What I've gained from 4N
Does 4N really work? I believe so, although not necessarily in the way I might have imagined. When I embarked on running my own business and started networking, I was focussed on trying to get clients - as others may have I guess?
What I have found though after about being a member of 4N for just over 6 months, is that importantly, it is a way of meeting other people who are sharing similar experiences of running a business – like-minded people who may become clients, but often become suppliers, collaborators or even friends. See more thoughts on this in my blog post 'Networking for Introverts': www.sianrowsell.co.uk/networking-for-introverts/
The company of others is important when you’re working on your own, but I think it’s more than just being with other people…
“Another breakfast meeting?!”
An aspect of running my own business that I hadn’t previously appreciated is how important it is for me to talk regularly with other business owners - who understand what I’m doing (it can be hard for family and friends to understand why I’m getting up early for another breakfast meeting!). My 4N friends ‘get it’ and they get what’s hard, frustrating and what’s exhilarating about starting up a new business.
Be creative not competitive
In 4N, as in life, there are people in the room with the same type of business as me. How we deal with this is our choice - when I was a post-doctoral research scientist it was common practice in a few labs to pitch post-docs against each other, deliberately putting them head-to-head in competition with each other (and scientists elsewhere) to be the first to determine the structure of an important biological molecule. Since your ability to find your next role in academia depends on your publication record, losing the race was career-threatening.
That didn’t make sense to me and so when faced with a potentially similar situation, we put three heads together, tripled our output (Rowsell, Convery & Stonehouse, late 90s), became great friends and supported each other through the rollercoaster of emotions brought on through handling fragile, precious samples and sensitive equipment in the early hours of the morning having had no sleep!
These days, sometimes we have a ‘coach-load of coaches’ in the room at 4N - but we’re all different, with different expertise and different styles and will attract different people…
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." - African proverb
In addition, I believe there is something beautiful in collaboration - not only do we increase the manpower to share the workload and the reach of the combined network, we can tackle new and bigger things, we can experiment knowing that we have combined brainpower to overcome hurdles, at the same time meeting our human need for connection, and hopefully having a lot of fun in the process!
Within a short period of time, I have got to ‘know, like and trust’ some of the other coaches in my local groups and we have taken advantage of the opportunity to work together.
With this support I’ve been able to get out of my comfort zone (www.sianrowsell.co.uk/brave-business/), setting up and running a series of public workshops - something I didn’t think I would do when I left the (cosy?) corporate world, and don't think I would have done on my own..
4N works - the power of collaboration
Because of 4N, I am midway through a series of workshops that I am running together with fellow coaches Louise Mosley, and Peter Beard with other 4Ners such as Rachael Chiverton as guest speakers – all people I’ve met over the last 6 months of 4Networking…
If there was only one representative of each business type per meeting - I wouldn’t be doing what I’m now loving!
So, how will you make 4N work for you?