Despite its relatively small size Tunbridge Wells is home to almost 20 networking groups dedicated to promoting local businesses.
And now another one has been added to the list with the Panoramic Wealth Networking Breakfast cementing the town’s reputation as one of the most networked places in Kent.
Panoramic is a wealth management firm aimed at targeting younger investors and is run by Gary Jefferies and his son Ross. The groups themselves are seen as one reason Tunbridge Wells is so successful in nurturing strong companies.
Emma Cox, who runs three networking groups including Women in Business West Kent and Ladies Who Latte, and was attending the Panoramic debut, believes there are enough networking groups for ‘everyone to benefit’.
“You have to go out and try all the types to see what is best for you. It is a great way to find potential clients but it is also about helping out other people and making contacts for them,” she said. In this way, she explained, networking actually goes ‘beyond the room’ in which it is taking place, as people chatting to each other may end up recommending friends or associates who are not at the event.
Unlike trying to socialise online, there are added benefits to networking groups.
“It is important to meet face to face as you can learn a lot from body language and that helps you find out how genuine someone is,” said Emma Cox.
She believes the main reason why so many networking groups flourish in the town is due to the number of individual business owners.
“There are many people with small businesses, who perhaps work from home, and they need these sorts of forums to meet each other.”
Around 60 people attended the Panoramic event on Friday which was hosted at Trinity Theatre. They represented a wide range of businesses, from decorating to accounting and from online marketing to high street banks.
Steve Budden, Warden of Tunbridge Wells and Rusthall Commons, was the guest speaker who gave a timely talk on the history of the commons and the current state of affairs concerning their governance. There is an ongoing debate on the rights of some residents to cross common land to access their homes.
Event organiser and Managing Director of Panoramic Gary Jefferies said he wanted to create a network that was both ‘relaxed’ and ‘informative’.
“I thought it would be good to have comments and contributions on local issues.
“The speakers help break the session up a bit and provide some focus. But the people I will be inviting, like Mr Budden, are not necessarily going to be business people.
“They could work in any sector that has an impact on daily life in Tunbridge Wells whether business or not. It is important for people to be informed about current issues.”
He plans to host the event quarterly, at rotating venues, believing this is a good way to keep people interested and avoid it becoming too ‘routine’.
“We don’t want to overdo it and I think people will enjoy it more if it’s not overly regular.”
Lucy Garside – Accountant – Wells Associates
“To get the right contacts you need to meet people and know which businesses are around. Because I am an accountant I rely on referrals for a lot of my work.”
Natalie Friday and Simon Hird – Barclays High Net Worth Division
“We are a big bank but we think local so we are keen to be out in the community meeting people and letting potential clients know what we are about.”
Stephen Harris – Self-employed decorator
“I come to these events in the hope of picking up work and advertising my services and word of mouth is the best method for me to do that.”
Peter Martin – Shape the Future – Market Research
“Networking helps me to explain the value of what I do.”
Dan Foreman – Zappistore – Market Research
“Most of my clients are big businesses and I meet them in London, but I live locally and work from home so I like to meet people here.”
LIST OF NETWORKING GROUPS
- Panoramic Wealth Management Networking
- Muesli Mafia
- West Kent Networking
- Warners Solicitors Link-Up
- The Net
- Business Over Breakfast
- BNI Royal Spa (Spa Hotel)
- BNI Tunbridge Wells (Nevill Golf Club)
- ABC Networking
- Women in Business West Kent
- Ladies Who Latte
- Ladies Lunch Clubs
- Tunbridge Wells Mums in Business
- Meeja Hub
- Invicta Chamber of Commerce
- West Kent Chamber of Commerce
- List courtesy of simplenetworking.uk
With a starting time at 8am the event takes place later than many other networking groups. Gary Jefferies believes that they start too early.
“With some of them you have to get up before six to make it and then you are just tired for the rest of the day so it seems counter productive.”
But he readily admits that despite the event being free, he is not running them purely to benefit those who attend.
He said: “I want to promote Panoramic and get it more in people’s view. So it isn’t just a philanthropic exercise, there is a business case for it too.”