their business.

  1. Why does networking help you?

Networking isn’t just about meeting new people that you could sell your products and services to. It’s about creating a nurturing and supportive group who share ideas, act as your volunteer sales force and encourage you when times are tough.

  1. What kind of projects are you working on?

Understanding a bit about the different sorts of projects that the person is currently working on can help you to see their potential when it comes to finding new clients for them to work with.

  1. What do you like to do when you aren’t working?

This is another good rapport building question where you can find common ground. Perhaps you are Bake-Off fans, or you like to read the same sort of books. Creating the relationship on a more personal level means you are both more invested in helping each other succeed

  1. How many people do you work with?

This networking question might reveal a need for additional help within in the business. Often sole traders can seem reluctant to relinquish control which hinders growth. Encourage them to consider outsourcing the parts of their business that they don’t enjoy, are too time-consuming or they find tricky.

  1. What’s changed most about your industry since you first started?

The business world changes rapidly so this question is a good one to help you keep up with developments in industries that are different to your own.

  1. How can I help you?

A good networker thinks first of others and looks to support their group members before considering how the group might help them. When you give, you gain.

  1. What’s the best way to keep in contact?

Not everyone is keeping up with every social channel so asking the other person about their preferred communication channel shows them that you care about the relationship.

  • What’s would be the ultimate Christmas gift for your business this year?

A fun question that asks them to think about what would make a huge difference to their work. Probably you can’t deliver it, but it’s an interesting way to end your conversation.

What networking questions do you ask? I’d love to see them in the comments below.

Visiting the Athena Network

If you are a woman business owner who would like to meet other like-minded professionals in a non-pressured environment – the comfort of your own lounge – then please get in touch. You may visit one meeting and one Cappuccino Connections before you need to decide about membership.

 

We welcome women from all walks of life and all business disciplines, although there is a lockout in each group, so chat to me to find out which group would be best for you.

My groups meet online each month from 12 until 2pm and are:

Harrow – 1st Thursday

Watford  – 2nd Thursday

Bushey – 3rd Tuesday

Rickmansworth – 3rd Thursday

Kings Langley – 4th Tuesday

Cappuccino Connections – 9:45 to 11:45 – 2nd Thursday

Do come for a visit – you will be warmly welcomed by all my members.

If you’d like to chat to me to find out more about the benefits of online networking and how to ask the right networking questions, please email me at mailto: debbie.diggle@theathenanetwork.com or ring me on 07733 076775.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

Can procrastination be cured?

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

Can procrastination be cured?

In my work as a business networking meeting facilitator, I speak to dozens of business owners every month and a common problem that holds them back is not getting through their to-do list. Today I thought I would tackle the question ‘Can procrastination be cured?’

Using the word ‘cured’ makes us think of illness or disease, so is procrastination a mental health issue that can be cured? Or is it simply an unhelpful behaviour trait?

Although procrastination is not a mental health condition per se, it is often associated with the following conditions:

  • ADHD – People who have ADHD struggle to stay focused for even short periods of time so procrastination is a daily battle.
  • Depression – when you are clinically depressed it can be extremely difficult to stay motivated even for simple tasks.

Anxiety – a huge driver of procrastination is anxiety. If you are constantly worried about whether you will perform the task well or hit the deadline, then this can cause you to delay getting started.

One thing you really need to know about procrastination is that it is not a time management problem; it is a mindset problem.

So, let’s look at things you can do to overcome procrastination.

  • Stop thinking the worst will happen

If you are constantly worried that things will be difficult or turn out badly, this will prevent you from even getting started. Perhaps the task won’t be as hard as you think, so just commit to doing five minutes and take it from there.

  • Be realistic

Set yourself achievable goals so that when you sit down to do a task it doesn’t feel completely overwhelming. For example, if your goal is to create a social media plan for 2022, that’s a big job. Recognise that you aren’t going to get through that in one sitting.

  • Aim for good enough not perfect

People who strive for perfection can often suffer from procrastination because they are stressed about not being able to do a perfect job. You don’t have to be perfect to run a highly successful business so stop holding yourself back. Your ‘good enough’ is likely to be highly valued by your client.

  • Split tasks into more manageable pieces

Manage your tendency to procrastinate by splitting larger tasks into bite-sized chunks. For jobs that you find dull or repetitive, spread it out across several sessions so that you only commit to 30 minutes before you can move on. Over the course of the week or month, you will gradually complete the task.

  • Schedule activities

If you keep telling yourself that you will do a task ‘when you have time’, it’s much less likely to get done than if you allocate blocks of time in your calendar to do it. But you might need help to stick to your schedule so…

  • Get an accountability buddy

Telling someone you are going to do something by a certain date means you are much more likely to do it because you won’t want to look like you’ve gone back on your commitment to the other person. You can both benefit from this arrangement to do what you say you are going to do.

  • Stop with the excuses

If you always find yourself saying ‘I need a deadline to get me motivated to start’ or ‘I have to wait until the inspiration strikes’, you are kidding yourself. There is never a perfect time to start so you might as well just start now.

  • Reward yourself

Many people are motivated by short term rewards, so why not give yourself a little treat once you have completed a task that you find hard to get started on. I find cake is a great motivator!

  • Celebrate successes

We are our own worst critics, and this can adversely affect our energy and drive, leading to procrastination. The next time you have a success in business, celebrate it. Tell your network about it and perhaps even plan bigger celebrations such as a meal out or an experience with friends when you hit your business goals.

  • Don’t beat yourself up

Thoughts such as ‘I’m no good at planning or ‘Why do I always procrastinate?’ aren’t helpful. Beating yourself up about what happened in the past is only going to lead to more procrastination. It’s time to move on.

Can procrastination be cured at Step Up to Success?

Short answer, Yes!

Step Up to Success is provides support, encouragement and accountability for small business owners who need a helping hand to move their business forward. In the group, we believe that procrastination can be cured when you have the right people around you to keep you focused on the steps you need to take. In addition, Step Up membership offers group masterminds so you can brainstorm solutions to your issues and training workshops to improve your business skills. Call me for a chat about becoming a member.

Contact us here and check out some of our customer success stories.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

Why Productivity Is Important – 21 Ways to Improve

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

Why Productivity Is Important – 21 Ways to Improve

As a business owner, it’s fairly obvious why productivity is important – if you aren’t productive, then you aren’t really running a successful business. Increasing your productivity is one of the ways that you can get ahead of your competition.

One of the most important reasons why productivity is important is because being productive and feeling accomplished is a great motivator. Without sufficient motivation, we cannot hope to grow and move a business forward.

Here are 21 Productivity Tips for your business.

Your approach

  1. Get clear on your priorities.

Write down your daily goals either the night before or first thing in the morning. Identify the top three things you must get done each day and focus on those tasks until they are complete.

2. Positive attitude.

If you begin your day with the attitude that it’s going to be stressful and overwhelming, then it will be. Have a positive mindset and you will achieve much more.

3.  Understand your body clock.

Some people work best first thing in the morning; others are much more productive in the evenings. You know when you work best, so aim to tackle your harder tasks then.

4. Reward yourself.

Knowing that you have a small treat once you have finished that most difficult task can help you to stay on track. The reward could be a tea break, or you might go for a short walk, perhaps even a bit of meditation, listening to music or an episode of your favourite boxset – whatever makes you happy.

5. Have regular breaks.

Schedule regular breaks to move your body and rest your brain. Working flat out for hours and hours without taking breaks might seem like a good way to be productive, but this is not sustainable and could lead to burnout.

6.  Dehydration can lead to sluggishness, poor memory and processing speed. Make sure to stay hydrated during the day for maximum productivity.

7. Eat breakfast and lunch.

Similarly, it’s important to have regular meals to keep your energy levels topped up. Missing meals can make you less able to concentrate resulting in reduced productivity.

8. Get enough sleep.

For the same reason as number 7, it’s important to make sure your brain is adequately rested.

Your tasks

9.  Start with your most difficult task first.

If you keep putting off your challenging pieces of work, your stress levels will rise over time, so start with the tasks that are most demanding.

10.  Finish one task before moving to the next.

Focus on one task at a time for maximum productivity. Although our brains like to be distracted, if you constantly move between tasks, overall, it is likely to take you much longer to complete your work.

11.  Group similar tasks together.

Batch process admin and repetitive tasks such as invoicing, dealing with expenses or adding new clients to your CRM. It’s more efficient to work this way than doing one or two updates at a time.

12.  Have set times for dealing with emails.

It’s very easy to get distracted by the constant ping of your email or social media notifications. If you really want to increase your productivity, resist the urge to check your emails every few minutes. Set 2 or 3 times for email checking during the day and stick to it – you will find that your productivity soars when you aren’t endlessly pulled into your emails.  First thing in the morning, immediately after lunch and the last 30 minutes of your working day makes best sense.

13.  Use a limiter for social media if you find it hard to self-regulate.

There are apps you can use to help you limit the amount of time that you spend scrolling social media.

14.  Set a timer for 25 minutes.

The Pomodoro technique is a great productivity hack – set a timer for 25 minutes and focus all your efforts on your current task. When the timer goes off, either take a 5-minute break and then start the timer again or if you are in a good flow, reset the timer immediately for another 25 minutes.

15.  Start with just 5 minutes on a task.

If you are struggling to get started on a task, it can help to set yourself a very small goal. Just commit to spending 5 minutes on the task. You may find that once you get started, you can keep going, but if it’s still feeling very hard after 5 minutes, give yourself permission to stop and try again later.

Meetings and other people

16.  Switch your phone to silent/redirect to an answering service.

Your phone can also cause reduced productivity if you receive lots of calls during the workday. When you need time to complete large or important tasks, get your calls redirected to your assistant for them to take a message.

17.  Be selective about which meetings you attend.

If you can’t see a clear business benefit in attending a meeting, it’s OK to decline.

18.  Have an agenda for any meetings you run.

Respecting others’ time is as important as respecting your own time, so make sure that any meetings you run start and finish on time and have a clear agenda and objectives, so you aren’t wasting time.

19. Set boundaries.

If you need a block of uninterrupted time to work on a task, let those around you know that you aren’t to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency.

20.  Accountability improves productivity.

Having an accountability buddy can be great for productivity. If you have someone else checking on your progress, you are much more likely to stay on track and be more productive.

21.  Say ‘No’.

Although we all like to appear helpful, sometimes it’s necessary to recognise that you might need to say no to clients or colleagues. Always saying yes means that people are likely over time to take advantage of you and put even more strain on your time.

Ultimately, unless you run a non-profit, we are all in business to earn a living as well as do the thing we love. That’s why productivity is important and is an area business owners need to focus on to thrive.

Why productivity is important in Step Up To Success business support group

At Step Up to Success, we understand that small business owners are pulled in many different directions and must wear many different hats. Productivity can drop as a result of having to manage many different tasks. This group of like-minded business owners provides support, encouragement, experience and accountability to help you increase your productivity and achieve your business targets. Find out more about our membership.

Contact us here and check out some of our customer success stories.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn

Business networking for beginners – what you need to know to be a great networker

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

Business networking for beginners – what you need to know to be a great networker

If you are a new business owner, you are probably wondering about the best way to market your business. There are many ways but one of the very best ways in word of mouth. So, with that in mind, here’s a guide on how to be successful at business networking for beginners.

What is business networking?

Business networking provides like-minded business owners with an opportunity to come together in a supportive environment to help nurture and grow their businesses.

When you first start networking, you may be unsure of the etiquette of your group, but you can quickly get a feel for how things work and what’s acceptable conduct.

Who would benefit?

Any business owner in any industry can benefit from business networking, but being a good networker is a skill. For beginners, business networking might feel a little uncomfortable until you get used to the format and get to know the others in your group, but at Athena, I often get great feedback when visitors come to meetings, with everyone commenting on how supportive the group is.

Our meetings

Be aware that although we have a formal meeting structure – introduction, share contact details, business presentation, monthly business minutes from members, 2nd presentation, let’s talk business, notices, we aren’t a high-pressure networking group with lots of strict rules. You don’t have to always bring visitors or get new members to join and you don’t have to demonstrate how much business you have referred like other networks such as BNI. We do how expect attendance at each monthly meeting and if you can’t come, you should provide a substitute who can attend in your place.

Is there anyone who wouldn’t benefit?

Business owners who are unable to give to the network in terms of being present at meetings, being supportive of other members and listening and responding to others’ needs are unlikely to get the most out of business networking. If you think networking is simply about turning up to a meeting and selling your products or services to people in the room, then you’ve really got the wrong idea about how it works.

What are the benefits of business networking for beginners?

Support

Small business owners often need more individual support than those who work in larger businesses. When you don’t have work colleagues it can be easy to feel a bit isolated and alone. Getting support and encouragement from your business network can really boost your confidence and help you feel part of a team.

Collaborations

One of the biggest benefits of business networking for beginners is that you immediately get exposure to other business owners who you may be able to work with. Creating a joint product or service with another member can give your business an additional income stream and give you a colleague to bounce ideas off.

Training – skills and knowledge

Business networking groups are a great source of business knowledge that can help you overcome issues and reach your goals faster. At Athena, at each meeting there are two presentations designed to share business skills and knowledge to help you run your business more successfully. In addition, sometimes group members who run training courses will offer free or discounted workshops to the business network – a very valuable perk of membership.

The Athena Network – a female business networking group to suit you

The Athena Network is a women-only business networking organisation. I run 5 groups – in Watford, Rickmansworth, Bushey, Harrow and Kings Langley, although now these groups meet online for the monthly meeting and our monthly coffee morning.  We also meet in person once a month for a regional event which could be a coffee morning, business brunch, lunch or afternoon tea! We also have optional social events from time to time. When it comes to business networking, beginners are always welcome at any of my groups, so please do come and visit.

If you aren’t sure about online networking, you aren’t alone but there are some great benefits being online that you can enjoy from an in-person group.

If you have any questions about business networking, please just get in contact on debbie.diggle@theathenanetwork.com or connect with me on LinkedIn.

5 Benefits of a Small Business Mastermind

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

5 Benefits of a Small Business Mastermind

If you’ve never heard the term small business mastermind, you might be wondering what on earth a business mastermind is and how it might benefit your small business. Let’s explore five of the best benefits of a business mastermind group here.

What is a small business mastermind?

A small business mastermind group is a collection of like-minded business owners who come together regularly to support each other in a variety of ways. The group may comprise of a diverse range of businesses including those that are newly in business to owners who are very established. The aim of the group is to share ideas and knowledge, support and encourage each other and celebrate successes.

Who would benefit?

Any business owner can benefit from a group mastermind. Small business masterminds are especially beneficial because sole traders or micro business owners often won’t have a team of other people around them to bounce ideas off. The group provides that missing piece for small businesses to get feedback and input from others in a safe environment.

Is there anyone who wouldn’t benefit?

Business owners who think they already know everything there is to know about running a business would be unlikely to benefit from a group mastermind. It requires you to be open-minded to the possibility that other people have useful input about your business. If you aren’t interested in listening to the views of other business owners, a group mastermind probably isn’t for you.

What are the benefits?

Knowledge sharing

Often in business, and especially at the start, you don’t know what you don’t know. If you are trying to run your business in a vacuum, then it’s highly likely that you will be oblivious to many things that can help make your life easier or your business more successful. A small business mastermind can open your eyes as to what support is available that others have already taken advantage of. This could include everything from how to secure business grants to using a different piece of software that improves efficiency.

Accountability

Being a sole trader means that the only person holding you accountable is yourself. And sometimes that just isn’t enough to get you moving forward in the way you would like. Using your fellow mastermind group members as accountability partners can help you to achieve more. If you commit to completing a task and you tell someone about that, then you are more likely to complete that task than if you are just holding yourself accountable.

Motivation

When you work on your own and things aren’t going as you hoped, it can be easy for you to become demotivated. Attending a business mastermind can help give you the encouragement you need to keep going. Having the support of others who are in a similar situation can mean the difference between achieving your goals and not.

Connection

Small business owners are at greater risk of work isolation as they tend not to have many work colleagues around them. The business mastermind can provide the connection you need to help keep you feeling happy in your work. In addition, you may be able to form collaborations with or get great connections to others from people you meet at a mastermind.

Celebration

It’s important to celebrate your business milestones and successes and that’s harder when you work alone. Your small business mastermind group can help you acknowledge your achievements and help you aspire to even greater success.

 

Step Up To Success – a mastermind group to suit you

Step Up to Success is a women-only mastermind group. At only £29/m, it’s a small price to pay for huge benefits and is a great way to invest in the future success of your business.

Contact us here and check out some of our customer success stories.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

How Step Up to Success supports women in business

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

How Step Up to Success supports women in business

Step Up To Success is a women’s business mastermind group that focuses on supporting small business owners to achieve their targets for greater success.

The group comprises a number of business owners who represent a wide range of industries including an independent board game designer, a canine massage therapist, a photographer, a copywriter and a social media specialist who have agreed to share their experiences from the group.

Amana Ahmad, Social Factor HQ, Social Media Specialist

The best thing about Step Up to Success is having a supportive network. As a solo entrepreneur, it can be hard to explore ideas because you don’t have a team around you. Step Up’s mastermind allows you to bounce ideas off other people and get their opinions on issues based on their prior experiences which works very well. The second thing that’s great is the goal setting and being accountable to someone else. When you tell someone your goals, it makes them much more real and you are more likely to work on the goals when you know someone is holding you accountable at the end of the month.

Brigitta Scholz-Mastroianni, NUX Photography

Sometimes in my business, I need a good nudge and a bit of help from my friends to stay on track. The Step Up group meets several times a week but you can attend when you like – no obligation to come every time. It’s a safe space to come and discuss business problems that perhaps aren’t easy to talk about. Sometimes I can also help people too which is a great feeling. Step Up is a group that will catch you when you fall.

Ellie Dix, The Dark Imp, Board Game Designer

When you are busy in business trying to get through your task list, you don’t always have time to reflect on whether you are doing things in the right way or what the next thing is you need to do. Step Up has given me a space to step back and reflect on where I am going, think about what I am doing. It’s a brilliant place to discuss those niggly little things that you’ve pushed to the back of your mind. It’s a really safe space where you can talk to other business owners and really get their honest opinion. The masterminds, in particular, are great because you can have everybody’s eyes and ears on your specific business problem – having that time to get other’s views is so valuable. Finally, the accountability buddy is also great as someone to check in with who can keep you on track.

Karen Young, Safe Hands Clinical Canine Massage

It’s unique in a way, because it’s honest businesswomen being super honest about where they need help. As small business owners, there will always be areas that need support because we are all solo entrepreneurs trying to do everything you need to do to run a business. Step Up to Success has help me to prioritise and realise I can’t do it all myself. I’m also more focused on the bigger picture of what’s important rather than the day-to-day tasks. The group has been a useful space for reflection and to understand that other people are having the same or very similar issues. I’d recommend it to anyone because you can be as involved as much as you like and if you can’t make it, you can catchup online. It feels like an exclusive club where people are individuals and they aren’t just bringing their business persona and it’s not a bad thing to express your individuality through your business.

Michelle Eshkeri, Let Me Write, Copywriter and Author

Step Up business support group run by Debbie Diggle offers several sessions a month including brainstorming common business topics or issues to problem solve or generate ideas. We also have Masterminds which are an opportunity for each member to be in the hotseat and bring a particular problem to the group for them to make suggestions for solutions. Training and workshops are also provided each month to help us improve our business skills. Step Up To Success is a great way to get accountability for greater business success.

Step Up To Success is an Investment

Step Up to Success isn’t seen as a cost for these women business owners, it’s seen as an investment in their business’ future. At only £29/m, it’s a small price to pay for huge benefits.

Contact us here and check out some of our customer success stories.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

Is online networking the new normal?

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

Is online networking the new normal?

Here at Athena, a women’s only networking organisation, a revolution of sorts has recently occurred. A new business model has emerged because of the pandemic and raises the question, ‘Is online networking the new normal?’ and what are the benefits and downsides vs traditional business networking.

As we head to the beach (perhaps, or maybe simply the back garden) for a bit of downtime this August, you might already be weighing up your options for business networking come the start of the new academic year. September is one of those times during the year when we tend to reflect on what’s working and look for alternatives when things aren’t going so well.

Benefits of online networking

I won’t go into reams of detail on the benefits of online networking because you can read July’s blog The 7 biggest benefits of online networking. Suffice to say it’s more accessible, efficient, and inclusive than the traditional face-to-face format, but there are drawbacks.

Downsides of online networking

Firstly, the biggest downside of online networking is there’s no cake!

Seriously though, the lack of face-to-face interaction can make it more difficult to build meaningful relationships with other members of your group. When you meet in person, you can see much more of the person’s demeanor and body language which adds so much more context to what they are saying.

Another issue you might encounter with online networking is Zoom (or equivalent) overwhelm. As it’s so easy to jump on a video call, there may a tendency to try to pack in a lot of online networking in your schedule. This can lead to fatigue, inability to remember who you met, where and what they do, and a general feeling of being a bit disconnected from your community which tends not to occur when you do face-to-face networking.

Visiting a wide range of groups is easier but it’s possible you can spread yourself too thin. If you only visit a group once or twice, it’s unlikely many people will remember you when they need your services.

So, is online networking the new normal?

Many traditionally face-to-face groups that moved online during lockdown 1 in March 2020 have been patiently waiting for the right time to revert to in-person networking. However, after surveying all the members, Athena Networking has taken a decision to adopt a predominantly online networking approach going forward. Our monthly lunchtime meetings will now be online and group leaders may offer other types of networking – such as informal coffee morning and networking strategy training as optional face-to-face gatherings. So, it seems that online networking is the new normal for Athena.

Online business support

As well as running women’s networking groups in Watford, Bushey, Rickmansworth, Harrow, and Kings Langley, I also offer an online business support group. This women’s only group, Step Up to Success, meets several times each month and includes mastermind spotlighting and brainstorming sessions that draw on the group’s expertise, a buddy system for accountability, monthly business skills workshops, and a closed Facebook group for support.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

 

Step Up to Success for female business owners provides mastermind groups as just one of the many business benefits of an online community for entrepreneurs. At only £24/m, it’s a great investment in your business’ future.

 

Contact us here and check out some of our customer success stories.

3 Reasons Why You Should Be Asking For Testimonials 

By | Uncategorised | No Comments
3 Reasons Why You Should Be Asking For Testimonials 

 

Asking for testimonials is vital for growing your business. After all, if people don’t know how good you are at what you do, then they aren’t going to come to you when they need what you provide.

 

But something that comes up quite often with my networking members, is that they feel awkward asking for testimonials.

 

In a survey I saw on LinkedIn, more than 25% of people who replied said that they would never ask a client for a testimonial. I was surprised that this figure was so high and that business owners felt unable to ask for feedback.

 

Here are 3 reasons why I think it’s good practice to ask your client for a recommendation.

 

Use it in your marketing

It’s all very well telling your potential customers what you can do for them and why you are better than your competition, but there’s no substitute for having real quotes from happy customers to use in your marketing. Add testimonials to your Home, About and Services pages on your website. Use a testimonial as an elevator pitch at a networking meeting. Take a line or two and create a visual for social media.

 

‘My Athena experience is wholly positive and having you support me and encourage me has allowed me to come out of my comfort zone which has help me develop as well as the opportunity to connect with people that I might not have met.’

Lisa Spitz, Athena Member.

 

Grow your know, like and trust

Testimonials give your potential customer insight into who you are, what you do and how you can solve their problem in a way that regular copy does not. Of course, you can tell your customers what you do and how, but there’s nothing quite so compelling as the words of a delighted client.

In business, and especially in service-based businesses or smaller product businesses, people buy from people. Your customers want to know that they can trust you to deliver on your promises. Hearing from previous happy customers can really help to close the sale.

 

‘Debbie runs the group in a most professional manner while being both friendly and entertaining.  I feel she cares about the members and wants the best for them.’

Melissa Bach, Athena Member.

 

Picks you up when things are tough

Having a file of recommendations – lovely things your clients have said about you – can be incredibly powerful when you’ve not had a great day. I recommend you keep all your testimonials in one place so you can read them when you need to remember why you are in business and how you support others.

 

‘Every group has a different ‘vibe’ and that is down to the group director, for us that’s the lovely Debbie Diggle. Her enthusiasm and genuine support for every member radiates through each meeting and sets the tone for every member and guest. It is a roomful of supportive friends, with Debbie as cheerleader in chief.’

Jo Martin, Athena Member

 

 

So why don’t people like asking for testimonials?

Some of my members say that they are reluctant to ask their clients for testimonials because they feel awkward having to ask and that the client should give the testimonial of their own volition.

Clearly unsolicited testimonials are amazing and so gratefully received but there’s nothing wrong with asking for one. You clients are busy people and they might simply have forgotten to do the testimonial.

Some members say they are worried about asking for feedback in case it’s not very positive. To that worry I always say ‘If the client had been unhappy with your service, you’d already know about it.’ People will give poor feedback quickly but they often forget to give good feedback unless prompted.

 

So, to practice what I preach, here are a couple more of my recent testimonials to give you a flavour of what being an Athena member is like and how you can benefit.

 

‘Being part of Athena is like having a tribe of cheerleaders behind you in all that you do!

Not sure how to approach a tricky business-related matter? Put it out there at the meeting.

Feeling a bit low? A follow Athena friend will always be there with an ear or a shoulder.

Need to promote an aspect of your business? They will like, share, tag, attend, shout about and wholeheartedly recommend you whenever they can.

Looking for a particular person for a particular job? Look no further than your network; someone will know someone who can help.

Plus, the unfailing support Debbie our Regional Director gives to each and every member goes above and beyond; she is phenomenal. Athena will help both you and your business to grow. I have happily been a member of Athena (Bushey) for 4 years now, will continue to do so and would recommend it to any women in business.’

Rachel Levy, Bushey member

 

 

‘I’ve been a member of the Harrow Athena group for nearly 3 years.  When I was first approached to attend as a visitor, I was initially sceptical as I thought it would be a high pressure and possibly unwelcoming group.  How wrong was I? I felt comfortable and relaxed from the moment I stepped into the venue. 

The ladies were all very friendly, came from diverse and interesting businesses and were genuinely supportive.  It didn’t take me long to start my Athena journey.  During my time, I have built strong relationships both on a professional and personal basis.  There is always someone to share my successes or disappointments with and I can honestly say it’s the best decision I have made as I have been able to grow my business through the opportunities presented.

The success of our group has been down to our Regional Director Debbie Diggle.  Our meetings are always fun and informative, I always leave our meetings on a high.  I recommend Debbie and Athena highly to any ladies out there that would like to grow their businesses within a supportive and dynamic networking group.’

Varsha Joshi, Harrow

 

If you are a woman business owner who would like to meet other like-minded professionals in a non-pressured environment, grow your business through the support of the networking group and feel comfortable asking for testimonials, then I’d love to chat to you and find out more about what you do.

 

Athena welcome women from all walks of life and all business disciplines, although there is a lockout in each group, so chat to me to find out which group would be best for you.

 

My groups are:

Watford Wednesday – 3rd Wednesday

Watford Thursday – 2nd Thursday

Bushey – 3rd Tuesday

Rickmansworth – 3rd Thursday

Harrow – 1st Thursday

Kings Langley – 4th Tuesday

 

Do come for a visit – you will be warmly welcomed by all my members.

 

If you’d like to chat to me to find out more about the benefits of online networking and how it can support your business, please email me at debbie.diggle@theathenanetwork.com or ring me on 07733 076775.

 

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn

 

Facebook group vs Facebook page for small businesses

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

Facebook group vs Facebook page for small businesses

A question that comes up in my Step Up to Success online business support group quite often is ‘Facebook group vs. Facebook page and what’s the difference?

Many small businesses rely on social media to get clients – after all, it’s free to set up, easy to get started and you don’t need a PhD to work out the technology.

But is it a worthwhile marketing activity?

Let’s face it, when you start out running your own small business, you are probably trying to keep your costs low, so any marketing that comes free of charge looks inviting. However, are you really getting a good return on the time invested?

Facebook group vs Facebook page – which is better?

Firstly, the Facebook page. I’m talking about the business page now, not your personal profile.

Every business should have a Facebook business page. There are just too many people on Facebook for you to ignore it as a potential source of customers.

However, since a change in the Facebook algorithm in 2018, organic reach on business Facebook pages has dipped drastically. This means that your posts are not shown to many of your followers at all, so it can be hard to get any meaningful interaction and engagement on your business page.

That doesn’t mean that the page doesn’t have any value at all though. Imagine you are looking for a financial advisor, for example. Perhaps you meet one at a networking event or maybe you put up a Facebook post asking your community to recommend someone. You are going to go and check them out before contacting them, right? So, off you go to look at their website and social media. You can find a website, but it doesn’t look like it’s been updated since before the Ark was built, so you head over to Facebook to check them out there. But no, they don’t seem to have a profile

Now, what are you thinking? Is this person who doesn’t keep on top of their online presence giving you the right impression of their business?

Even if you don’t actively try to grow your business Facebook page, think of it as your online business card and make sure it doesn’t grow cobwebs – one post a week is enough just to keep it up to date enough not to put off potential clients.

So, what about Facebook groups?

Facebook group vs Facebook page can be a tricky decision for some businesses who are time-poor. Both can suck up a lot of hours to get them working well.

A Facebook group has some distinct advantages over a Facebook page

  • Reach for posts in a Facebook group is higher than for a business Facebook page
  • Build a long-lasting relationship with a loyal community
  • Easier to create relationships as you have direct contact with your group members
  • Groups can be great for nurturing your audience ahead of launch events

But beware!

To establish a thriving, engaged Facebook group takes a lot of effort. You need to be hanging out in the group, probably posting multiple times a day and, crucially, responding to others’ comments. This can be a huge time suck, so be sure you can commit to that before starting up a group. Of course, over time you can have other people join as admins to help you, but it is a time big commitment that many business owners shy away from.

Don’t forget that your group members will only get notified of new content if they regularly engage in your group, so you do have your work cut out to keep your group fresh and beneficial, so members interact regularly.

The conclusion?

  1. Definitely set up a Facebook business page and keep it updated with new content at least once a week.
  2. Think carefully about the time needed to run a Facebook group vs the value you can get. Don’t overcommit yourself.

This blog post was written following one of my recent Step Up to Success brainstorming sessions where members get to help each other in all sorts of business areas by sharing tips, tricks and pitfalls.

Why not check out some of our success stories to see for yourself the difference this group is making to our members and read our recent blog about the benefits to group members.

If you’d like to chat to me to find out more, please email me at debbie@stepuptosuccess.co.uk or ring me on 07733 076775.

Check us out on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.

 

The 7 Biggest Benefits of Online Networking

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

The 7 Biggest Benefits of Online Networking

The benefits of online networking aren’t just the obvious reduction in the need to travel and the associated time away from your desk that brings.

Online networking brings many more benefits that means people who previously thought that networking groups weren’t for them are starting to change their mind.

The biggest benefits of online networking for small businesses

  • Accessibility
  • Time saving
  • Productivity
  • Inclusivity
  • Business focus
  • Access to wider networks
  • Cost effective

Accessibility

Online networking offers a significant advantage over in-person networking for those who are less able to physically attend meetings. This could be due to living in a remote location, having caring duties or having physical disabilities that make travelling a challenge. Being able to attend meetings from home or another location of your choice opens up the world of networking to more business owners who previously found it tricky to attend in person events.

Time saving

We are all busy people and whilst it is lovely to meet others in person, sometimes it is difficult to take the time out of your day to travel to in person networking. Online events enable you to make much more efficient use of your time as you can easily move from one meeting to the next.

Productivity

Although the Athena online networking meetings follow exactly the same structure as the in-person meetings, virtual meetings are more productive. This is largely because meetings start and finish on time and more can be achieved in the 2 hours. Using breakout rooms for managing open networking and business training slots within the meeting are an efficient way of ensuring that we stick the timings in the agenda.

Inclusivity

One observation that Athena regional directors have noticed, and from getting feedback from members, is that some people feel that online networking is more inclusive than face-to-face networking. They feel more comfortable with break-out rooms for open networking rather than having a sometimes-awkward moment when you try to get yourself included in a group conversation at an in-person event. The breakout room format enables quieter members to have a voice and to feel more heard and therefore more included.

Business focus

Another of the online networking benefits is that meetings tend to be more business focused. Breakout sessions which have replaced the informal networking at the start of the session are an opportunity for the group leader to pose business related questions for discussion. This means that there is added value from the meeting.

Increased access to wider networks

With the restriction of distance removed, online networking provides a whole world of opportunity to meet new business owners who might be your ideal client, might be able to refer you to your ideal client or might be someone you could collaborate with. The world really is your oyster! When it comes to Athena though, the Pass+ feature which was introduced at the beginning of the pandemic has been a massive benefit to many members, enabling them to visit new groups far away from where they live and to meet people they otherwise would never have met. We love this feature, which is why it will continue to be an ongoing benefit of the Athena membership.

Cost effective

Although the membership fee remains unchanged, online networking is a more cost-effective option for members. There are no travel costs to get to meetings and although you now supply your own lunch, the ability to visit other meetings for no extra change more than makes up for the lack of food.

But what about in-person networking – will it return?

The short answer is yes, but all our monthly meetings sill stay online.  In our Athena region (South West Hertfordshire and North Middlesex) we will arrange occasional events face to face where it makes sense. We will also encourage members to resume face to face 1-2-1s where they feel it is appropriate.

Who would’ve thought a year ago that we would have embraced online networking to such an extent that it is now the preferred and ongoing format for our meetings? Clearly the benefits of online networking are outweighing the disadvantages.

If you are a woman business owner who would like to meet other like-minded professionals in a non-pressured environment – the comfort of your own lounge – then please get in touch. You may visit one meeting and one Cappuccino Connections before you need to make a decision.

We welcome women from all walks of life and all business disciplines, although there is a lockout in each group, so chat to me to find out which group would be best for you.

My groups are:

Watford Wednesday – 3rd Wednesday

Watford Thursday – 2nd Thursday

Bushey – 3rd Tuesday

Rickmansworth – 3rd Thursday

Harrow – 1st Thursday

Kings Langley – 4th Tuesday

Do come for a visit – you will be warmly welcomed by all my members.

If you’d like to chat to me to find out more about the benefits of online networking and how it can support your business, please email me at debbie.diggle@theathenanetwork.com or ring me on 07733 076775.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn

Small business UK based support group – join our taster session

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

Small business in the UK have been hard hit by the global pandemic, particularly limited companies and those who didn’t qualify for any Government financial support. But support takes a variety of forms and it’s not always the finance side of things that prevents us from moving forward.

 

Let’s face it, when you run your own small business, you need to wear many hats to be successful. It’s not enough to be good at the core activity – the reason you went into business in the first place – you need to be on top of all the other tasks that are vital for growth and success.

And that can be tough, if you don’t know what you don’t know.

Having a like-minded group of business owners to bounce ideas off, to valid assumptions and to pick you up after a tricky week is invaluable.

Step Up To Success is a small business UK based support group that provides a friendly and helpful online forum for business owners to come together and help each other reach their goals and we’d love to help you too.

Join the taster session here

The group is a nurturing space for new and more established business owners alike and any sort of business is welcome. We currently have members representing everything from Excel specialist through to Canine Massage Services – what you do isn’t that important, but how you interact with others is.

Group members are invited to attend several business focused sessions each month, but none are mandatory and you won’t be chased up if you don’t come along – we are not a formal networking group in that sense. Nor will you be expected to introduce new people to the group, although if you know someone you think could benefit, you can certainly tell them about Step Up To Success.

How Small Business in the UK can benefit from this support group

Although we wouldn’t stop anyone overseas from joining the group, we are predominantly focused on discussing issues that affect UK based businesses. The group is aimed at women in business who don’t have the support of a large team and who want to use the group to hold themselves accountable.

The benefits that members receive include

  • accountability from a monthly buddy system and the group in general
  • Mastermind ‘spotlight’ opportunities where you get a chance to bring a particular business issue to the table and get ideas for solutions
  • brainstorming sessions – general discussion on wider business problems such as procrastination, productivity, marketing, finances and so on
  • training workshops aimed at upskilling members in specific business knowledge such as how to close sales, how to write SEO blogs, different ways to use Excel in your business. These sessions are often run by group members for the benefit of others.

Your Step Up to Success monthly meetings

Each month there are 4-5 brainstorming sessions, 2 mastermind sessions and a workshop, all managed using Zoom. Attend as many sessions as you wish according to your availability. Some

sessions are recorded with members permission and may be viewed on replay for those who cannot attend live. A closed Facebook group is used for communicating and sharing information in between sessions and especially for celebrating our successes.

Find out if the Step Up To Success group is right for you

On 23rd June from 10-11am (BST) there will be a taster session for potential new members. Small business UK based entrepreneurs are invited to take part in a mini brainstorming session and a mini Mastermind alongside existing members to experience the power of the group in helping each other to flourish. The taster session costs only £10 which is deducted from your first month’s membership fee when you join the group. The monthly membership fee is kept affordable so that the benefits are accessible to all including those just starting out in business. For just £24 a month, you can attend all 7 sessions if you wish – getting huge value to move your business forward for a very small investment.

How have current members benefited so far

The current cohort of members have already achieved many of their planned goals for 2021 in just the first 5 months. Some have increased their sales, some have implemented new systems and processes to make efficiency savings and all of them talk about the emotional impact of having small business support which enables them to flourish and meet their business aspirations.

How do you sign up?

You can join Step Up to Success taster session by completing a simple form. We are friendly but if you like, why not bring a friend along too.

Why not check out some of our success stories to see for yourself the difference this group is making to our members and read our recent blog about the benefits to group members.

If you’d like to chat to me to find out more, please email me at debbie@stepuptosuccess.co.uk or ring me on 07733 076775.

Check us out on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.

 

The Benefits of Support for Small Businesses

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

Support for small businesses is vital. When you are a small business, especially a sole trader, the benefits of having a group of like-minded people alongside you on your journey cannot be underestimated.

 

In this blog, one of my Step Up To Success members, Michelle Eshkeri explains the value she has gained from being part of the group and why the benefits of support for small businesses are so huge.

I’m Michelle Eshkeri, a copywriter and children’s author and I joined Step Up to Success around 3 months ago. My business is called Let Me Write and I’m a sole trader who set up about 6 months before the pandemic lockdown in March 2020.

For the first 6 months I mainly relied on face-to-face networking to find clients, which worked pretty well and when the lockdown came, fortunately the groups I was in transitioned quickly to online networking.

As a result, my business grew very quickly over the summer and autumn of 2020 and I found myself needing to put more focus into planning, process and systems streamlining and looking at my business model more closely to identify the most profitable work.

At this point, I had been visiting Debbie’s Athena groups online and found out about the group that Debbie was setting up to provide support to small businesses.

Who is the group for?

Step Up To Success provides support for small businesses who are run by women entrepreneurs. It provides a safe space for us to discuss everything related to business (and somethings things on the periphery) so we can be more successful and enjoy out businesses more.

The benefits of support for small businesses are huge.

When you work on your own, life can be a bit lonely. You don’t have others around you to bounce ideas off and you don’t have people to pick you up when you’ve had a tough day. That can make life as a self-employed person hard.

Step Up To Success has given me the following benefits:

  • Accountability

When you work alone, it’s easy to put things off for another day or to waste too much time not achieving very much at all. The business support group gives you the accountability to get more things done. Each month you can choose to have an accountability buddy who you check in with as much as you both agree, and this helps you to stay on track. When you know you must report progress on your goals to someone else, it gives you much more focus.

  • Sounding board

Sometimes you think you’ve had a great idea and later it turns out, it wasn’t so brilliant after all. The Step Up group gives us a safe, non-judgemental space to explore potential new business ideas and do some market research which can save you a lot of heartache and frustration down the line. Recently, I took the hotseat at one of the Mastermind meetings and asked the group about a new product I was thinking of launching. I received valuable feedback and suggestions which has helped me to develop my offer.

  • Encouragement

The support and encouragement I’m receiving from Debbie’s group makes a big difference to my motivation to succeed and I love the fact that we also celebrate the wins and successes with each other. When you need a pick me up, the group is there for you and when you need to shout about something that’s gone brilliantly, they are cheering you too. Encouragement and support for small businesses can make all the difference to your achievements.

  • Target setting and tracking

Each month we choose 3 goals to work on for the month. This is great for giving you short-term focus on task that must get done to be more successful – especially those ones you may have been procrastinating over. Just this past week, I finally stopped talking about moving my email list from Mailchimp and actually did it. That’s a tick off my list for May 😊.

  • Training

Debbie is providing amazing value for money with this group – mind blowing, actually. Not only do you get multiple brainstorming and mastermind sessions and your accountability buddy each month, but there is also a monthly training session which delivers enormous value. The group is worth the cost of only £24 for this training alone. I will be delivering the training this month on how to write SEO blog posts to drive traffic to your website – better make it a good one!

As far as I can see there are no downsides to joining Step Up to Success. I’ve gained so much – insight, encouragement, knowledge, tips and tricks, friendship, accountability – in short, every support for small businesses you could possibly want – except perhaps someone to make me a cuppa as I set my keyboard on fire writing for my clients 😊.

If you feel you’d also like to gain those benefits, then I urge you to get in touch with Debbie today at debbie@stepuptosuccess.co.uk or complete her contact form and jump right in.

What do you have to lose?

You can also find Step Up To Success on Facebook and Instagram.

This blog was written by Michelle Eshkeri, a copywriter and children’s author. You can connect with her at www.letmewrite.couk or on LinkedIn.

 

The Benefits of a Spotlight at a Business Mastermind Session

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

The benefits of a spotlight at a business mastermind session

Last week in Step Up to Success, an online business mentoring and support programme, it was my turn to take the spotlight in the business mastermind session. Thirty minutes just to talk about my business Let ME Writewith several other like-minded women business owners who were prepared to help me tackle one of my current business issues. In the lead up to the session, it was hard to decide what to bring to the meeting but eventually I settled on doing a bit of market research.

Market research is tricky

Author and former business executive Seth Godin said: ‘Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers’ and that’s very sound advice. You might create a great product or service, but you won’t be successful if nobody is interested in buying it. With that in mind, I decided to test one of my copywriting programmes with the mastermind audience to find out more about what they think they need when it comes to content and copywriting for their business.

What I learned during the business mastermind session 

  • There is no substitute for real life deep dive questions

When you start out in business, it’s easy to make a lot of assumptions about what your customers might want from your products or services. However, if you don’t test your theories and bring your product or service to market without checking if it’s really what your consumer needs, then you are much more likely to incur costs which you cannot recoup through sales. By doing focus groups, or in this case, a spotlight during a business mastermind session, it is possible to get very targeted and valuable feedback about what you are offering.

  • I need to adjust my Signature offer

With the opportunity to explain in detail my signature programme, it was really helpful to talk through have fine detail of what I do when I help clients with their content writing and to discuss the price of my service as well. Feedback was that although the content of the course looks great, I could consider creating another package which would suit those with a smaller budget or newly in business.

  • I could consider another premium offer

We then went on to discuss other options for packaging up my content and copywriting services., From this discussion, I am considering developing a brand messaging package which would cover a range of common pieces of writing that all businesses need for marketing and awareness. After the spotlight session, I was able to continue to gather feedback via the group mastermind closed Facebook group. This has been extremely useful in helping me to develop a potential new service.

  • Spotlight sessions focus the mind

Spotlight sessions are generally quite short, perhaps 30 to 60 minutes which means that you need to get really focused to achieve maximum benefit. When you don’t have time to waste, everybody in the room is less likely to waste time.

  • Everyone benefits

Whether you are in the spotlight or a participant in the business mastermind session, everyone can take something away from this session . Even though we were talking about my business, much of what was discussed it was also applicable to everybody else in the room.

Summary of the benefits of a Spotlight session

  • Like-minded individuals giving honest opinions
  • Gain clarity on how real customers view your products and services
  • Exposure to business people who may think differently from you
  • Bring issues to the group for help brainstorming solutions.
  • Increased motivation and creativity to achieve more.

 

Step Up to Success for female business owners provides spotlight session as just one of the many business benefits of an online community for entrepreneurs. At only £24/m, it’s a great investment in your business’ future.

 

Contact Step Up to Success leader Debbie Diggle here and check out some of the customer success stories.

What is a mastermind group and how your business can benefit

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

What is a mastermind group?

A mastermind group is a way to meet other like-minded entrepreneurs, to discuss business issues and to benefit from the collective wisdom of the hive mind. A mastermind group is likely to be online at the moment, although it hopefully won’t be too long before we can be face-to-face again.

Why would you pay to join a mastermind?

Some people might think that it’s a bit odd to pay money just to meet up for a chat with other business owners, but that’s because they don’t understand the value that discussing your business issues, hopes and plans with others can bring. Mastermind groups can provide a supportive community where people give and receive feedback, share actionable ideas and support and encourage each other. It’s all about building people up, encouraging them when they need motivation and holding each other accountable to targets and planned actions.

Four entrepreneurs who would benefit from a mastermind

  • The ‘I recently started in business’ entrepreneur

When you start out in business, for most people, you don’t know what you don’t know. You quickly find out that there’s a great deal you don’t know. It can be overwhelming. You most likely didn’t start your business because you wanted to spend your days dealing with paperwork, admin and finding new clients, but if you don’t keep on top of the basics of running a business, it can get out of control fast. When you join a mastermind, you can draw on the collective experience of the group and sidestep some of the pitfalls that others may have fallen into when they started out.

  • The ‘I’m having a wobble about being in business’ entrepreneur

We all have moments when we think ‘Why did I think it would be a good idea to go self-employed?’ and wonder why we gave up the security of a monthly pay check. At those times when you are having a wobble, your mastermind colleagues can keep you focused on your Why? and help you figure out what your need to do next to set you back on track.

  • The I’m too busy to attend a mastermind’ entrepreneur

If you are run ragged by the demands of your business, you may think it’s a bit crazy to add a mastermind group into the mix. However, the group can help you to stay accountable and set challenging yet achievable targets. They can also stop you disappearing down rabbit holes and they can offer solutions to common business issues that you might not have thought of. All of this can save you oodles of time and stop you from running around looking busy whilst actually achieving very little. Now, that’s a win!

  • The ‘I know it all already’ entrepreneur

Clearly no-one knows it all about being in business but people who think they have it all figured out can still benefit from a mastermind group because each person in the group brings completely unique experiences to the table. This means that no matter what stage you are at in business, there are always things to learn, better ways to do things that save time, money or frustration, so gaining outside perspective on what you do is invaluable.

Summary of the benefits of a mastermind group

  • Get an accountability buddy who can help you stay on track with your goals.
  • Provide another entrepreneur with the accountability they need to be successful.
  • Gain clarity on your business direction.
  • Exposure to different business approaches, systems, processes etc.
  • Bring issues to the group for help brainstorming solutions.
  • Set clear targets between meetings to help meet your business objectives
  • Increased motivation and creativity to achieve more.

Step Up to Success for female business owners provides mastermind groups as just one of the many business benefits of an online community for entrepreneurs. At only £24/m, it’s a great investment in your business’ future.

Contact us here and check out some of our customer success stories.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

‘To Do Lists’ – What’s on your ‘to do’ list that has been on there for ages?

By | Uncategorised | No Comments
  • Have you got a ‘to do’ list?
  • Have you got something on there that has been on there for ages?
  • Is there something you don’t want to add to your ‘to do’ list because you know you don’t want to do it?

For me, writing a newsletter has been on my list for ages but I’ve suddenly got the urge to do it!

What has suddenly given me that urge?

The other ladies in Step Up To Success who are achieving things that they have been putting off have given me that urge!

This is what some of our members said last week:

“Being accountable to my buddy supported me in writing AND posting my first blog in 9 months!”

“I created my blog post content plan because my accountability buddy held me accountable. It might not have happened otherwise.”

“A combination of the brilliant brainstorming sessions and support from my accountability buddy has meant that I have finally sent my first email newsletter! I’ve been procrastinating about it so long so this is a real win for me!”

What’s on your ‘to do’ list that has been on there for ages and how long has it been on there?

Please let me know!

Debbie x

Online community for Entrepreneurs – Why Sole Traders Need Accountability

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

When you start out as a sole trader, being in business can be lonely. That’s why it’s a great idea to find an online community for entrepreneurs that can give you support, encouragement and, perhaps most importantly, accountability.

What is accountability in business?

Accountability is the quality or state of being accountable; an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions. Sometime responsibility and accountability are used interchangeably. However, there is a difference. Responsibility can be shared whereas accountability cannot. Being accountable not only means being responsible for something but also ultimately being answerable for your actions.

Why is it important to hold yourself accountable?

As a business owner, it’s vital to hold yourself accountable for the decisions you make and the consequences they bring. Even when you are not in control of how a situation plays out, how you respond to those circumstances and how you decide to approach situations that are in your control is entirely up to you. If you have accountability in your business, you are much more likely to stand by your decisions and actions.

Accountability for sole traders

When you are a sole trader, there could be a temptation to think that having accountability isn’t important for you. After all, when you don’t have any employees, it’s obvious who will be accountable in your business. If you are good at holding yourself accountable, you are much more likely to achieve targets and be successful. However, it’s also much easier to get distracted, reverse decisions and get to the end of the year without meeting your goals. Having access to an online community for entrepreneurs who can help you to stay accountable can make a big difference to your business achievements.

5 Ways you can be more accountable.

  1. Be conscious of what you are committing to and don’t overcommit.
  2. Recognise the jobs that make you procrastinate and either do them first or outsource them.
  3. Write down your goals and break them down to measurable actions.
  4. Set deadlines for all your actions and stick to them – block out time in your calendar.
  5. Give yourself permission to fail from time to time – you are not a robot, after all.

Benefits of accountability from an online community for entrepreneurs

  • Get an accountability buddy who can help you stay on track with your goals.
  • Provide another entrepreneur with the accountability they need to be successful.
  • Gain clarity on your business direction.
  • Feel more accomplished in your business.
  • Increased motivation and creativity to achieve more.
  • Productivity increases and you make better decisions.

Step Up to Success for female business owners provides accountability as just one of the many business benefits of an online community for entrepreneurs. You can also receive support, ideas and training to enable your business to grow in a nurturing environment.

Contact us here and check out some of our customer success stories.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

Introducing Step Up to Success – an Online Business Support Service

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

You might be wondering why you need a business support service to help your business be more successful.

Perhaps you already attend networking groups and you’re not sure what benefits you might get from being part of another membership. At Step Up To Success, an online business support community for women entrepreneurs, you’ll get access to a range of sessions each month designed to help you set the direction, explore opportunities, keep accountable in your business and achieve your targets.

Let’s dive into the different types of sessions and resources.

Goal Setting

Each month you’ll set manageable goals for your business and be held accountable by the group leader and other members. This will help you keep on track and progress towards your overall targets for the year. When you commit your goals to paper and revisit them on a frequent basis, you have a much higher chance of success.

Masterminds

Masterminds are focused 90-minute sessions where 2 members have the opportunity to present a specific business issue for 30 minutes each, getting the benefit of everyone else’s experience and ideas. Participants can also gain great insight for their own business.

Brainstorming

Each session will focus on a different business topic and participants will have an opportunity to discuss any challenges or wins that they may have in this area. Two heads are better than one and 6 to 10 heads are even better!

Training

The Step Up To Success business support service will also provide training in a variety of business skills such as social media marketing, writing for business, bookkeeping, optimising technology and many other sessions.

Benefits of an online business support service

  • Completely flexible choice of interactive sessions that bring together a diverse range of businesswomen who all want to help each other to greater success.
  • Attend as many or as few sessions as you wish throughout the month depending on your availability. Nothing is compulsory, so it can slot into your work life easily
  • Get weekly and monthly accountability to help you hit your targets
  • Friendship encouragement and support from like-minded women entrepreneurs
  • Feedback is taken into account in planning future sessions to ensure that you get the most value you can from your membership
  • The Step Up To Success business support service will remain online, allowing anyone to participate wherever they are in the UK or even abroad. We welcome all.

The small print

Step Up To Success is a monthly membership group with no contract and no cancellation notice period.  The monthly cost is the same (currently £24) whether you attend one session or all of them. We don’t believe in tying people into a long contract – we want you to stay for as long as it makes sense to you and you are getting great value from the community.

My business support groups are incredibly welcoming, so if you are a woman in business, why not get in touch at and find out if might suit you. Contact us here and check out some of our customer success stories.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

Stepping up to your personal success

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

Running a business can be full of highs and lows, happiness and sadness, credits and debits.

Each little hurdle you jump over can feel exhausting, but each success you gain can feel like winning an Olympic gold medal.

Any of this sound familiar?

Well, Step up to Success might just be the community for you. It is geared towards women in business who feel stuck and need a helping hand to navigate through those inevitable rough patches.

IS THIS YOU?

Designed for business women who have been plugging away for a year or more, we will help you tackle your professional pitfalls and turn them from negatives into achievements.

Do any of the following statements ring true?

1. I’m always so busy but never seem to get anything done.

2. I’ve put my heart and soul into this business.

3. I feel intimidated by the sales target I’ve set myself – how on earth will I achieve it?

4. My family and friends are going to find me out. What if they realise my business isn’t as successful as I’d hoped it would be?

5. I don’t want to give up. I love what I do but I’m just about keeping my head above water.

6. If things don’t change soon, I’m going to have to look for a 9-to- 5.

Don’t fret if your internal alarm bells are ringing!

Step Up to Success is designed for these moments and will help you create an action plan to overcome that feeling of impending doom.

WHAT IS IT?

As part of the community, you will meet professional women in similar situations as well as hearing the stories of established business owners who also struggled in the beginning but are now hitting their targets consistently.

Business is hard, but not achieving your goals is harder.

Contact us for more information.

Step up to Success will be an online community, so wherever you are in the world it doesn’t matter!

Business Networking for Women – 4 Huge Benefits of Membership

By | Uncategorised | No Comments

Business networking for women comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, just like women themselves. One size does not fit all. Depending on the type of business you have and the services/products you offer, different sorts of business networking might be better suited to you than others. In this first blog of 2021, I’m going to outline some of the biggest benefits of having a membership in a business networking group for women.

Some networking groups offer a pay-as-you-go approach which is usually a low payment per meeting with no annual subscription. Other such as The Athena Network are membership based with an annual subscription which can be split into an up-front payment and a monthly subscription. Let’s explore the advantages of the membership style of business networking.

  • Strong commitment to the network

Making an annual subscription payment to be a member of a group shows a commitment to that group. You are demonstrating that you are serious about networking. This approach enables you and the other business owners to support each other because you know that you will see each other multiple times throughout the year, be able to learn about each other’s business and therefore be able to provide support for each other in the form of practical business skills and emotional support if things get tough. If you want to become a topflight golfer, you have to join a club – you can’t rely on dropping by the local pitch and putt every so often.

  • Relationship building and trust

Business is all about trust. People buy from people but not from people they don’t trust. That’s why one of the best forms of marketing is word-of-mouth. When someone YOU trust gives you a recommendation, you are much more likely to trust that it will be a good recommendation. When you sign up to a membership for business networking, you tap into a world where you can nurture powerful relationships with the other members. If you rely on drop-in networking where you are likely to see different people each week or month, then it can be much harder to build solid relationships and for you to trust each other.

  • Leveraging others’ knowledge and experience

The world of commerce can be bewildering for new business owners. You’ve started a business because you are great at doing the thing you do, but you quickly find that you must be good at all the other activities that are involved with business, such as marketing for new clients, closing the sale, dealing with the paperwork, finance and legals. The list is significant. Business networking groups can help you to gain invaluable insight into how to run your business, benefiting from the collective knowledge, skills and experience of perhaps 20 other business owners. It’s like having a ready-made team for your company. This particular benefit should not be underestimated – I’ve used the services of many of my networking members in my own business and having those trusted resources takes away some of the concern about outsourcing. In addition, if you are REALLY lucky, like me, you’ll have someone in your group that bakes amazing cakes. Who doesn’t need cake in their life, after all?

  • Strategic Alliances

This is where the magic of membership really comes into its own. I’ve seen the most wonderful collaborations happen and sometimes between the most unlikely of partnerships. There are the obvious alliances such as the cake maker, photographer and the event planner who can work together to create a wedding package for example. But think a little more laterally and you can come up with lots of ways to create something unique by joining forces with someone else in your group. It’s exciting to watch the relationships form and when we have a new member joining the network, I can’t wait to see how they will fit into the team.

How can you find the best business networking for women?

Well, you’ve landed on this blog because you searched for ‘business networking for women’ or you might have seen this blog on social media or had it sent to you by someone in the network who thinks YOU could be our next member, so that tells me you are already interested.

If you’d like to see if the Athena Network is the right business network for you, I’d love to hear from you. There are 6 groups in my region with a wide variety of business owners in each, so if your discipline clashes in one group, there will likely be another group you can join. We do operate a one member per discipline per group policy so you can lock out your competition, which is another benefit you won’t get from the pay-as-you-go flavour of networking.

Get in touch for a quick chat to find out more and get your business off to a flying start in 2021.

Until next time

Debbie