Have you ever been banned from a club?
Have you ever been banned from a club? Well, this month, I have.
I have been a member of a particular women’s only networking group for two years and have just been informed that they will not be allowing me to renew my membership. Effectively, I have been banned.
To say I was surprised was a bit of an understatement. Had I turned up drunk for a zoom meeting? Had I thrown a virtual chair across the zoom room in a fit of pique? (there is a secret button for this function, but if I told you where it was, I would have to kill you). No. Apparently, the Business Shed – an online business growth club – clashes with their offering, which is networking.
Let’s just break this down briefly and look at the definitions:
A business growth support club. A virtual space where business owners come together to work on their business plans, learn new skills, get fresh ideas and get friendly accountability. Ninety minutes with probably half of that being silent, as people just get plans made, strategies plotted and actions identified. No pitches, no business presentations, no selling. Oh, and we have a compost heap where we throw the crap that hasn’t worked, find out why and recycle it into insight and shared learning.
A networking group. A face-to-face group that is currently virtual, where every member gets to give their business pitch, talk about who they are trying to find as clients, someone gives more in-depth presentation about their business and there is a real focus on recommending others.
Hmm. No obvious clash there, unless they are frantically building their own version of a shed with a compost heap, perhaps? But maybe, they just don’t like the cut of my jib. Or my jib is too…jib-like. (Look, I’m going to admit it, I have no idea what a jib is). But that’s all guesswork, as I was told the news by my lovely, supportive regional director, not the people who made the decision, and a polite request that the new franchise owners phone me out of professional courtesy seemingly landed on deaf ears. Which got me thinking.
In this current climate, what with one thing and another (as Kermode and Mayo are wont to say), I truly believe that small businesses need to do everything to support each other. Quite frankly, this should be the case at any time, and should be the spirit of all small businesses, but especially a networking business. I have done membership networking for at least at decade and have given freely of my time with countless seminars and workshops for members, stepped in for last minute presentation duties and given all I can to make the group the best it can be. And business owners around me did the same. That’s what makes networking work. To start vetoing businesses from being part of that seems a little counter-intuitive.
And perhaps there is an interesting point here about how you grow your business. Every business owner has two options. One, trash the competition, and by squashing them down, hope that makes you look like you’re rising to the top. Or two, support other small business owners, be confident enough in your own offering and brand proposition to be strong enough to attract your own brand tribe and collaborate with ‘competitors’ to get the right clients working with the right businesses and raising up your entire industry.
And lastly, whilst I do not vocally bang the drum for the sisterhood just because of their specific combination of chromosomes, preferring to crack open my percussion solos for any small business owner who does what they do brilliantly, I cannot not mention the fact that in a women’s network, an attitude of exclusion rather than inclusion does not feel that comfortable.
So here I sit, banned from my network. But that’s okay. I know there are plenty more networking seas to fish in and as I sit in my Shed, dangling my feet into the warm waters of forward-thinking networking, I have already had some of my faith in collaboration and mutually supportive peers restored.
To switch metaphors from fishing to food, because that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, I have nearly finished consuming my punnet of sour grapes and will pour myself a glass of sparkling opportunity and look forward to tasting the delights of the smorgasbord of networking out there (sorry, that got quite painful toward the end there). And I raise my glass to every small business who is doing their best to support their peers, collaborate for mutually beneficial outcomes and network with inclusivity and respect as a given. I wish the new owners well. May their compost heap be perfectly formed and give them bountiful and fragrant returns.