Future 50 high-growth business programme Zooms into 2021
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A New Year means a new Future 50 programme, aimed at boosting business in the East of England.
East Anglia's Future 50 business programme has returned for 2021 – but this year things are a little different. The ongoing pandemic made it impossible to gather the representatives of all 50 firms and the six partner companies in one place for the first event, so the initial introductions were made over Zoom.
“The Future 50 programme has been running over the past 10 years and has taken different forms,” said Kieran Miles of Archant Ventures, the partner introducing this first event. “This is the first time not only that it has taken the mission of high-growth but also the first time it’s been quite heavily digital. Hopefully that strengthens our ability to connect.”
This is a crucial aspect of Future 50. “We have seen, for many years, that members of the Future 50 appreciate the networking and social interaction with businesses in similar places in their growth cycle,” says James Shipp of long-term partner Lovewell Blake. “The ability to speak freely to experts and others going through the same challenges in business has really underpinned everything else the Future 50 year provides.”
“We are here to be part of this programme and help with our expertise and our connections in different areas of business, particularly in the area of growth,” said Matt McLoughlin of Foresight.
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As well as the partners, the diverse nature of the companies making up the Future 50 cohort is a massive advantage in making connections.
“It’s important not to confine your network to just peers in your sector or industry,” says David Parfrey of Norwich Research Park. “An issue you will be facing may be one that someone outside your sector has faced before. It’s more important than ever now that you actively seek out opportunities to build your network of contacts by joining webinars or Zoom meetings where you will be exposed to professionals from all types of businesses.”
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Glen Webster of Barclays agrees: “Virtual networking has become the new norm and we have quickly adapted to digital platforms,” he says. "I would suggest you seek to connect via a variety of platforms and also attend those events relevant to your area of expertise and sector.
“Just like any relationship, a network needs nurturing," he adds. “When you do make good connections, keep in touch and ask people to connect you to other contacts and events they feel may be mutually beneficial.”
So what’s the secret to effective networking? “First, less is more. Much better to walk away from an event having had one good conversation rather than numerous pointless ones,” advises Ed Savoury of Birketts. "Try to make your encounter with someone memorable – you are more likely to create a positive connection if there is some chemistry. Equally, be a bit ruthless and move on as quickly as you can from an encounter that is not working.
“The real trick,” he reveals, "Is following up. That is where the magic happens.”
A poll taken at the first event confirmed that most of the members of the Future 50 cohort appreciate the value of networking. Though most had signed up to acquire knowledge to help boost the growth of the company, nearly a quarter cited networking as a key reason for participation.
“We work across multiple industries, so networking outside of the AI arena is vital as it drives conversations around innovation and opportunities where AI could be applied,” says Neil Miles, CEO of Future 50 member Inawisdom. “When you are working in evolving/cutting-edge tech as we are, every networking conversation is of value as it broadens your own view, helps keep you relevant and can open up partnerships or alliances.”
Norwich Research Park really shows the power of networking in action, as scientists and researchers from different institutions come together to work on everything from global food supply and climate change to Covid-19. “The only way to discover the important stuff you are not currently aware of is to listen and speak to others,” says Mr Parfrey.
“The more positive connections you are able to make, the more likely it is that they will lead to something good – directly or indirectly,” concludes Mr Savoury.