I don’t know about you about there’s a real feeling of change in the air. Never before has the shift in seasons from winter to spring felt more welcome or more needed. Daffodils are in full bloom; the sun is peeking through with genuine warmth and there is positivity in the spring air.
Over the last year, business networking has been a lifeline for many businesses. Not just from the connections made and the business exchanged but the support that’s been shared freely as business owners across Oxfordshire and Berkshire have faced some dark days and tricky times.
The fact that Opendoorz has grown its membership – we’ve welcomed 15 new members already in 2021 – and recorded record levels of business exchanged, is testament to the pivotal role networking has played in business throughout the pandemic.
With the gradual easing of restrictions, it really feels like we are emerging into the daylight to look at the networking landscape with a fresh pair of eyes. The last 12 months of networking in an almost exclusively virtual world has revealed new ways to form relationships and develop connections. Spring 2021 is brimming with the opportunities to take the advantages of virtual networking into the ‘real world’ and we’re super excited about what’s in store.
But let’s not get too far ahead just yet. Like many businesses in 2020, we had to adapt to a rapidly changing business landscape quickly. Our members were used to meeting face to face, where camaraderie and banter flowed, where there was always time for a quick catch up, nuggets of advice sought or given, and laughter to enjoy. With that rug pulled swiftly out from under us, we had to take our first, daunting steps into the world of virtual networking. We knew we would need to adjust our meeting agenda to suit an online format but we weren’t sure how best to do that whilst still retaining the key elements of the successful Opendoorz format:- sharing ideas, discussing concerns and providing support. In the end, we adapted the format three times to account for the changes our members’ businesses were facing, the work and personal stresses many members were balancing and eventually an adjustment to address zoom fatigue.
This meant taking our focus away from our pre-COVID goals moving it 100% into the here and now of what our members needed at that given moment. It’s one of our biggest learnings out of this time – you have to be flexible to what’s going on around you. Big plans are all well and good but if you ignore the reality of your current situation they’re doomed. Our priority became to make sure Opendoorz members received the highest level of support and felt connected and safe. From online happy hours to coffee mornings and Sculpt exercise classes to check-in phone calls, we put all our energy into our existing members.
Looking back, we could not have predicted a more different year from what we had planned. 2019 had been a whirlwind where we’d doubled our membership size and so, naturally, we were excited about moving into 2020 with more ambitious growth plans. It would be wrong to say we didn’t feel somewhat disappointed and a little deflated when that went on hold, but we trusted we were doing the right thing for our members and, therefore, our business.
Tough decisions are part of running a business. We know many of our members had to make them for their businesses too. Pausing our growth plans, whilst the right thing to do, meant our brand-new Reading group didn’t get the Opendoorz style launch it deserved and we delayed the launch of a group in Wallingford too.
As I write this at the beginning of April 2021, I really can see glimmers of light and hope for us, our members, and so many of our valued business connections. Just like the spring lambs in the fields, we’re excited: – bouncing and bleating with happiness about what lies around the corner.
Plans are moving forward apace to bring both the Reading and Wallingford groups into our flock as soon as we can meet face to face again, and it feels great. Watch this space for further updates!
Challenging times teach us lots about ourselves and we’ve undoubtedly grown more confident in ourselves and our business. We’ve proven we can adapt quickly and we have a whole new level of appreciation for our wonderful loyal clients, not to mention the solid, resilient team around us.
I’m wondering what lessons you’ve learned about yourself and your business over the last 12 months? Why not share them with us?
Equally, if you are or know of professionals (business owners, partners, directors) in the Reading or Wallingford areas, then we would love an introduction to invite them along to meet us and experience Opendoorz for themselves. Drop us a line and join us at a guest event. www.opendoorz.biz/contact