Networking in uncertain times

Howes Percival

1st April 2020

Network Northants

Howes Percival

By Matthew Thompson

Howes Percival LLP

FOR over 200 years, Howes Percival has been part of, and has made it its business to look after, Northamptonshire's business community. If longevity is any standard against which to judge the success of a business, then surely working with other businesses in the county has stood the test of time.

Why is that the case? There are some obvious 'wins': being close to your suppliers and customers geographically makes it much easier to work together to find solutions when things need to change or when they go wrong. Particularly in the service industries, whilst much can be achieved via email these days, sometimes it is crucial still to be able to meet up to discuss a problem and find a solution. Being able to look your clients (or, in our world, sometimes the other side's solicitor!) in the eye when making a point somehow produces a better solution than a long-distance, remote and impersonal communication. Our local clients appreciate being able to pop in to chat about an issue on their way in to work or their way home. It is something we encourage because we know it produces a better result for the client.

The significant benefits of making, nurturing and sharing contacts that are local to you rest in the 'softer' skills areas. Knowing the local bankers, accountants, surveyors and the like can be an enormous help to achieving a favourable outcome, it smooths the process, potential pitfalls can be discussed and talked around and its often easier to introduce and recommend a local professional if you know them and trust they will do a good job for your client. Although that can happen during a phone conversation with someone further afield, in reality you are much more likely to get a good result if you are dealing with someone who you have got to know, and have built a relationship and a rapport with.

And yet, at the time of writing this article, we are entering unchartered waters, as the global pandemic of Covid-19 starts to have a more profound impact on our daily lives. Just today, three 'traditional' style networking events, where local solicitors, bankers, accountants, surveyors and IPs would meet in a social setting to discuss local business matters, have been cancelled because of the fear that such events could help further spread the virus. The situation changes on a daily basis and Government advice, at the time of writing, is to be prepared to work from home, self-isolate, keep your hands washed and help delay the spread of this virus wherever possible.

Of course, we fully endorse this advice as the health and wellbeing of our staff, our clients and their families and friends, is the number one priority. Nevertheless, in an article about the benefits of networking, surely this goes against everything we've written above - shouldn't we now be avoiding that 'human interaction', at least for the time being? Certainly, in the short term, it would seem that it would be best to avoid unnecessary travel, avoiding large gatherings, limiting your exposure to close contact situations and making sure we continue to be sensible about washing our hands, but it does not mean you cannot and should not do any networking at all.

In this technological age, we can use resources at our fingertips to network/interact in different ways - holding webinars for delegates instead of holding a face-to-face seminar; hosting video conferences, rather than hosting a physical meeting; or using social media/LinkedIn to keep connected to our clients and contacts more frequently? It does not mean we have to stop talking and interacting completely, particularly as networking is so fundamental to what we do.

In the meantime, the tried and tested methods of local networking may have to be put on hold, but we have no doubt there will be plenty of opportunities in the future to hone those networking skills, so that the local business community can continue to meet up and network in the forums we are all used to. Inevitably, if you want your business to still be around in 200 years' time, then networking will continue to be the smart thing to do!

To find out more about Howes Percival, call 01604 230400 or email matthew.thompson@howespercival.com