Bored with traditional networking business owner Felicity Francis decided there must be a better way of connecting with like-minded companies to boost her business.
The tech-savvy entrepreneur spent months carrying out research to formulate a scientific algorithm that could determine the exact requirements for the ‘perfect’ network meeting. The first of its kind in the UK, Talk Networking is now being rolled out across the country and is specifically designed to enhance interaction offering a new approach to business networking.
You never meet the same person in break-out rooms, are steered towards individuals most likely to benefit your business and the agenda of the group encourages meaningful interactions specifically designed to build long-term business relationships.
We talk to Felicity Francis to find out more about Talk Networking and how the group is continuing to grow as it plans to revolutionise Britain’s business resources.
Where did the idea come from?
Talk Networking was first started as a face-to-face networking group in Stamford in 2010. I had wanted to start a networking group with a difference and the group continued to go from strength to strength as businesses appreciated the structured, yet informal approach, which was getting results. When COVID-19 hit in 2020 the group needed to find a way to meet virtually. I looked at how we could replicate the successes of the in-person group online and designed a bespoke virtual system that maximised engagement with mathematical algorithms driving ROI for every attendee.
What were the challenges?
Creating the algorithm actually wasn’t the hardest bit. I have always had an inquisitive mind. When I see a problem, I know there must be a way to fix it. By breaking down human interaction into its simplest parts I was able to create a mathematical formula that enhanced the simple networking meeting to make sure that every business was getting the most meaningful interaction.
Whether you are an introvert or extrovert the program works to help improve your experience and make sure everyone gets the same level of interaction and positive results.
The biggest challenge was probably taking this idea I knew would work and making it a reality. As a woman in tech unfortunately there are still some challenges to face. Only 2% of funding goes to female-led businesses and I certainly found that when pitching as a woman I was unfortunately viewed differently, and I had to shout louder to get my voice heard.
Getting the right team to build my vision was also challenging as it was a learning curve finding all the right skills needed to make the solution a reality.
You are very reliant on people being able to deliver what they say they will. No businessperson can do everything, so I had to be very careful to choose the right people to work with.
In the end, the setbacks probably weren’t a bad thing as it meant I came back even more determined and built resilience that only further enhanced my tech.
What were the high points?
The whole journey has been a bit of a rollercoaster, but it was definitely a high point for me when Talk Networking went live. I knew that there had to be a better way of networking and to prove that was possible was really rewarding. So many businesspeople were telling me they couldn’t find engaging virtual networking, that it felt faceless and disconnected. Seeing people connecting with businesses and actually enjoying networking again was really rewarding. In one meeting, we have had 275 testimonials and 452 requests for 121s arranged. That was a real high point for me as it just goes to show how the tech works.
Did you find funding difficult?
In the beginning, I was reliant on self-funding the project until I got to a stage where I could prove the concept. At that point I was lucky to be recognised by Growth Works. They saw the idea and gave me a £25,000 innovation grant to grow the group across the UK. The funding has been invaluable in helping me to increase brand awareness and reach new audiences. Everyone that uses the network loves the way it works and says it is so different. Having funding to support that growth really has made a difference.
Three things you have learned
- Get a good team around you, as you grow you cannot do everything on your own so need to rely on talented people who can help make your dream a reality.
- Never give in, you need perseverance but if you are willing to work and have a good idea it will all eventually pay off.
- Don’t be afraid to question what the current norm looks like. Just because things have always been done like that doesn’t mean it is the best way. Seeing simple solutions to everyday problems is one of the best ways to innovate.
What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had told you when you first started on your journey?
That it will all work out in the end. When you are in the middle of trying to juggle all the parts needed to set up a tech company it can be difficult. There can be things out of your control, and you just need to have the strength to continue and know it will succeed.
So, what’s next?
I’m currently working on several products that will be launching this year that will continue to improve the networking experience as well as supporting small business growth. In the UK 99% of businesses are classed as SMEs. If we are going to grow our economy, we need to be supporting that growth. Many business methods, such as networking, haven’t changed since they were first introduced. My aim is to revolutionise the way we do business here in the UK to help increase productivity.
For more information on Talk Networking and how the group operates visit www.talknetworking.co.uk.