Not Just Travel franchise owner, Lloydie Gardiner, shares his top tips for those thinking about using networking to grow their business
In the middle of 2020, the pandemic was in full swing. While many businesses had to survive, travel agents had a particularly difficult time. They had to be available to refund or reschedule customers’ holidays, all while making no new revenue.
It’s at times like these that support networks were vital. Thankfully, Not Just Travel franchise owner, Lloydie Gardiner, was a member of his local BNI chapter. They continued to meet virtually and provided much-needed camaraderie during the lockdowns. But that wasn’t the only benefit of having like-minded people around. As well as being highly active in all areas of his business, Lloydie made sure he remained a valuable member of the chapter. And now, because of his efforts, he’s managed to create nearly £1m in sales through his local chapters alone.
Here are his top three tips for how business owners can succeed at networking.
1. Be yourself, but be prepared
Lloydie explains that you don’t have to be overly rehearsed but you should definitely have your introduction prepared in case you’re asked to speak. He advises: “Be prepared. Get yourself ready just in case you need to do a 60-second or 10-minute presentation. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Just be yourself. Talk to them naturally and tell them what you do.
“As a travel agent, I say I’m their easiest referral because everyone wants a holiday or knows someone who does. Any time I ask ‘who knows someone who goes on holiday?’, everyone puts their hand up straight away. I say great – you all know the perfect person to refer to me.”
He also says to be clear about what type of referral you don’t want. This stops you from wasting your own and others’ time dealing with leads that won’t go anywhere.
2. Don’t expect too much, too soon
Lloydie is clear that your first year should be spent building great relationships with the group. It’s certainly more about giving to receive than expecting everyone to refer others to you cold.
He says: “It’s all about helping others before they help you. You have to give more than you get. But then it comes back; it just flows back. This part is just a no-brainer for me.”
3. Ignore the stereotypes
Badly run networking groups can be a drain – you get little in the way of a supportive community or new business. But Lloydie’s clear that good groups are a vital part of his business growth. He also says that you may want to reconsider any preconceived ideas about what to expect.
“The old ‘men’s club’ image is totally gone now. It’s a very modern and very welcoming environment. There are apps and virtual meetings to go along with physical ones and it’s a really friendly place to be,” he says.
Lloydie also highlights that it’s not all about getting new customers. He sourced lots of great suppliers and got great free advice for his own business too.
“I’ve met marketing and financial experts who provide so much free value. I’ve also met my printer who’s absolutely amazing. I even get my car valeted through someone I met at the chapter!” he says.