“This networking thing will never catch on”… or will it?

Late afternoon on Thursday 22nd May, we were all set for the first Spicer client party, held at Creasey Park in Dunstable. As the Spicer duo (Steve and Suzanne to most of you), we arrived at our venue nice and early. It was 5.15 and the party was due to start at 6pm. Everything looked good – the catering was ready, we sprung up a display board and then… well, we waited.

The invitations had gone out weeks before and loads of people had said they would come but, by the time the day actually came around, a few nerves had started to creep in. What if no-one turned up after all? Would it be just us sitting in an empty room with tons of food and the odd piece of tumbleweed rolling past?

Thankfully, that didn’t happen and we didn’t have to wait long until the first of our guests arrived. Even better, one of the early comers turned up with a tray of delicious cupcakes, each one with an edible business card attached! This particular client of ours runs The Cake Shop on High Street South in Dunstable, a lovely business which is going from strength to strength. (Sorry for the blatant plug but she did bring us cakes!)

Over the next few hours, we were really pleased to see more and more of our clients, as well as some of our friends and family arrive. People came from all different walks of life (construction, IT, charity, hairdressing, legal, business advice to name a few) mostly from the surrounding Luton and Dunstable areas. Some arrived early, some late, some popped in briefly and others stayed the whole evening. In the end, we didn’t leave until well after 10.30!

So, why did we hold the party?

First of all, our accountancy company is based on a personalised approach so we genuinely wanted to get to know our clients better. Secondly, we knew that a lot of the people we were working with would benefit from meeting each other. When making some introductions, we even found that two of our clients, both from the construction industry, had been talking to each other for months on the phone but this was their first opportunity to meet in person! And, thirdly, having been to a lot of other networking events, we simply felt that we could do it better! Our event was going to bring together a lovely group of people whose paths might never usually cross and, as a family firm ourselves, we wanted to make it easily accessible to people whose lives involve more than just ‘the business’ by inviting their kids along too.

At the end of the day, we have to say it worked.

While we knew some of our clients would want to make the most of the networking opportunity, making it a family event kept things very relaxed and informal. No-one felt the pressure to give a ‘1-minute pitch’ and instead people just got to know each other. Whether they were chatting about work opportunities or their children’s school grades – who knows? Either way, it made for a great evening. We even spotted some of the kids replicating their parents in a kind of mini-network club as they headed off into a side room to get to know each other, play some pool and sneak out to swipe a cake or two!

A couple of weeks later and we’ve had lots of really good feedback with everyone saying they made some good contacts and enjoyed the whole atmosphere of the night. Our thanks go to everyone who came along and gave their support. We’ll definitely be doing this again (probably as a pre-Christmas event) so look out for your invitations.

I can’t remember who, but someone once said to us: “this networking thing will never catch on”. Well, whoever that was, let’s agree to disagree.

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