This year at Four we celebrate 10 years in business. We are so proud of this achievement. It’s taken hard work determination and a great deal of networking to get us where we are today.
When my brother Phil and I set up Four in January 2008, I was a fresh faced (yes fresh faced!) 26-year-old recruitment consultant, having left university just four years before I’d held the role of a consultant for about four years.
I’d built a great network of clients and contacts during my time in previous consultancies, however building a new business was a whole new ball game!
Stuck to our roots first
Phil and I are both from Bolton and Phil had already established a great network within the region, which was a great help. The first office we opened was located in the heart of Bolton’s business community on Chorley New Road in Bolton town centre.
Expanding our wings
As the Bolton business became more successful we looked at new markets and opened offices in both Blackburn and Manchester. Blackburn was slightly easier as we had a number of contacts already established, and the Blackburn location really helped us to attract Lancashire businesses.
Manchester was trickier, the Manchester market is a completely different animal, highly competitive and flooded with larger more established companies we knew we had to work even harder as a small fish in a pretty Olympic sized pond!
In 2011 we opened a small Manchester office with just two members of staff (myself included!) Even though Bolton is just a hop skip and jump from Manchester, we felt it important to establish a presence to begin with in the city.
To begin with I attended everything and I mean everything. I spoke to as many people as I could, developed relationships with banks, lawyers, accountants and during this journey gained some wonderful mentors – whom I still call on today!
Although it was pretty exhausting it was the only way to reach out to the Manchester market to enable us to begin building a Manchester client list.
The strategy certainly worked, our referrers began to tell people about us we gained a few clients – the first Manchester client being xxxxxx and once people started to see what we could do, they became our referral network – 76% of all of our business is gained through referrals.
Putting a focus on it
There is an element of trial and error when starting out. We could all attend 10 networking events a week but then we’d never have any time to actually follow them up let alone do any actual work unrelated to networking! Once I had found my feet, the key for me was picking the best to continue with and to put a real focus on what I was trying to achieve. I found that ensuring I was fully prepared to really maximise my networking experience, ahead of the event I would – and still do – look at the delegate list and would reach out to those people whom I really wanted to meet prior to the event, usually via LinkedIn or e-mail. This made conversations so much easier as many of these people would then make an effort to come over (they were also attending the event to develop their network!)
Follow up was an essential part in the process – it still amazes me how many people forget this stage! My follow up always takes place within 24 hours of the event.
I would – and still do – follow up with people whom I knew I wouldn’t get any work from due to their size, role or type of business, but there is always the chance that they know someone who will one day need our services – this has certainly been the case! I’ve also met some fantastic new friends through this approach – additional bonus!
Sharing the joy
I do believe that a big reason to our success is our strategy of passing business on. We are a great believer of sharing the joy! Wherever possible I reciprocate and pass business to clients, contacts and referrers. At Four we are big fans of you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours! We are also so passionate about the businesses that we work with that we know they’ll do a great job for others.