The JBA team began to host weekly virtual networking meetings shortly after an official, national lock-down was announced. To celebrate 6 weeks of meetings, JB Associates’ Financial Director, Julian Butler, tells us what he has learned from the weekly Virtual Networking…

 

Each session, a collection of experienced professionals discuss the adversities faced by businesses during a pandemic

‘March and April were planned as busy networking months for JB Associates. Our Marketing and Sales team had scheduled to be out of the office more than ever and we were excited to be taking part in a wealth of new experiences and connecting with a number of industry professionals. Of course, for obvious reasons, all these opportunities have been cancelled or postponed. Even the events pushed back to September are looking uncertain, as we wonder if life will truly be ‘back to normal’ by the end of 2020. In just a few months’ time, are individuals going to be interested in shaking hands and sitting shoulder to shoulder in packed seminar halls? Probably not.

It is a huge shame that so many of these planned events will not go ahead, yet it is a necessary evil if we want to avoid the further spreading of COVID-19 and protect our country’s healthcare system. Face-to-face networking is simply not viable in the midst of a pandemic, however networking in general is not completely out of bounds. The JB Associates team had previously discussed creating our own networking circle; hosting events, breakfast seminars and open days in our new head-office. However, while this traditional form of networking will not be possible for a while, we thought we would get started with the next best thing…

So far, we have hosted six Virtual Networking meetings discussing the challenges of running a business during a pandemic. Via Zoom every Friday morning, we start our virtual ‘coffee and catch-up’ at 11am and tackle subjects surrounding working from home, productivity concerns, managing entire teams via phone calls and video chats, keeping up with clients and understanding furlough schemes & government grants. It is a relatively quick chat, usually an hour or less, with a variety of individuals from across a mixture of industries.

We’re hearing from those that have worked at home for years and for whom seemingly little has changed, as well as those who are attempting remote working for the first time in their career. We’re also speaking to self-employed industry professionals that are focusing on maintaining client satisfaction, alongside CEOs and Directors of SMEs who are managing a growing team of remote workers and facing tough decisions surrounding furloughing staff. Our attendees range from HR experts and Business Development Managers, to Accountants, M&E Consultants and Estimators. While many of us have experience and knowledge of construction, the conversation often delves into much larger issues that relate to every industry.

Each catch-up takes the form of a candid discussion about the unfortunate realities of the current climate, yet we also strive to make sure we un-cover the ‘silver linings’ (that were not always obvious to begin with). I come away from each session with a more positive understanding of the situation that, at first, seemed wholly negative. We have discussed that the changes we have all had to make over the last few months have the potential for many exciting opportunities across a multitude of industries. Companies have been able to discover new ways of working and improve practices that perhaps should have been looked at long ago. Myself and many other business owners are re-evaluating whether travel is a worthwhile expense, when a Zoom call becomes far more cost-effective, less time consuming and better for our carbon footprint. We have been given the opportunity to restructure and establish how to best utilise the transferable skills that so many of our teams have but do not always apply.

Among various other positives, we also would have never started this virtual networking opportunity if it were not for face-to-face networking coming to a halt. We have been able to fulfill a company goal by starting our own community – our own network – cultivating connections and creating potential business partnerships that may have been missed otherwise. It is not how we imagined JB Associates Networking would begin, but it has certainly been an interesting start. On a more personal level, I find it very encouraging to chat to others with the same worries and fears. Each person that joins our meeting comes readied with their own insights, perspectives and opinions that help to reassure us all during this period of uncertainty. In a time where we have all had to distance ourselves socially, our virtual networking opportunities are providing much more than just business connections; they are also adding a sense of comfort and some valuable conversation in these isolating times.

If you’re interested in joining next Friday’s networking session, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’d love to see our group continue to grow and carry on this conversation for as long as we need to.’

Email Amy to get involved in this Friday’s meeting – abutler@jbassociates.co.uk