Tuesday, 24 November 2009

week six: techie tuesday

i feel so with it. i can't describe the internal pride i have as words such as rss feed, blogger, feedburner, url, re-pointing, and monetise become more tangible to me, emerging as forms against the previous grey-mass that was online-social/business-networking. i can't use them all properly, and i'm sure my understanding is entirely superficial, but i do now GET the fact that there is more to the internet than sainsburys.com or hotmail and that in itself has been something of a revelation. and i've somewhat ashamedly started twittering despite referring to this very activity with a rather clever vowel swap for the past 12 months. however i've been assured that this is the route to clients and to blog traffic growth so have now embraced the beast. the more web savvy amongst you may have noticed my new feed to your right; and my hugely exciting first few tweets!

this morning i spent three hours in starbucks: last week to my mortification they approached me brandishing a business card and asking if it was mine. each week i've been merrily sticking them on the community pinboard, blissfully unaware that this was for more knit-your-own-lentil groups rather than income-driven business-facing accountants. i'd happily been pinning them on top of requests for clothing donations and coffee mornings, congratulating myself on my ad-hoc multi-faceted approach to marketing. unfortunately it seems that the fast disappearance of these was more to do with moral outrage of the staff than a hugely interested potential client base as i'd optimistically assumed. this presumabley means jk rowling, my fellow starbucks driker, hasn't picked one up intrigued by my keen sense of business, and, frowning over her latte, wondered at her own accountant's lack of innovative direction. and wondered if perhaps she'd prefer to use me, a fellow female coffee lover, and she might want to be my best friend too. daydreams shattered. AND no free small coffee taster at 11am: i was a little disappointed as had used up all my cash on the now exhorbitant parking.

i particularly needed the caffeine this morning, partly because my entire three hours were spent setting up twitter, feeds and attempting to re-set my hit rate counter which has sadly expired, but also due to the fact that our weekend was marred by large amounts of sick from us all, joy. i think we've all recovered; i'd like to say i'd managed to lose weight due to the experience but as my recovering body demanded cheese i think not. for some reason it was all i could face, and it must be a symptom of the bug (i reassure myself) as daugher #2 who is only just talking thought for ages in her highchair last night until randomly shouting repeated "peasa" which i thought, happily, meant peas. however she threw these off the table in outrage, repeating her demand, until i realised she meant pizza which is not a word she's really ever used before of her own volition. rather bemusedly i fobbed her off with cheese on toast, calling it pizza, and she devoured it like a carniverous beast. good. who needs veg anyway; lions don't and they cope.

so the fruits of my networking labours are starting to show through, albeit buds rather than actual cash based activities to date. this week i featured on the scotmum website in an article on working mums (http://www.scotmum.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=329&Itemid=171) and i have also been invited to a group called cappucino connections through the athena group. more excitingly i have been sent, via a networking contact, a job position advertised as a part-time CEO designate. this is very very very exciting but may be a step too far: we'll see, i'll definitely give it a go if they want to meet with me.

and last week i went to my first women's networking lunch through a linkedin group and it was such a welcome relief! informal networking with women is a totally different kettle of fish; time for business cards, time for chat, time for wine, time for networking anecdotes, time for wine, time for reason for networking, time for coffee, time to leave! all very fruitful but also a lot of fun and i'll definitley be doing it again!

tomorrow i have two meetings and a networking event, and then another networking event on thursday. all this has lead me to realise that my networking wardrobe isn't really up to all this activity: yet the dichotomy is that there is (as yet) no income with which to improve the situation. however, pre-sick bug this weekend i decided that needs must, you have to live the vision and portray the image you wish to eventually become. that being said i limited myself to m&s (and i can't resist their mushroom and emmenthal toastie followed by chocolate stirrer). i managed to buy some black trousers, some leggings (unsure but decided i need to look contemporary; long top will hopefully hide multitude of sins) and a nice plum satiny top and matching shoes. so all in all rather more positioned towards a christmas party than a networking event but they were very nice and individually very reasonable although the total spend was somewhat tear-jerking. i've heard that there is a networking event for the sad and lonely un-corporately attached so perhaps i'll seek it out.

back to the topic of technical stuff; i've now attached some links to other blogs, you can see these if you look at my account (on the rhs with my picture on). and i don't know if my email subscription link is working. if anyone has had an update on email could they post a comment just so i know? i've mailed the person who designed it for blogger but i've had no response and they're called "rockhunk" ... but that might be my own generational mindset coming out and he's probably very reliable and socially minded, and doesn't go around graffitting community notice boards with self-serving demands for revenue.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

week five: networking frenzy

i'm sitting in starbucks ("what is starbooks?" daughter #1 asked in the car today after chris moyles had mentioned it: i particularly enjoyed her non-understanding of the leeds accent as it mirrors my own issues. in the maternity ward after she was born adam became increasingly embarrassed by my inability to understand the scottish nurses in a "say again" little britain stylee; she's asking if you'd like a cup of tea, he'd hiss in translation after my fourth blank stare and desperate glances in his direction). the couple on the sofa in front of me will not stop snogging. it is distracting me from my own frenzy of networking, but mine is a lot less public and involves less saliva than theirs: and they're not young. probably early thirties. they carry about them that going-out-about-1-month look. i think they've come here straight from bed as they have that sort of "we've discovered that we're actually in love" haze. they've been sitting there for an hour now, sort of entwined, saying very little and my secret thought is that he's a tiny bit bored and she's in that girly love spin and keeps snuggling in. when he reached forward for his coffee her head fell off his chest onto the sofa and he had to sort of steady her, so floppy had she become. i think they might be skiving off work; when you're in those heady early days anything is justifiable! i remember falling asleep in the office after a night out with adam, suddenly opening my eyes to see someone had thrown my laptop keyboard at my head. except they hadn't, i was just nose diving towards it so deep was my stupor. and that was when i was actually paid to work, unlike now.

so this week has been an intense week of networking for me: my first two chamber events, both of which i had to pay real non-expenses money for, and a web-chat with the lovely editor of www.scotmum.com. my vision was to make sure i made the most of the paid for events: quickly establishing true networking opportunities, moving on from no-win situations in a professional and courteous way, working the crowd in a focused and revenue driven style. the first one found me, twenty five minutes in, smiling interestedly at a politician while he told me about some things going on in south america. this is partly the problem of being a woman i think: it is hard not to empathise and respond, and he was very interesting, but probably not a huge portal for cash. i think i actually bored him because he then showed me how to politely disengage from a conversation with a "well this has been very interesting, i'll let you get on" leaving me to wonder what 25% of my time had earnt me so far. however i did manage to then speak to a banker, an architect and a voice coach which was varied but allowed me to focus my developing technique of 1)chat, 2) categorise, 3) abandon or woo. a photographer then told me that my "fragile porcelain" appearance was at odds with my target role as a business trouble-shooter, and that i really needed to be big and hairy and look a bit like alan sugar. i felt that this was less helpful and thankfully the event was coming to an end so i had an exit route ready.

i was glad it had gone relatively well though, as the previous day in an attempt to be pro-active i had selected some of the attendees from the chamber-provided list and mailed them, explaining a little about my business in advance of the event. about 2 mins later i had an indignant response advising me that my approach was "unprofessional" and accusing me of "spamming": i was truly mortified (remember, it was a grey week anyway) and immediately visualised arriving at my first event to find everyone in happy cohorts muttering about the girl who wasn't quite de rigeur with the whole thing. thankfully the individual was alone in his response; he deigned to respond to my immediate apology and explanation and despite looking i couldn't find him at the event to speak to more fully. several others commented on the mail and it proved a good talking point. not sure i'd do it in the same way again though: individual rather than group mail i think.

i've just been given a free toffee-nut latte! i noticed this happened last week at this time too: must be starbucks happy hour; the little things that make my day. unfortunately only three minutes left on the car though so am going to have to gulp and go.

home and still no responses to all my networking post-event emails this morning; perhaps the touchy-feely approach of the couple in starbucks simply delivers more results. so event number two was slightly more highbrow with a very financially orientated attendee list. it was good but in retrospect i wish i'd spoken to more people; it isn't as easy to chat, disengage, chat, disengage as you'd think! i may have hovered (hoovered..) too close to the canape table. i can't resist a good canape and my thinking was that perhaps i'd get a good traffic of similar minded attendees to ensnare with vivacious and financially astute conversation. however there's only so much you can say with a large piece of cranberry topped brie in your mouth. i noted that the more able amongst the networkers dashed to the table, looked the other way while stuffing three or four down in quick succession,had a quick wipe down and rub of the teeth to remove stray bits of spinach (and goats cheese roulade; rather nice but three would have probably been enough)then grabbed a glass of wine with which to continue their schmoozing. i had learnt from event one that a clutch bag was not a viable option; it is hard to grapple with a glass & bag while attempting to extract a business card without looking like a total numpty; this sort of malco effort does not encourage feelings of "here's a great and organised accountant; i'd like to entrust my entire direct cost review to her". so this time, all the wiser, i'd gone for an over the shoulder bag and it reaped dividends. definitely a networking winner. the only new learning is to ensure that the only thing in the business card section of the bag is business cards: not jo jingles stickers attached to john lewis receipts and small pieces of a squashed humzinger bar.

i managed to talk to another banker: the way forward i'm thinking; an accountant (i know, hard to resist the natural magnetic pull of a fellow thinker, mock all you like) an engineer, a security company director and some compliance consultants. i also managed to hook up with a colleague of old, and last but not least a coach. now i happy to be proven wrong but my gut feeling is that people that who become business coaches have possibly run out of options. he was slightly sweaty and after a few minutes of conversation suggested that we meet for coffee to discuss business overlap. like a cornered animal i looked for escape and absurdly found myself drawing on the old "don't call me, i'll call you": i only just managed to actually stop myself from saying that very phrase, opting for the more acceptable (?) "well i've got your card so perhaps i'll give you a call in the next few months"...... my colleague cackled in the background and said somewhat disparagingly "he looks even more desperate than you"...

the web-chat with the scotmum website went surprisingly well and i could now be a convert to this new meejah form of communication. i'm featuring on her site as a working mum of the week: hmm, apologies to those mums actually doing some paid for work: i feel a bit of a fraud. must keep reminding myself that this is a true job; the revenue is just a bit delayed.

so this afternoon i have a meeting with an accounting firm, and tomorrow will be attending my first women-in-business event which is a lunch. i also have another banking meeting fixed for early next week so lots of opportunities to hone my silky skills and network my way to the top of the pile and the cash prize: a client!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

week four: grey days

sometimes it feels as if all elements of the day are "goal congruent", to steal an accountancy training word, and today's goal is to work towards ultimate greyness in order to match my mood. i knew that this would be a journey, and i armed myself in advance with a backpack full of good intentions: positivity, riding the ups with the downs and pushing forward despite any fallbacks but today i feel flat. and as such daughter #2, the stoic one, wept on nursery drop off, the rain slanted into me as i ran to starbucks, and as i sat down i could only smile ironically and self-awareingly self-pityingly (too much?) as my kitchen companion of the late 90s started wailing that "ooooooh laba, there's no enemeeeeeeee" song. david grey; king of the weepers. i don't think i ever knew the words but could croon it emotionally while cooking. he wasn't actually in my kitchen; no cool london pre-fame friends for me, but he did feel like a close companion as did dido and norah jones: the dinner party years of balham's heyday! ahhh, halcyon times when all seemed possible and achievable and we were all young and in retrospect physically beautiful: pre-baby tummys, bagless eyes, and no mid-life insecurities and oh lordy they've put on sting, not only sting but an acoustic version of the hounds of winter: you couldn't write this. i'll weep into my americano, the only vestige of my diet that remains. i wiped thick sweeps of butter onto my toast in defiance this morning, and yesterday put parmesan AND marscapone into a pasta sauce.

so rather than feeling emancipated and free and like a business owner, i feel like a bit of a fraud, pretending to be a business woman but actually one with no clients as yet. and i know this is only week four but i'm starting to lose confidence in what i think i'm bringing to the market: i need a client in order to remember what i'm good at which is dynamic business thinking. static contemplation isn't really me.

on the agenda today i have more sales pitches to do, i'm going to work on a report pro-forma so that when i do get a client i don't spend 18 hours trying to import images and tables onto word which appears to be incredibly user-unfriendly for that sort of thing,and i have a web-chat scheduled. i'm not sure exactly how a web-chat works and why a phone chat wouldn't be better but i'm happy to learn new skills and to be technically savvy; talking of which have you noticed my new "hit rate" counter?! i'm very excited! this is a light point in my grey period; i've had about 1,600 hits on this blog! i thought i'd had about 25! also i've added a little thing which will allow you to subscribe for this blog on email rather than having to remember to view it. that being said; i quite like counting the hits.

tomorrow i have my first formal networking event at the botanic gardens; i'm apprehensive but excited too. as long as i can pluck up enough courage and small talk to approach people, and enough toughness to move on if they prove to be an unlikely client, then it could be really good. i have also registered with a few agencies to see if any small pieces of work come through that i can then use for networking and learning and testimonial growth. oh, and income...

and the council has increased parking costs this week; it used to be 20p for 17 mins and is now 50p for 30 mins which is an increase from 1.176p per minute to 1.666667p per minute which is a 42% uplift. shocking. and see how good at maths i am? gimme a job, lighten my day.....

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

week three: still fishing

i'm writing this in starbucks; desperately sucking back americano (another nod in the diet direction) in an attempt to undeaden my head and make me alert and bright for a meeting with a "decision maker" this afternoon (the new and correct term for "potential", thank you blog readers!). unfortunately this is the same decision maker meeting as i prepared for last week as it transpired we'd had a diary mix up and i laughingly, somewhat gritted-teethly, said to the frowning secretary "men and their diaries, ha ha", only to come home and realise that this was probably my error....

sadly it is not a drunken binge which has left me in this state. at risk of this becoming a web-rant about motherhood rather than just the challenges of balancing it with business, i will share last night. it really begins last week. adam "reminded me" on thursday night that he'd be in London all of this week. so i found myself somewhat taken aback when on sunday at a children's party he really enthusistically started asking people around for a bonfire party at ours on saturday; glancing at me he did have the grace to add "oh yes, errm, i'm actually away all this week, and my parents arrive on friday, but i'll arrange it from london"..............

this is so profoundly wrong and impossible to conceive of given that these periodic london trips involve them all tying themselves to their laptops, flagellating themselves with ever-changing schedules of incomprehensibly large numbers, in an office where they are provided with food so they can work until 1am and have to get a pass to wee. i just feel, forgive me for being sceptical, that the finer details of the bonfire party may get forgotten. like the food. and the fireworks. and the party.

so, given that his parents will also require food i looked in the fridge and found a big bag of leeks. feeling frugally minded and at that point, quite energetic, i decided to look for a recipe that used leeks. it turns out that salmon and leek lasagne is nice so i opted for that, subsituting trout as it has also been in the freezer for a long time. little did i know that bedtime would be one of those truly awful bedtimes; with daughter #1 being given the ultimate punishment, never before followed through on, of NO STORY NUMBER TWO. once i'd said the words i couldn't take them back and this resulted in a tantrum of truly historic proportions, writhing, frothing, screaming, jumping. daughter #2 giggled a bit and did go to sleep however my efforts to placate #1 whilst maintaining the punishment were not hugely successful resulting in #2 re-awakening and requiring adelweiss to be sung on at least three different occasions (don't ask). for #1 i resorted to a huge hug while outlining why punishment was being stuck too: too harsh? so hard to know. at one point i was wondering who to call for advice on the next step but knew that my choice of callee would represent my desired outcome. mum would ask if it was really worth it at bedtime; fellow mums would say we need to follow through, gina would probably say it shouldn't have happened in the first place but if i follow her routine for the next three weeks i'd get back on track.

anyway, by 8pm there was silence. #2 was smelling a bit trouty due to her songs being interspersed with me rushing down to attempt to remove skin and a billion small bones from economy trout. (does non-economy trout have less bones?) by 9 there was a lasagne made, ready for saturday after the party, and a sainsburys on-line done involving a lot of chippolatas. i then made the odd decision to read until midnight, but #2 woke with a cough and a bit of a temperature at 2am and moved into my bed, sicked a bit of cattargh (had to type that into google for spelling) onto my side, slept horizontally across adam's side and woke shouting at 5.45am and turned all the lights on. joyous joyous joy.

so here i am. and my americano has gone cold and apparently it is not policy to renew it but having checked bank balance i'm refraining from buying another one. i need to fill that sales funnel.

and on that front there's been plenty of fishing but no catches yet: this week i blended another mix of gatekeepers and decision makers. my chamber of commerce membership came through so i've now mailed a group of charitable institutions, as one pull for not-for-profit organisations will be the non-permanent, flexible relationship that i can offer. i have also mailed a group of accounting firms to look for spill-over work. in the meantime i've chased my favoured client list. from this work i've arranged a meeting in two weeks; it's slow going. to bolster the networking efforts i'm going to two chamber networking dos; speed-networking being one of them! i never did speed-dating as by the time that took off i was with adam so this gives me a chance to give it a go. networking that is, not dating.. enthusiastically i attended a free networking event on friday, dressed in pink. as requested. it transpired it was more "buy our products" than a forum for business chat. the pink should have warned me really. but you network and you learn....