Belfast Telegraph

‘It’s important that you take a strategic look at networking’

Small business can

By Lisa Smyth

After moving eight times in 18 years, Lisa Strutt is adept at starting again and forging new relationships. She has taken the skills and experience she has accrued over the years and is helping businesspeople throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland as operations lead and director of Asentiv Ireland.

The company provides a range of services, including coaching, workshops and teaching entrepreneurs skills including public speaking and referral marketing.

The 45-year-old, who lives in Newtownabbey, says: "Asentiv helps entrepreneurs and business owners achieve their goals by building better relationships.

"It's a franchise organisation, and my part of the business has been up and running for just under two years."

Lisa's background has been instrumental in furnishing her with many of the attributes she believes are crucial to making a success of a business.

She was given lots of responsibility from a young age, with a large number of relatives investing time in her life, which encouraged her to work hard and be kind and helpful to everyone.

These values are as important to her today as they were in the past.

Her background also taught her the importance of forming strong relationships.

Lisa started an MBA in November 2004, with two children under the age of two and pregnant with her third. She had just moved from England to Gibraltar.

Six weeks later, on Christmas Day, she gave birth to her third child, so she had to juggle caring for a newborn baby with writing assignments.

"I learned that my drive and determination would help me towards my goals, and that my wider support network would get me over the finish line," she says.

It was when she was living in Portugal that Lisa first considered the possibility of working with Asentiv.

"We moved to Lisbon in 2012 and lived there for three years," she explains. "I was out there coaching a lot of ex-pat women who were struggling with what to do with their lives.

"I ended up working with all different people to help them make changes, and while I was there one of the people I met was Terry Hamill from Asentiv.

"He told me he had been watching what I had been doing, that it was a really valuable skillset for business and that I should consider doing that when I left Portugal.

"I didn't immediately see the relevance for business, but Terry said I should consider going to San Francisco to find out a bit more about Asentiv.

"I was 40-something at that stage. I'd had a great career in local government, and I thought that this could be a new chapter in my life, so I ended up doing a programme to become a licensed trainer of Asentiv products, and realised how I could transform my skills into a business."

Lisa has a wealth of experience of helping people get back into the workplace.

After graduating from Edinburgh University with a degree in German and history, she moved back to Northern Ireland in 1995 and started working in the private sector, providing training for companies including Bombardier Belfast.

"I have always been involved in people development in some shape or form," Lisa says.

"We moved to England for my husband's job, then I worked for Portsmouth City Council and Hampshire County Council, where I helped unemployed people get back into work."

Lisa is passionate about the importance of networking and business, although she recognises it is something that does not always come naturally.

"A lot of people are fearful of coming across as a bit pushy - that would be the sort of thing clients would say to me," she explains.

"However, I would say networking is about connecting with people who can help your business achieve its goals.

"I believe that the answers to your biggest problems in business are often a lot closer than you think.

"Quite often we don't invest enough in our network. We go to events, but we don't step back and have a strategic look at who is going to attend and who would be important.

"I would always encourage clients to take someone with them when they are going to a network event - don't go alone.

"It's much easier to have someone else talk about you and big you up than do it yourself.

"We're in a world of recommendations, and potential customers or business partners want to hear what other people say about you.

"I would say it is so important to build up a good network of people who want to champion you and your business and see the value in it.

"Quite often when I speak to people and ask them where they get their business, they say it is through referrals and word of mouth.

"When I ask them whether they have a plan for that, a lot of people would say they don't, that it just happens.

"The way I see it is, if you are getting 60% to 70% of business through referrals, imagine what it would be like if you have a plan.

"Everything in business stems from relationships of some kind or another - you can't start a business in isolation."

With her passion for collaboration and networking in mind, Lisa hopes that Asentiv will continue to grow.

"Over the next three years, I would like to bring on eight more associates on both sides of the border, Ireland and Northern Ireland," she says.

"When it comes to business, it is about surrounding yourself with a team of people who have your back.

"When I moved back to Northern Ireland, I found people here incredibly supportive. I have found that very humbling.

"Getting involved with Asentiv has been very organic for me. Having moved eight times in 18 years, I really did learn how important networks are, and I had to learn to connect.

"To anyone who thinks that networking is horrible, I would say that it is about building relationships, and these are crucial in business."

Belfast Telegraph

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