Back in August, I had the opportunity to attend a networking event with a twist, far from being your usual business networking get together (where you endlessly repeat your well-rehearsed pitch about who you are and what you do) I could instantly tell this event was something different.
Now networking events come in all shapes and sizes, and they all try to have their own distinct approach, a unique selling point if you will and I don’t know about your feelings on the matter, but I often find most follow the same, somewhat repetitive blueprint. You arrive, there’s the initial 20 or so minute round of networking, followed by one (or possibly many) talks from a selection of speakers who offer various expertise in some relatable field that could apply to your business (like branding or worse yet, crypto-currency), a break and then finally, a few more speeches. It all feels rather rudimentary, as if the thing you need after another long day is more “education”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all well and good and I am not saying there isn’t a value in attending such events but I do feel that something is missing.
I’ll get on to that later but now back to my evening at the Sporting Club. The reason for this particular event was a private screening of Maiden, a really incredible documentary about the first ever all-female crew of the Whitbread Round the World Race (1989-1990) captained by the first ever female skipper, Tracy Edwards. The film itself is a truly incredible tale of determination, heartache and the struggle so many of us go through to realise a dream that to others may seem downright stupid. Watching this film, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between Tracy’s journey to sporting fame and the journey entrepreneurs take to achieve their dreams. From being mocked and ridiculed by your peers to doubting yourself and putting everything on the line for that crazy dream of yours, to the sweet vindication when against all odds you somehow make it. As the film drew to its conclusion, I looked around the room and noticed that every one of the 40 or so people sitting there felt the same jubilation as I did. None of us had ever done a round the World yacht race (well, maybe that’s not entirely true) but we all felt an instant connection with Tracy and the struggles she went through, we were all there with her. The atmosphere was electric and right there I understood what was so different about this event.
Far from being another laborious 3 hours of “business talk” and seminars where someone is telling you about the next big thing you aren’t doing in your business but really should be (which let’s face it, is almost always a runup to some dreaded offer to purchase a service or course which you will likely never use), we were instead treated to something much more intimate and meaningful. In business, as in sport (and life), you really must fight for what you believe in. Success and achieving your goals (whatever they may be) really does transcend gender, age, culture and everything else but beyond that the journeys each of us take, whilst being our own, are also very similar. There’s something quite comforting in that notion, you feel a sense of redemption in the belief that you are on the right path, that no matter the odds at the end of it all you will be able to say to yourself that at the very least you did what you believed in.
What followed was a Q&A with Tracy herself, so when I said we were there with her I really should have said that she was literally there with us! The Q&A was directed by Ian Stafford, the founder of the Sporting Club, and as an award winning sports journalist (12 national awards to be exact) I have to say the quality of that session was second to none! It really was the perfect conclusion to a truly uplifting experience and of course we all still got to network after but mind you we all felt as if we now had a connection.
I later spoke to Ian to find out more about the Sporting Club, and why he felt sport (rather than business) was a much better way of creating relationships and networks. I started off by asking him what was the inspiration behind the Sporting Club:
“We live in a more diverse society where we have 28-year-old CEO’s of tech companies who do not see being a member of an expensive, elitist club as a badge of honour or statement of intent any more. I thought a more down to earth club with successful people who don’t feel the need to brag about how successful or wealthy they are and who love their sport (as well as their business) would make sense”
It has proven to be a winning formula, in fact the Sporting Club has grown rapidly since opening its doors for the first time in April 2017. They now have 3 clubs in London alone (Mayfair, Soho and the City) as well as clubs in Manchester, Cheshire and are even expanding overseas with Dublin, Dubai and New York next on their list. I wanted to know what Ian attributed this success to, he added:
“Seeing members getting to know each other and forging meaningful business relationships; witnessing standing ovations at our events and seeing how much our a-list stars enjoy being there. I believe our members feels as I do, that we are creating many, many business opportunities through our networking system and intimate events. We take the time to make personal introductions between members and business matchmaking by understanding not only who they are but their needs also. We have an exclusive members only area on our website complete with members directory, internal messages, club noticeboard and weekly newsletter. It’s much more than coming along and hearing from truly world renowned sports stars, that’s just the icing on the cake for us.”
That last point really cannot be downplayed, I went ahead and checked our their website (thesportingclub.co) to see what future events they had planned. On their events listing page I could see the likes of Harry Redknapp, Daley Thompson, Frank Bruno, Tony Adams, Lawrence Dallaglio and many more. It is clear that apart from the personal touch afforded to each member, Ian’s incredible career in sports journalism means he can draw on some very big sport personalities and put them in the room with his members. This intrigued me even more, just who is Ian? Here’s what he told me:
“Where to start… my career spans some 25 years as a sports writer covering every major sports event in the world, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to interview literally the biggest stars in the world sport. I was a broadcaster too, featuring primarily on major sports shows on the BBC, Channel 4 and various radio stations such as Talksport as a presenter, reporter, guest and writer/narrator.”
Ian also has 15 published books under his belt, 3 of them being genuine best sellers, including “Playgrounds of the Gods” where he played sports alongside some of the greatest individuals and teams in the world. He also won 12 national awards for journalism, including sports journalist of the year, sports interviewer of the year and magazine sports writer of the year. With such a successful career, I wanted to know what made him take up his journey into entrepreneurship.
“I always wanted to do something extra to what i was doing/had done. I admired how certain well-known individuals had moved away from one area into another when seemingly at the top of their game. I wanted a new set of challenges using my skill set and all the experience garnered through 25 years working in a multi-stranded media career which, of course, is also all about sales and marketing, PR, people and forging good business relationships. Fundamentally, I realised I didn’t want to work for someone else anymore and I had much more to offer by doing my own thing. I think on some level I always knew I was going to make this change, the one thing that I knew for certain is that it would involve sports, it’s in my DNA, so that aspect wasn’t going anywhere.”
I really like how Ian approached the whole subject, he took inspiration from his idols but he stayed true to who he was and from that he found a new exciting path to take. I had to know what was his one piece of advice for anyone reading this and thinking to do the same?
“For me it’s simple, listen to everyone but back your own judgement and remember the skill set that made you succeed before and got you to where you are, and don’t spend money you don’t have!!”
I think that last point cant be understated! So if you are planning on going to just one networking event this month (and if you want to meet your favourite sporting stars), I really hope you consider the Sporting Club, you may just find your new home.
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On the 8th October, we welcome former @englandrugby Captain #LawrenceDallaglio who won 85 caps for his country, for lunch at our Mayfair club @mortonsclub, to honour his career. Why not join us #Linkinbio . . . . . . #LondonSportingClub #London #lescargot #Soho #Mortons #Mayfair #BrandExchange #TheCity #membership #club #sports #food #sport #athlete #networking #network #networker #content #business #EnglandRugby #Rugby #motivation #inspiration #businesslife #sportsman #Sportswomen #sportsnews