Networking in Spain – Collaborations with Ali Meehan

26 Jan, 2022 | Networking Diaries

Podcast Interview

In this episode, Lizzie Phillips, founder of IWant2Network and WIBN Franchisee, discusses networking tips, collaboration, and networking for friendships as well as business with Costa Women Network founder, Ali Meehan.

This episode discusses several networking tips for business owners to get the most out of their networking events, as well as why you may want to attend a networking event where you can discover people within your industry for collaboration.

Find out more about Costa Women network here: https://costawomen.com/

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Video/Podcast Transcript:

Speaker 0:00
Hello, and welcome to the networking diaries. So, with me this month, I have the wonderful Ali, I thought I would go across the pond today. So we are meeting with wonderful Ali who set up a cost of women across Spain. Now Ali, perhaps you’d like to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit more about your networking organisation.

Speaker 0:32
Yeah, thank you. Hi, Lizzie. Really lovely to be part of your show. So I set up Costa women for purely selfish reasons, because I wanted to make friends. We had lived in areas parts of the world, and we’re coming back to Spain to live permanently. And when I lived here, originally, in 2002, it was really hard to make friends that was before social media. I was working from home, I worked from home for a company based in the Middle East. And it was actually really hard to make that leap and find friends. So I decided that when I came back, I would build something, both social and business wise, not just not one or the other, but both so that I can actually start making some friends. So that’s really where it started.

Speaker 1:19
Awesome. So I mean, networking is very is, you know, talking about the friendship element there that networking is, is a more natural way to kind of build your business. And I think like, I’m safe to say that a lot of my members have actually become my friends. There’s lots of information that I share with them, that I might not share to other people as well as fantastic. So adding what when did you tell us a little bit more in depth about your networking, your networking events that you run? So when did you start? And how did you expand networking organisation?

Speaker 1:57
Okay, so I started in 2010. I agree with you entirely about networking. And in fact, I think it’s a very underused tool that we really do need to get back to. And I think this year really is about getting back to basics. And not necessarily doing things because we believe we should do them, but doing them because they work. I started it in the Casa Del Sol, hence the name Costa women. And actually that was would be my first tip. If you’re thinking about starting a business, start small but think big because I started small and thought small, and thought it would just be for women living on the Costa del Sol. But quite quickly, we welcome to a man from Barcelona. And although Barcelona does have a coast, it’s not really doesn’t really fit with the cost of the cost a name really because that isn’t that think of a caster. So that would be my first tip. And we now have 38 locations where we meet around Spain, including mule Kameoka launched last year, which is great. And they are very some of them are business. Some of them are social, and some of them about both. So we over the lockdown the 2020 year, we hosted 230 online events. But we’ve we’ve also started to go back to in the middle of 2020 started about back to local events. And on a business level as well. So local business events since 2014. I’ve hosted an international women’s day conference every year in Albania. And we you know, we do we are we are defined by businesses. So we’re people women first and then obviously, the business comes as an added bonus because people do buy from people they know like and trust. So it’s better to build that relationship first. And then, you know, see how you can help instal the person with the business that you offer.

Speaker 4:06
Yeah. So Ali, you have roughly how many members do you have across? How many how many groups do you have? Or is it just event driven?

Speaker 4:15
So we we do have groups, we have Facebook groups, and I’ve just about press the buttons on a mighty networks platform. So we’ve got groups in there as well, because I think people are getting a little bit fed up with Facebook. So I’ve gone to two networks. We since the started we’ve welcomed 12,250 women to the community. So yeah, it’s it’s grown quite a bit. We’ve done very little advertising. It’s all been word of mouth, and women looking at maybe even moving to Spain and asking the questions before they get here. They don’t necessarily have to be living in Spain to join us. they can connect before they arrive, which is really important because you can never do enough research about moving to another country.

Speaker 5:08
Yeah, I agree. So you mentioned moving across to my mighty networks, which you said, yeah, yeah, yep. So one of the things I got to discuss with you, that’s one of the one of the biggest challenges I having is technology at the moment and constantly having to adapt. And perhaps you can tell us about the biggest challenge that you’re facing in your networking organisation.

Speaker 5:33
I think it is. Well, that there’s a few, but I think probably the main one at the moment is about people being probably had enough of zoom. So but the importance of networking for your business. So if they can’t get to a physical event, then they tend to have dropped, connecting with other women. And I think it is really important when you’ve got a business to have mentors or buddies or whatever you like to call them that can say, look, I can see you’re struggling, and having that open relationship to say, can I help? Technology? Yep, it is a big one. Because things are getting more and more complicated. Business is simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. So we either pay for people to help us doing whatever we need to do, or we have to have a big steep learning curve. So learn how to use it. I heard somebody was talking the other day about this new type of bit. Bitcoin is not Bitcoin, what it is linked to Bitcoin, I think it’s called ETF probably got that completely wrong. But that’s where you can actually put your paintings online and people buy a piece of them, or they buy the whole thing, but they never actually physically get your painting. It’s done. It’s all done through the Bitcoin technology. And that really made me feel old. So it’s keeping up to date with all the new stuff, which just keeps and then knowing whether the new stuff is actually what you should be concentrating on. Because maybe, maybe your customers and your clients aren’t are using that platform. So you’ve just wasted days or weeks or months learning something, and they’re not even going to be there. I didn’t use clubhouse because my phone was too old to use clubhouse, but I’m hearing from people that that sort of died to death. I don’t know if that’s true. But

Speaker 7:47
yeah, a bit of if it’s a bit of a fad on, I think to give you an a really good idea in terms of the networking event space, I mean, all businesses are having to adapt quite quickly. But I think the events in in the hospitality industry even more so where things are, it just changes on a weekly if not daily basis at the moment. So making a decision wherever you’re ever face to face, whether you have it online, whether you do a bit of a hybrid, which is what networking 90 is going to be going for is more of a hybrid. So those that want that human interaction can get that too. But to give you a really good ideas, give give you a good instance, where I’m constantly having to adapt. It is I had my Women Business Network, Canary Wharf group yesterday, one of the members her flight got cancelled. So we thought, okay, well dial her in, it’s fine. You know, technology works is absolutely fine. But hasn’t really worked out that the microphone wasn’t going to stretch in terms of 20 people. So Black bless Anna, who’s been one of our speakers, actually, by the way about networking in Asia, she sat there probably for a good hour, not just being able to not be able to hear us but so we could hear her but not the other way around so quickly and very swiftly on to Amazon to buy more technology to find out what the next

Speaker 9:18
Yeah, it is those things that you don’t know until the last minute is gonna work. And I can tell you a really fun story. What wasn’t fun at the time, but it’s funny now about our International Women’s Day event in 2020, which was up right up until the day before the event was going to happen live. And then the day before the event I was found by the the conference venue that were where we were hosting the event, who just said to me that I’m really sorry, but you can’t come. So we had fifteens what we had 15 People had flown here we had 100 women that was supposed to be attending the event. We had nine speakers. And I had in the back of my mind had a plan B. And that’s something that you will know Lizzie as an organised events organiser, your plans are going B, C, D, E, F. So we got all of the speakers to come here and literally went live in my lounge, using Facebook live in a group that we created for the event and went live and hope that the women were able to join us for the whole event. And we literally run the event from start to finish. Wow, as if it was, you know, live in the venue, even though it was live in one hour. So yeah, it is things like that, that you really do have to sort of have an an extra plan. And the same for your business, you know, yeah. doesn’t always go to plan or your plan.

Speaker 10:58
Definitely not. So, which kind of leads us as a really good top tip. I also wanted to ask you, if you had any good top tips for our listeners, about networking in general,

Speaker 11:10
I think in general, be consistent. So don’t go along to one networking event and then say, well, that that doesn’t work, because you didn’t get any clients out of it. Go to networking events. And well go before you go to the networking event actually see if you can find out who’s gonna be there. And who you could connect with who you want to build some sorts of collaboration or, or relationship with long term. There’s a lovely quote, and I’d love to find out who actually said it, because I’m always quoting it. But it’s successful networking comes from a place of abundance, rather than scarcity, a place to stretching out your hands first, rather than looking for hands to stretch to you. And I think that’s really important. I lived for a while in Phuket in Thailand, and we used to go to Hong Kong quite a bit on business. And in Hong Kong, they haven’t got a business can’t hear, but they they literally give their business cards to you like that. And to me that was like I’m giving you a piece of myself. So please accept it. And I think we too easy to throw away business cards, you know, just I call it the spray and pray method, you spray it around the room hoping that it’s gonna land with the right person. And quite often it doesn’t. So follow up is a really big thing as well. I don’t think we follow up enough from from people that we’ve met, even if you’re not, if you’re not going to see them as a potential customer. It’s whether you can collaborate with them or whether they know people that might want your product or service. So for me follow up, you know, you’ve invested that money to go to the event, you’ve invested your time to go to that event, and the new job or the following up. And then you complain that things don’t happen.

Speaker 13:04
At least people should be connecting with them on LinkedIn the other way that I fell, and I don’t know how you feel about that early, but I always say within a week, try and do your follow up. And that’s exactly the same if you’ve offered a referral to do that to within a week. Yeah. Because I think, you know, it’s a really good reflection upon you in your business.

Speaker 13:25
Well, well also to check your the person the best platform to connect with them on. We don’t we we haven’t really use LinkedIn that much insane. Generally, the Spanish don’t really use it so much they do. They do or now but they didn’t really before. So a lot of women didn’t really have a LinkedIn profile. So it’s, it’s finding out whether that person is best to get an email or to connect on Facebook Messenger or LinkedIn or wherever works for them. And because then that means that you’re actually more interested in them. Because you know, how can I best contact you rather than saying, Well, I’m going to send you a message on this platform? Well, maybe they don’t don’t know about that platform. We’ll use it.

Speaker 14:17
Well, look, I was going to come on to one of my top tips, but you kind of led me nicely onto one of my other questions is, you know how, obviously, you’ve seen how networking is done in the UK. And you’ve seen how it’s done in Spain. Have you? You mentioned their LinkedIn, that’s a really good nugget there. There we go. There we go. Have you got any? You know, have you seen how it differs at all?

Speaker 14:39
It does differ because if you’re looking at connecting you really what first of all, you really need to know who your ideal client is and why you’re connecting with somebody. What’s the purpose of you connecting? Is it because you just wants to continue the relationship because you think you’d have a lot in common or You want to collaborate with them, or maybe they’ll be a client of you. And it’s really important to know who your market is for your particular product or service. The Spanish people tend to because they’re, they’ve already lived, where you’re living, you know, they’ve probably grown up there. So they’ve already got a lot of the contacts that they would want or need. So maybe they, you know, you need to really work out why you would want to connect with them, what would the benefit be for them and for you, I mean, it could just be that you want to expand your network or your business into the Spanish market. It doesn’t necessarily follow that women that are living in Spain, sell to the Spanish market, as a lot of people that just stay with their own language group. Or so they may not necessarily want to have Spanish customers, or their products or service may already be here in the Spanish market, but they want to bring in a foreign version of it, as it were. So it doesn’t necessarily follow that everybody you meet will become a contact for you. So it really is important to know who you are, who your ideal client is, what’s in it for them, and what are their wants and needs. For you with your business.

Speaker 16:21
Is there any like a definite no no’s when networking in Spain?

Speaker 16:28
I think it’s the same as anywhere internationally, I won’t say that there are specific or no, you know, you can’t do that. No, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t say so.

Speaker 16:38
One of the top tips that I was going to come on to, and it’s quite relevant to one of the networking events that I did this week, is the importance of doing one to ones with people. So there’s lots of different terminology of one to ones in different networking organisations, my view of a one to one is literally sitting down to 30 to 45 minutes, half of the time each, to discuss a little bit more about your background, where you have come from with you, if you run your own business, you know, why did you decide to set it up who your clients are. And the reason why once ones are really important is because you are ultimately building that relationship. And you get to find out a bit more background about that person. And one of the examples I wanted to give here is if you belong to a networking group, fantastic. Try and do as many one to one use, you can not only with your group, but people outside your group, because this week, we had someone that that was recommended to somebody else, they subsequently had a one to one. And actually, in that conversation, it turned out that they needed a service or somebody else in another group. So that’s Germany, how networking really works. And it was great to see that it wasn’t just inside that group that was getting the business but obviously spread your contacts much further further afield. One, give us one top tip than le before we go,

Speaker 18:06
I think really, even if you have the same products or services, somebody else now I don’t know how yours works, Lizzie but we we open all the doors to everybody, we don’t say oh, we’ve already got a lawyer, you can, you know, you can’t come to this group, for instance. And I think that we’ve lost the art of collaboration. So maybe because we are all very young. So we bring ourselves to the meeting, or to our businesses or to our social media, and how we set that up. And what we share is very unique. So it’s really important for us not to be concerned by the you know, something that somebody else is doing in our niche, but to remember that we are that particular unique person and we bring that uniqueness to the table.

Speaker 18:58
I completely agree with you, Allie. So net networking 90 And women business network is both one profession role. That’s generally because you might get a top heavy group with lots of professions over another. So it kind of just helps it flow a bit better. But I have had instances where somebody who said oh, well, I’m not going to recommend that person because I already know somebody in that industry. And actually, you know what it like you were saying is very much about personality, about fit. There might be somebody that I think would work really well with one of my clients over somebody else, literally just down to, again goes back to previous experience where they’ve been and what ideally those clients are looking for. So never underestimate what one what people you know, the contacts that people have in their little black book. So as you were saying, Be open to collaboration,

Speaker 19:56
folks. Yeah, yeah. And I also think that over the last To 18 months to two years of what’s been going on with COVID, a lot of people have actually changed what they’re doing. So they made before have been this particular had this particular business or this particular role. And now they’ve decided, actually, I’m live show, I want to do what I want to do, and they’ve gone off to do something else. So you may find that they’re not doing what they were doing previously. And now they’re introducing even more interesting,

Speaker 20:26
brilliant. Well, look, Li you’ve been an absolute pleasure. Thank you very much indeed, for coming on to the networking diaries. For those that tagged me in social media. You could win yourself a networking diaries diary, there we go, which is just what you need for 2020 do. Thank you very much indeed. And do check us out on the networking diaries webpage, which has got loads of different information and top tips on there about networking. Thank you.