For our latest networking group profile we spoke to Richard Lock about The Business Golf Network and why mixing sport and business is a such a great combination.
How long has the organisation been running events?
Over 4 Years since the first BGN meeting took place.
Where do you run your events and how frequently?
Each BGN group meets twice a month, 12 months of the year. The meetings currently start from 3pm onwards, although we are shortly launching breakfast and lunchtime groups as well.
Groups are currently in Bournemouth, Poole, Southampton and Portsmouth, with new groups being set up nationally as we speak.
Briefly describe your events?
Twice monthly BGN members meet at their respective groups (Home Club) the meetings are broken down into three stages:
1. Pre-meeting networking (15 mins) - 3pm the group chat informally amongst each other.
2. Structured Meeting (1 hour) - Each group member is given 60 seconds to introduce themselves, and importantly explain how the group can help them, and the type of business they are looking for and/or provide advice to other members.
The group are then either treated to a presentation/ seminar from a business professional in a range of relevant topic areas, for example Business Strategy, or 3 x structured 121 meetings (if there is no speaker)
The group then generate business referrals, provide business introductions, and thank each other for business given. This is done on a group basis and not by going around the table to each individual. Those who want to say/contribute something can. Those who do not wish to, do not have to, so members at the meeting are not pressurised into saying or doing anything.
3. Golf - The group then venture outside to play some golf. For keen golfers, it’s a 9-hole stableford competition with prizes for the winner! Alternatively individuals can have a lesson with a PGA professional on the driving range, or using the practice facilities. The lessons vary in nature, even single figure handicappers from our groups have been known to book additional lessons as a result of attending our meetings.
A key part of our proposition is that we strongly and actively encourage ' non golfers', because we will teach them! In one group alone we have had 6 individuals who had never played golf a year ago, who now play golf regularly and love the game!
What do you think makes your events different?
The number one difference between ourselves, and the multitude of other network groups, is that within our structure we facilitate quality one to one time together. We are NOT a golf society, but a serious business network, with serious business aims and objectives. We do use 'golf' but only as the vehicle for members to spend quality time together.
How can you build trust, and friendship, with someone by meeting them once a week (or less) over a breakfast? It's the work outside of a network meeting that makes the difference. It is this piece of the equation however that invariably never happens, unless the networking group structure facilitates it. We certainly do!
The Golf - The golf can be based around learning through lessons with a PGA professional, or competitive through stableford tournaments, competitions and golf days. This allows us to cater for both skilled golfers, beginners, or even people who simply want to try golf for the first time.
Access to Different Groups - All of our members are encouraged to visit different BGN groups, and build relationships with other members! We also have inter-group golf competitions and social activities that encourage this.
No category restrictions – We believe in "coopertition" rather than "competition" meaning we do not discourage anyone from attending, even if they are seeking the same customers. This can provide opportunities for businesses to work together, and form strategic alliances which often lead to synergy. As recently seen on a larger global scale between Taylormade and Adidas!
Regularity – Our groups meet twice a month, which ensures that our members have sufficient time to build relationships, without having to give up too much time from work itself. We encourage our members to build friendships outside of the meetings and many of them regularly meet to play golf between meetings. All of our groups have a friendly, lively and welcoming atmosphere which is ideal for small business owners.
What kinds of businesses attend your events?
A huge range of business types attend our meetings including both small and medium sized enterprises, charities and representatives of multinational corporations. Networking can take place on a macro or micro level, often even the largest corporations can benefit from the services provided by smaller specialist companies based locally.
What is your top tip for people attending your events?
In business, as in life, you only get out of something what you put into it. We are about quality and commitment, not quantity. We are very much about the building of solid, long term, long lasting business relationships that often become great friendships over time.
We are not about rooms stacked with people, selling to the room (each other) and the generation of large numbers of pieces of paper that are meant to represent business, but are worthless because no effort has been made in generating them.
Come to our meetings with an 'open mind', energy and enthusiasm, and a willingness to invest for the medium/long term not as a quick fix.