Referral networks and joint ventures need teamwork

The whole team should be on their bikes

Over the last ten years I have belonged to several breakfast groups and even run one. I have also belonged to networks meeting at other times of the day. Some of these groups produced great relationships and also business. One produced really a lot of business for which I will always be grateful.

Networking groups succeed when the members work together and help each other. After all it is not reasonable just to keep taking and not giving. Giving is what we should do first, and keep on doing it. Referral groups can only succeed where the members respect each other and work together.

Not all the groups to which I have belonged have been successful though. Those that have foundered on the rocks have suffered because not all the members were “on board” in spirit and working to support the group. Some people think all they need to do is to pay their subscriptions. They don’t turn up at the meetings often enough. They don’t look for referrals for others. They are passengers. We cannot carry passive people.

One or two of the groups to which I have belonged have worked together on major marketing efforts for the network and for its members. These sorts of joint ventures can also be very successful, but only if everyone participates by actually doing some work. You have to DO THE WORK as Chris Brogan would say.

I don’t know about you, but I need my valuable time to run my business which includes doing my marketing. I am happy to help others with theirs in joint initiatives if they really are that; not if I am doing all their marketing as well as mine (unless they are paying me suitably for doing it).

Have you come across these “hangers-on” who expect the world to come to them? Isn’t it so much better when you have all your networkers working with you rather than just coming along for the ride?

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The Water Margin guide to business


The Water Margin

The expression “small business” has many meanings. There is no way of knowing whether we mean a business with fifty employees or just one person on her or his own. What I am going to say apples to the smaller small businesses although slightly bigger businesses may benefit too from that magic word “cooperation”.

I believe in sub-contracting what I don’t like doing and maybe don’t do well. I believe we can benefit others through channeling work to them while making a profit in their contribution as well.

Sometimes there are some quite large projects that we may baulk on taking on on our own. As a tax practitioner and business adviser, I might with a large project such as a share scheme introduce to a client one of my tax adviser friends, perhaps also a solicitor or lawyer, and perhaps a financial planner.

In the past with a large project I have engaged a franchise expert, a lawyer and a health and safety specialist to work on a project for me. In fact aside from a little project management I did little of the work, and I could not have done any part of the project on my own.

Many people are afraid to take on what sounds a large project if they are a very small business. I think that if you have a good network around you and can get the right team together, you can do a better job than much larger businesses.

The only real issue is the level of risk just in case something goes wrong. If the worst case scenario occurred, would everyone’s insurance cover it? Remember that you don’t have to have done anything wrong to get sued because some people have an eye for the main chance.

Given that proviso, though, and if we use sound judgment we can deliver premium work and exceptional service because we can give the attention of a small business and small business people as against somebody else’s managers and employees with other distractions.

It’s not just joint ventures, though. We can impress all our clients by bringing in specialists in our network without any formal agreement. If someone needs a financial adviser, I know several and would pick the most suitable one. If they need health and safety I know just the people. If they need sales and marketing… We can deliver just what our clients require much better than large corporations.

Do you remember the 1970s TV series (based on ancient tales from China) called The Water Margin? It started with a quotation:

“The ancient sages said “do not despise the snake for having no horns, for who is to say it will not become a dragon? So may one just man become an army.”

That is true for all of us in business because even when we are small. One just woman or man can become an army and deal with very profitable large projects. It is all about who you know and can enlist to help you.



Here is the opening sequence of a vintage TV show.

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Loneliness is such a sad affair

It is a lonely affair being in business on your own or just in a small business of a few people. There is also the question of fear of other businesses in the same line, seeing them as competitors. I don’t think that is the right attitude.

Since I have been in business I have got to know many business owners who work in the same areas as I do, especially through networking, but also because I have sought them out at conferences and seminars. Of these people nine out of ten are friendly and we try to help each other with ideas. There is always the odd one who is afraid to give anything away. That is their loss.


It is incredibly useful to have others around us. I work with others in allied businesses such as bookkeepers and accountants, and this means I can provide services which I could not otherwise do, and also have more satisfied clients who get a more rounded service.

So, cooperation can lead to the big project. We always need to use our judgement as to financial risk if something goes wrong, but we do that anyway. If we are comfortable working with other business people we can manage much bigger and more profitable projects than we could on our own. It doesn’t mean we have to make long term commitments to joint ventures, though we might. It does mean we can enter into larger and more profitable projects.

Some people are afraid they will give too much away about their way of working, but that is a bit silly. Unless we have a unique piece of intellectual property, how can it matter? Do you remember those kids at your school who shielded what they were writing from supposedly prying eyes, and even from the teacher pacing around the room. I have no problem showing people what I do and how I do it. It doesn’t necessarily mean they can get to do it as well as I can, but even if they do, there is plenty of business out there. Really there is.

Working efficiently

Working with others is satisfying. It can be very efficient too. My builder friend (he knows who he is, don’t you Trevor?) said that with many jobs it is better to send two people because one might take three days to do it whereas two might well do it in a day. Two heads are better than one as are four hands better than two, and it provides variety as well as profit.

If you get a project you think might be too big for your business, phone a friend before you turn it down. There may be a lot of satisfaction to be had as well as a lot of profit and a happy customer. Do you work that way sometimes?

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