Since 1989 when I started my grown up journey into business, I have attended many hundreds of networking meetings. In truth not many added value to me or my business. In fact, disillusionment takes the form of eventually believing that everyone present was really just there for the buffet! The munch bunch!
Thanet Business Network (TBN) was formed back in 2001 and is a networking club, meeting over breakfast, that allows for only one business from each sector to be represented. Near the start of TBN I attended as a guest but was too late to fill the IT provider sector role.
I wasn’t at the meeting, but roll the clock forward to 2012 and the mighty fracture (I believe people reacting to a situation rather than responding) that led to a number of members walking out to form a new club. Martin Hughes of ChipsAway skilfully took over the role of Chairman and steered the TBN ship through what was apparently some turbulent waters. Dave Tappy (Big Red Branding) contacted me in September 2012 to let me know that the IT sector role was now vacant.
At the end of Martin’s year in June 2013, I was elected to the role of Chairman (the minimum membership term to be eligible for election to the committee it turns out). On one hand that could look like desperate times had led to desperate measures. However, I think that the truth was more that I brought new life to the table and had not been sullied by the nonsense that led to the split in 2012. As in, it wasn’t my problem or my fault. I had no place in the past, my whole reason to exist as Chairman was for the future of the club. I ran with that …
By the end of my first term as Chairman, I realised that the club was good, but not quite optimal. It was possible for members to come and go as they pleased and only pay if they turned up. We had some members whose attendance was quite patchy and as a result they hardly received any leads or benefit from the club and certainly never provided any leads to their fellow members. The fix for the club to me was the same as the fix for Business Computer Solutions which was to move to more like a managed service or subscription. A member would pay a regular recurring fee for which everything was included. This would push attendance up and therefore increase the number of leads given and received. Sounds logical to me.
At the AGM in 2014 the motion to make these changes was approved and our resident solicitor Steven Harrison (Robinson Allfree) updated our constitution documents as Andrew Dickinson (Oakwood homes) took over as chairman in July 2014. Members left who didn’t like the changes which we expected and were completely at ease with, but even more members joined. I believe that Andrew and I did a marvellous job of the transition from ad-hoc club to subscription club.
With nobody lined up who wanted to take back over as chairman in July 2015, I snuck back in as the logical shoe-in for a second term as chairman. Over this past year the club has continued to strengthen even allowing us to support several charitable causes with money and materials plus we organised a fabulous Fun Day bringing sick children with their siblings and parents down for a day out at Quex Museum in a massive collection of fast and fun cars!
With things like attendance, finance, debt collecting and lead passing almost off the agenda the group now focuses on business development, training and peer support. Meetings remain vibrant and fun … which is a feat to achieve given the 06:30 start each Wednesday.
The committee this year with whom we couldn’t have achieved all we have were Vice Chairman – Mags Vickers (Aloe2bee), Secretary – Ruth Dolan (Tarvos Wealth), Treasurer – Michael Collier (Levicks Accountants), Membership – Andrew Dickinson (Oakwood homes), Events – Lee Sadd (Safety and Management Solutions) and Marketing – Ian Lodge (Broadbiz). Thanks guys.
I have now handed over to a new chairman, Mags Vickers (Aloe2Bee) and a mostly new committee (including another Business Computer Solutions director, Martin Hynes). With 39 active members, a goal to not exceed 40 members and money in the bank, this club is thriving and I believe it will do for many years to come.
The Thanet Better Business Conference being arranged and funded by Thanet Business Network on Saturday 24th September 2016 at the Winter Gardens Margate is coming together nicely. Further details and speakers should all be live on the website in the next few weeks. Hopefully this will be a recurring event further enhancing Thanet Business Network’s position as the go to networking group in Thanet.