Last year I became involved with the Homeworking Alliance, a networking group for homeworkers.
At the time it had only recently been founded and was being run on a voluntary basis by Jane Giffard-Tiney. It’s now been put on a more professional footing and is expanding, with groups in Lutterworth, Kettering and I think Leicester all pending.
Within Market Harborough there are A LOT of networking groups, but the majority of them suffer from the same obstacles to me joining – the first and biggest is that they meet for breakfast once a week or every other week from 7-9 am. As I’m responsible for the getting the kids off to school and nursery that is a non-starter.
They also invariably insist on only one person per industry joining, so they’ll have one accountant, one lawyer etc etc. The idea is that all members are constantly on the lookout for referals for other members of the group and they don’t want any conflict of interest.
From a business perspective I can see this being potentially rewarding – you turn up to a meeting of 10-15 people and each of them is supposed to give you a business lead each week (although you have to return the favour), so I would consider doing it if I could, but personally I think it is short-sighted – I am not sure that I would be able to provide leads for all those other members each and every week so likewise you have to question whether the quality of leads received would be any good; in addition I would prefer to compete with other companies on an equal footing, if there is another company doing what I do and they can offer a better or cheaper service to a customer then good luck to them.
Besides the Homeworking Alliance I am also a member of the Market Harborough Chamber of Commerce, (which tends to meet 7-9 pm) which is also very good. Both groups are informal and friendly and both have provided me with business leads.