By Phil Cheesman
I set up 4 Words Management Improvement in 2003, to allow me to move away from corporate boardrooms and deal with smaller businesses where decisions are made and implemented more quickly.
The trouble was that I had recently relocated to South Wales and had no business contacts there at all! A neighbour of mine introduced me to a breakfast networking group which was run to almost military procedures and focused solely on the passing of referrals. I found this fairly stifling but better than other organisations whose meetings had no structure or focus at all. I thought that all professional networking organisations fell to one of these categories so I stayed with the breakfast group despite the fact that I found the whole thing unsatisfying and not very productive.
I learnt a lot during the next 2 ½ years about what's good and bad in networking and my view of networking organisations became pretty sceptical. One day, a colleague said "actually, there is a third way" – it's called NRG. After much persuasion, and with low expectations, I finally agreed to give NRG a try. There was no NRG group in Wales at the time so I went to a meeting of the Bristol group. What a difference! I was met by Martin Davies who treated me as if I was the only person there. He emphasised from the outset that NRG was more about building relationships than giving and receiving referrals at every meeting and that if I expected instant business from membership I was probably going to be disappointed. How refreshing was that?
I loved the format – it had just the right balance of structure and informality and the people at the meeting were working at similar levels to me. Because there was no pressure to give referrals I really enjoyed myself at the meeting and decided to join NRG.
I've been a member for 4 years now and I view each meeting as a treat to look forward to rather than something I have to do to get business. The funny thing is, by letting go of the compulsion to get or give business, I have ended up getting more and giving more business than through any other channel. Indeed, more than 80% of my current business has come as a direct result of my NRG membership – need I say more? My thanks to Martin and Dave for all their support, to the group leaders who do so much on all our behalves and to all the members whose help and friendship means so much to me.