Life is tough on the front line of accountancy. For more than five years, our intrepid correspondent has been bringing us news and views from a typical West Country practice.
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with business networking. Over the years I have gained a few clients - not my biggest, it has to be said - and made many friends and contacts in the local business community. But I have come to the conclusion that the fees earned don't really justify the quantity of breakfasts and lunches I have consumed, let alone the hours invested.
So it's time to pass on the baton to my up and coming team members. The one thing I will keep from all my networking is the ability to present the firm in 30 or 60 seconds to anyone, anywhere. Doing it every week certainly hones that elevator pitch! So that's what I want to get the rest of the team comfortable with: speaking to strangers, presenting the firm and themselves, making contacts, and - hopefully - finding that it can be fun too. That's the challenge to them. There's no pressure from me to come back with new clients, but I hope they will if only to make them feel like they have achieved something.
Another thing I'll impress on them is a lesson I was reminded of last week. I attended an open meeting of a well-known international business networking organisation. Towards the end we stood in turn to give a one sentence introduction to our businesses and to describe the sort of referrals we were looking for. Speaker after speaker came up with that lame request for just "anyone you know" or even "everyone you know"! I stood up and asked for a referral to a specific company on a local trading estate that I'd really like to get into. I was amazed that two members came up to me afterwards and promised to get me an introduction to that company's MD, and one phoned me the day after to follow up on the promise. So there you are - in networking it pays to go with specific goals and to ask for specific referrals!