Professional Liverpool – Networking Lunch with Dean Currall

Marketing is crucial for businesses in every industry. From law, digital, construction, technology, manufacturing, finance and others, it is a key role shared by everyone. However one of the common pitfalls encountered are professionals talking about themselves and their businesses first, rather than listening and learning about what potential customers want.

I had the pleasure of recently attending a networking lunch organised by Professional Liverpool, which looked at marketing. The speaker was Dean Currall of Verb Marketing, who gave a presentation about how professional services can utilise marketing techniques, to develop fruitful and productive trust-based relationships.

There was plenty that Dean talked about, that really fascinated me. From the importance of giving solutions to customers, in the form of services and structured content, I found Dean’s presentation to be tangible and relevant for businesses, entrepreneurs and professionals today. In this era of digital technology, companies need to use the capabilities provided to tailor their marketing approach, in order to attract clients and promote their services.

In addition, Dean also provided other useful nuggets of wisdom, which I have listed below.

  1. You need to have a marketing strategy and objectives that are relevant, achievable and measurable.
  2. Create and give free content that resonates with people.
  3. Promote and boost content created and shared by others (e.g. blog posts, published articles and presentations).
  4. To sell content to boost your brand, you need to offer solutions.
  5. Your content needs to include tangible information.
  6. Become a thought leader and develop a relationship of trust.
  7. Do more seminars and blogs!
  8. Sell stories, experiences, solutions and benefits.
  9. Segment your content using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database.

From the points listed above, I was able to relate this to my blogging work, and how I constantly strive to create relevant and useful content, that resonates with people. Listening to Dean speak about structuring content, providing relevant information and how it needs to capture the personal attention of others, was a defining moment for me.

It also made me think back to a past experience, when I wrote and published an article about learning from failure, back in June 2016. When I published and shared the article, I discovered later on to my amazement, that it was viewed 88 times that year, which I was not expecting. Therefore I was taken completely by surprise with how the article struck a chord, and resonated with many people. It still surprises me today!

I was greatly impressed with Dean as a speaker. I not only learned plenty from him, but he presented and delivered his content, with a knowledgeable yet easygoing tone, that I could easily relate to and understand. In addition, I was also impressed with his knowledge of the mechanics involved with successful marketing. This has given me a greater understanding of creating and marketing my blog content.

A delightful bonus of the event was networking with familiar and new faces. These included Paul Trickett of Bathgate Business Finance, Agnes Fitzgerald of Irish Business Enterprise, Elaine Courtney of Courtney Reid, Jon Davies of Jon Davies Accountants and Simon Robb of The Alternative Board, amongst many others. Overall it was a pleasurable event, and I sincerely hope that everyone who attended also enjoyed Dean’s presentation, and found it to be as interesting and useful as I did.

I would like to personally thank Dean for sharing his marketing wisdom, and also to Alex Clark and Emma Rittenberg of Professional Liverpool, for organising a top-notch networking lunch.


GDPR – Are You Ready?

Is your business ready to meet the new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) framework?

As GDPR is a legal compliance framework, which will be enforced from Friday 25th May, this brings many important changes related to data protection. These relate to how businesses and public sector organisations in the UK and worldwide, need to ensure they are legally compliant with all requirements. The framework also provides a clear definition of the consequences of falling short of GDPR. You can find more information on GDPR and how it affects your business here.

How can you make your business ready for GDPR?

The starting point is to audit, identify and understand the data you hold, along with how it is used, processed and protected. In order to achieve this, ask yourself the following questions below:

  1. What personally identifiable data is held by your business?
  2. How does your business use the data held?
  3. What policies (legal, technical, procedural) do you have in place to protect data?
  4. Have you identified and assessed the privacy risks posed?
  5. Have you incorporated privacy into your business processes to minimise risks?
  6. What have you done to raise awareness of GDPR amongst your employees and clients?
  7. Have you put into place any accountability and governance measures?
  8. Have you nominated a DPO (Data Protection Officer) to oversee GDPR compliance?

From the questions above, you can start to understand and document how your data is used, stored and protected. This will assist you in developing a tailored approach for your business to meet the requirements of GDPR. In addition, this will also assist in identifying and addressing any potential compliance issues, as well as delivering best practice.

I cannot state how important it is for businesses to ensure they are compliant with the GDPR framework. With cyber and data security under the conscious spotlight today and in the future, data breaches carry significant penalties under GDPR, including up to 4% of a business’s total revenue. For businesses of all sizes, the cost of a data breach under GDPR has the potential to be significantly crippling, both from a financial and branding perspective. Therefore it is vital that your business is GDPR compliance, before it is too late.

There is plenty of information and help available out there, so there are no excuses, to not be ready for GDPR.

Time is running out fast, so be prepared!

More information is available by clicking on the links below:

What Does it Take To Be Successful?

This is something I have thought long and hard about. Yet it is a difficult question to ask, because there is no single or sure-fire way to be successful. In my opinion, success is a combination of positive factors and behaviours working productively together to reach a positive outcome or achievement.

Success can be defined as anything that an individual, team of individuals, or an organisation have achieved and feel proud about. They can be big or small, and either personal or professional. These can be from businesses winning multi-million pound contracts, entrepreneurs running their own successful ventures, or even of a personal nature such as raising a family, or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for charity.

To be successful requires you to commit maximum effort to whatever goals you have set for yourself. Secondly you must also have the belief and mental resilience to withstand the inevitable obstacles that you will encounter along your journey. It is through the above that successful people and organisations are driven by heartfelt passion, in addition to having the commitment and steel to rise above and overcome the obstacles they face.

There are also other important qualities required to be successful. I have provided some examples of these below, many of which are also applicable to your personal life.

  1. Never be driven solely by money as it is derivative and highly destructive.
  2. Think how you can help others first.
  3. Remember to always listen before speaking.
  4. Ensure you have the necessary skills required and continually learn new ones.
  5. Know your capabilities and limitations.
  6. Understand yourself as a brand as we are all marketers.
  7. Learn to be resilient and manage stress.
  8. Make the most of opportunities presented to you.
  9. Don’t be afraid to fail, but remember to learn from them.
  10. Be honest with yourself and others.
  11. List personal goals that are achievable, realistic, and that also ignites your enthusiasm.
  12. Be prepared to be flexible by constantly realigning your goals, with where your business/organisation is going.
  13. Communication is important to develop good personal and professional relationships.
  14. Learn how to deal with office politics.
  15. Treat everyone equally and with humility.
  16. Treat your work seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously.
  17. Network with people from different professions and backgrounds.

You must also remember to take the time to relax. Focusing entirely on your career, can neglect your physical and mental health, as well as relationships with family, friends, colleagues and even business clients. Even the successful ones, realise the importance of not only spending quality time with family, but also have a hobby or two that brings enjoyment and allows them to release stress. Having hobbies and interests outside of your career also helps to show you as a more rounded person.

There is no easy path to success. As the world changes, from politics, technology, economics and others, you will encounter many obstacles, both personally and professionally. These will test your personal belief in what you strive to set out to achieve. Overcoming them will not always be easy, as there will be occasions where some will grind you down. In addition, there will also be mistakes and failures that you will make and encounter, as you venture along your chosen path.

The key to succeed is to keep believing in yourself, your values, who you aspire to be, and to help others on your journey.

Anyone can be successful with courage, and a dogged determination to keep going through the good and bad times.

Thanks for reading!

Weightmans Wednesday – Leaf Group

Who are Leaf Group and what do they do?

At last week’s Weightmans Wednesday bi-monthly networking event, I found out the answer for myself. What I found was a story not only about success, but also of overcoming obstacles.

The event featured Natalie Haywood, who is the founder of Leaf Group. Since forming in 2007, Leaf Group has grown successfully to encompass a chain of successful bars in Liverpool including Leaf, Oh Me Oh My, and One Fine Day, which has recently opened on Old Hall Street. I have had the pleasure of visiting these establishments, so this was an opportunity to learn about the origins of the business.

Natalie spoke a great deal about Leaf’s business journey. From the beginnings on Bold Street, to dealing with landlord disputes, raising finance, and the growing pains of the business, I was very impressed with Natalie’s story. As I listened carefully, I understood why Leaf has been successful, through offering a unique and successful service, whilst encountering and tackling difficulties.

In addition, Natalie also gave a glimpse into the soul of Leaf Group. This included talking about being creative and experimenting with new ideas, which is very important, because businesses must continuously adapt to remain competitive. At the same time, businesses must remain true to their core values and their customers’ needs, which is difficult to balance effectively, resulting in stressful times and problems that need to be overcome.

I also learned that businesses must be resourceful, resilient and tenacious. The hospitality industry is ferociously competitive, with many casualties littering cities like corpses on a battlefield. Therefore for restaurants and bars like all businesses, it is all about product and the customer experience. Customers have so much choice and the collective power, which make or break businesses.

Upon reflection, I admire Natalie for not only telling the story of Leaf Group, but also of the difficult times encountered. Anyone can speak about how successful they have been, but honestly describing what also went wrong, and of the lessons learned takes both honesty and courage, to reveal a sense of vulnerability to an audience. In my opinion, you learn more when you fail, but how you learn and respond is the key, and I applaud Natalie for showing the path to success involves encountering and overcoming failures.

Finally I would like to thank Natalie, and Rebecca Driffield and Sarah Jennings from Weightmans, for organising an excellent evening of networking.

Professional Liverpool & LCC Annual Carol Service

Last week, I attended the annual Professional Liverpool & Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce Annual Carol Service. Held in the surroundings of St Nicholas Church, the service radiated a warm feeling of community and goodwill, heralding the start of the festive season.

When I arrived at the church after braving the freezing December weather, I immediately felt the warmth of the surroundings, followed by friendly greetings. This set the tone for a fine evening of Christmas carols and networking. In addition, I was visually struck by the architecture of St Nicholas Church, as it was beautifully pristine in appearance.

I had never attended a carol service before, so this was a new experience. Indeed I enjoyed the service, as it was rich in festive tone with carols and hymns sung in hearty voices. There were also readings from prominent Liverpool business speakers, including Julie Sankey, Bill Addy, Stephen Burrows, Paul Cherpeau and Laura Stuffins.

The service was topped off with a visit to Fazenda, for some delicious mulled wine, mince pies and the opportunity to network with new and familiar faces. It was a nice touch to end a lovely evening, which certainly helped to put me in the Christmas spirit.

Many thanks to everyone involved.

What Have I Learned from Networking?

Throughout this blog, I have made no secret of my enjoyment of networking. Over the years, I have attended many networking events, seminars, public lectures, as well as various professional gatherings, of which I have met hundreds of people from various backgrounds. From politicians, chief executives, solicitors, accountants, entrepreneurs, and many others, I have had the pleasure of listening and learning from many interesting conversations and discussions.

With job security at a premium these days, today’s professionals need to develop relationships with clients from other industries. This is where the ability to network with other people becomes an important skill to learn, however it can also be understandably intimidating for many.

Networking is more than just about meeting people and exchanging business cards. It is actually about getting to know people through the art of conversation, and to develop a sense of rapport, through listening and understanding the needs of others. Through this, professionals can discover what they have in common with others, and this helps to lay the foundations for successful networking.

There are so many resources on networking, from books, online articles, podcasts and more. With so much information available, I have drawn on my own experiences, and condensed my thoughts into some brief, but hopefully useful starting points, to help others in their networking endeavours. From the points I have listed below, I hope these will not only be beneficial for networking newcomers, but also for experienced networkers to consolidate their own skills.

  1. When introducing yourself, relax, smile and warmly shake hands.
  2. Develop relationships over a long-term meaningful basis.
  3. Think about how you can address somebody else’s professional or business needs.
  4. Understand your values, strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Remember to be honest and genuine!
  6. Respect the opinions of others.
  7. Conduct yourself in a professional manner.
  8. Avoid speaking about anything commercially or politically sensitive.
  9. Listen first and then speak.
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  11. Keep politics to a minimum.
  12. If you exchange contact details, follow up straight away and keep in touch.

To summarise the points made, successful networking is simply showing your authentic self, and connecting with others. This is done by listening, learning and understanding what you have in common with other people that you meet and converse with. Although it is intimidating to converse with strangers at first, remember that networking takes practice, so don’t worry if you struggle initially. With time and patience, you can become better and more confident at networking.

So what I have learned through networking? For a start, I have become more comfortable with conversing with people from different backgrounds. It has also allowed me to broaden my horizons and understanding of other industries, outside of my own. As a result, networking has pushed me out of my comfort zone, enriching my professional and personal life, which has given me more confidence. Finally it has also allowed me to listen and learn from my peers, and from those more experienced than myself.

In conclusion, I have not only developed my networking and communication skills, but I have also been able to create and carefully nurture professional relationships. It has also allowed me to create and share online content produced on this blog, as well as promoting professional content created by others. Therefore if I can benefit from networking, then you can also benefit from it too!

Thank you for reading!

Liverpool Girl Geeks – An Introduction

A common concern in the IT industry is the shortage of skills to meet demands of companies and organisations. Complicating matters further, is that there is no simple solution to this. However there is one solution, which I am interested in bringing to attention, which is to encourage more women into technology.

For this article, I have decided to focus on Liverpool Girl Geeks, an organisation who strive to encourage more girls into pursuing their passion for technology. Formed in 2013 by Chelsea Slater and Rebecca Jones, the organisation strives to provide positive interventions from coding, marketing and gaming, through events, courses and workshops.

Liverpool Girl Geeks is not only very important to help close the gender gap, but also to provide the UK economy with the digital skills required in the future. In my opinion, closing the gender gap is imperative, because the lack of women in technology roles in the future, will damage the IT industry and the economy if not addressed.

Closing the gender gap in technology will not only benefit businesses, but also men too. This is because a level playing field can be worth up to £2.6 billion per-year for the UK economy, and men would also benefit from the additional sharing and collaboration of knowledge, skills and ideas.

It was through last years’s Women in Tech event that I attended, that the size of the gender gap in technology was brought clear to me (you can read my thoughts here). Since then, I have thought a great deal about this, and have since concluded that businesses, industry experts, education and society must all come collectively together and work towards bridging that gap, and correct the gender imbalance. This is where the excellent work of Liverpool Girl Geeks is vital, and deserves to be applauded and supported.

I find it very heartening to see the work down by Liverpool Girl Geeks, to help bridge the gender gap. However there is more to be done, in order to ensure that women and girls are able to pursue their technological passions, on a rightfully equal basis.

On that note, I shall leave you with a famous quote from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”

Thank you very much for reading!