We are a people business and we love sharing your experiences. The following is a selection from Sterling Network Group members, Sterling Business Show exhibitors, and Sterling Growth Hub proving how beneficial taking part in Sterling really is.
Neil and Tracey Davis
Neil and Tracey Davis ran a number of businesses before setting up their own business shows company - Sterling. The network groups followed on naturally from this, and in autumn 2015 the Growth Hub brand was launched, along with their new branding.
Sterling is built on their joint belief that people - their personalities and their skillsets - are "massively important". Their intention was to recreate the easy connection of people in the kitchen at parties, to encourage business.
Across Sterling, the values are those of Neil and Tracey themselves - integrity, honesty, reliability, responsibility. They work with and support "forward-thinking" businesses that want to grow and develop.
And it's two-way traffi c. Chris Wickens of Pure Protection was a delegate at Sterling's fi rst business show in 2011, and Neil and Tracey approached him for personal cover. He now also runs the company health service, adding value to working with Sterling. Chris has given them the reassurance that they're protected wherever possible, and Tracey "can recommend Chris so easily. He is a brilliant member."
Around 30 members, including Chris, plus exhibitors, now supply the Sterling business, and Neil and Tracey wouldn't have it any other way.
What do they get out of it? Tracey loves it when "people work together after I introduce them on a business show day". Neil enjoys getting to know people and their businesses, "finding solutions" to enable business growth, and building a business community.
It has been an "amazing journey" so far for the couple. Tracey is excited that the Sterling "brand is bigger than we are now", and Neil adds, "members and potential members are now driving Sterling.
Chris Wickens of Pure Protection became interested in insurance when he was running his own restaurant. Now an independent insurance broker, he loves great food and great insurance! Chris takes the personal approach to insurance.
After a free review, with no set course, he listens to your situation, building up a menu of recommended policies.
His ideal client is a small business perhaps 3 or 4 years old with around five employees, whose owners are open to new ideas. Sterling is a perfect example; now a member of the Cheltenham Central and Evesham groups, in 2011 when he was a delegate at one of the shows, Neil and Tracey, Neil and Tracey Davis approached Chris to extend their cover, taking out a number of personal and company policies.
Many Sterling members are now better insured, thanks to Chris. He's still serving people, just in a different way.
Chris thoroughly recommends Sterling - "the only networking organisation I am a member of - make your own assumptions".
Christopher Wickens Pure Protection Health and Life Insurance Tel: 01242 504640
Graham Dawson finds his job exceptionally rewarding. He is a coach for HorseHeard, a social enterprise arm of LeadChange, which helps young people develop emotional resilience through working with horses. He used to be a conventional coach, but now the horses do most of the coaching! In a behavioural change programme called "Being Friends", young people can "blossom" in a "safe way", with the horses helping them "rehearse for the outside world".
After coming across Sterling at their Gloucester business show, Graham found the team "welcoming, supportive and inclusive", with a "genuine interest in helping grow your business". He has now joined Sterling Cirencester and visited other groups. He has been asked to speak to Sterling members, and is also considering exhibiting.
When he met Carole Love, a kinesiologist who also works using horses, they talked nonstop, so much so that Graham apologised to the person on his other side! Since joining the HorseHeard team Carole is now helping Graham deliver free taster sessions.
Like Carole, Graham has been pleasantly surprised at the ready acceptance of his philosophy by other members, and their willingness to listen to different approaches. As Graham puts it, "I couldn't not recommend Sterling" - it is professionally run, and run for the benefit of members, readily offering opportunities to promote your business that you'd have to ask for in other organisations."
Carole Love is incredibly excited about the future. As a kinaesiologist, she deals with the energy blocks that stop us from moving forwards with our lives or businesses. Her Freedom To Live Therapies business is certainly moving in the right direction, with a new therapy room in Bourton on the Water. She finds it rewarding watching people's transformation as they get unstuck.
When Carole was invited along to Sterling Cheltenham she was hoping simply to educate people about energy work, and definitely wasn't expecting to want to join! She has since had a number of 1 to 1s with members and is impressed by their genuine interest.
On a visit to Sterling Cirencester she sat next to Graham Dawson of HorseHeard and they couldn't stop talking - about horses and energy and social enterprise. Now they are collaborating closely, having already exhibited together at a business event, and developing a joint workshop.
Carole used to compete in equestrian events and feels she has come full circle, with HorseHeard "completing my jigsaw puzzle". In fact, Carole is now combining horse work with her therapies, and has "moved away from just the couch". Far faster results are achieved this way, she says, because people have "a better understanding of energy when working with horses".
Carole says "Sterling has helped me move my business forward and increased my connections". She's "thrilled to bits" about the collaboration with Graham as she has since completed her equine facilitation course and is now working as part of the HorseHeard Team.
Based in Stroud, now with a team of 20, Welcome Telecoms has an outcome-focused approach to providing telecoms solutions for businesses, with the minimum of hassle. They are particularly good at connecting multisite businesses, and setting up business continuity systems. Welcome Telcom has acquired some household-name clients, and performs better than far larger competitors! MD Duncan Laker is also justifiably proud of their customer service, believing "all customers are lovely", and all deserve the same touch.
Duncan attended Sterling's business show in Bristol with a view to meeting people and possibly developing working partnerships.
Now a member, he not only exhibits but also sponsors the shows. He has been impressed with how Sterling's team "really think about what people want to get out of it, and make it happen. That's why it works for me." As everything is giving him "a decent ROI", Welcome Telecoms is now hosting a golf event for Powered by Sterling. As he puts it, "with Sterling you meet serious people."
It was at that first show, in a speed networking session, that Duncan met Liam Pearce, an IT expert. Rapidly realising the mutual benefits of their services, Liam is now a partner business, referring people to Duncan for their telecoms needs. The referrals work the other way too! Other similar partnerships have also developed. Such partnerships enable Welcom Telecoms to focus on their core business.
Summing up Sterling, Duncan declares "it proves that 2 + 2 = 5, or even more!"
...with Sterling you meet serious people.
Liam Pearce's IT business is growing, especially since 2012 when he set up as Pearce IT; the clients he supports are growing too! With 20 years' experience in IT, he still gets a kick out of seeing his solutions really benefit clients, such as when the online backup system kicked in to rescue a company after a calamity, getting them working again within 24 hours.
Liam joined Sterling's Gloucester group, looking to increase brand awareness and be accessible to people, and loves the "ethos" of Sterling. Members are from businesses that "want to grow and want to engage" and Sterling helps them do this. Liam's "longest lasting contacts and referrals are made from introductions through Sterling members".
Liam's special concerns are business continuity systems and connecting multisite operations, just like Duncan Laker of Welcome Telecom. They met via speed networking at a Bristol Sterling business show, fi nding their businesses dovetailed. Now Liam refers those of his clients that need VOIP to Duncan, and also looks after Welcome Telecom's own IT requirements as well as those of its clients.
In Liam's view, being a member of Sterling is "something to be proud of, something prestigious, ...almost like an accreditation".
Gerald Crittle heard about Sterling by accident. A car accident. He crashed into Tracey Davis in a car park, and she invited him to a Sterling breakfast meeting! Since the car park incident, Gerald has joined the Cheltenham group and often visits other groups. He speaks at the business shows too.
With G Acceleration, Gerald improves the efficiency of businesses by making use of technology. He has a unique combination of business experience at a senior level, knowledge of procedures and methods, and familiarity with available technology.
G Acceleration implements business efficiencies, freeing up time for development and growth, and Gerald finds their transformations "from stuck to streamlined" very satisfying.
After meeting Gill Smith of The Business Kitchen at the Cheltenham group, they quickly found they weren't rivals but could complement and support each other's businesses. Gill has helped Gerald clarify the different strands of his business, and together they are developing joint workshops as well as sharing information and leads.
Gerald highly recommends Sterling as he has been given lots of ideas and suggestions, as well as introductions. He says "the team really care about their members, treating them all equally, and work hard to promote their businesses, for example on social media". His expectations have been exceeded by the supportive and collaborative approach of Sterling, far broader than in other networking organisations.
He is also impressed by the professionalism of people in the room, and the support he has received from within the group.
The fortnightly pattern is just right.
Sterling members are heart-centric businesses that genuinely understand how powerful collaboration can be.
Gill Smith of The Business Kitchen heard about how different Sterling was to other networking groups. Intrigued by it being "all about the members", she went along to the Cheltenham group and promptly joined. She was initially hoping just to make some contacts in the room, but has filled most of their first three business training courses through Sterling, which is an exceptional result!
Gill now regularly particulates in Sterling's business shows, with a pop-up Business Kitchen. The Business Kitchen has achieved "brilliant exposure" at these shows, and the Sterling membership is a great source of experts.
Here's an example of how Sterling "puts members first ... [and is] genuinely caring": Gill had an accident shortly before one of the shows, so the team set up and ran her stand for her. They not only "bring their values to the business" but also "work hard for us" with great "commitment, enthusiasm and energy".
On meeting Gerald Crittle of G Acceleration at Sterling Cheltenham, Gill says, "it seemed likely we were competitors but once we had a 1 to 1 it became clear that there were some great collaboration opportunities". Gerald now talks about technology efficiencies in Business Kitchen workshops and they are developing some interesting ideas for the future, including joint workshops and joint venture opportunities.
Gill highly recommends Sterling, for its values - integrity and professionalism. Sterling members are "heart-centric businesses that genuinely understand how powerful collaboration can be". They attract other "quality, professional businesses [that] you know will deliver".
The Sustainable Building Futures project at Coventry University engaged Sterling to organise two business breakfast networking sessions. We had very bespoke requirements and the entire process was handled with a smart and efficient professionalism.
Thanks to Sterling's excellent promotion our attendance targets were exceeded and everything from registration, catering and speed networking sessions were organised with great attention to detail. We had happy clients and successful outcomes for everyone involved.
I was personally able to engage with more clients in half an hour at the event Powered by Sterling than I have managed at an entire day exhibiting at a large trade show which cost almost 10 times as much.
I recently attended a Coventry University Sustainable Building Futures' breakfast briefing which was facilitated by Powered by Sterling, I was greeted with a warm welcome putting me at ease, and they were always on hand and attentive, efficient and professional.
Guy Bassett harnesses his engineering, surveying, construction and design experience in Over-See Project Management, looking after private clients' building projects from start to finish. Typical clients have a vision and want to do something a bit different.
Invited to visit Sterling, Guy soon joined Cheltenham Central. An experienced networker, he was "in it for the long game", but as it happened, he got three jobs within the first eight weeks!
The referrals kept coming, and Guy has also benefited from meeting people with different businesses, sharing and solving problems. This "grown-up" approach to networking now accounts for more than 30% of his work.
When old friends Barbara and Kevin Steele moved to the area, Guy suggested they join Sterling to help establish their business - Agile Design - in the region. The business relationship strengthened, with Guy advising his friends on their listed barn conversion, and Agile Design creating Over-See's branding.
I was impressed by the number of professional people in the room. The energy of the group took me by surprise!
Sterling and its members appreciate good design and realise that effective marketing materials give credibility and improve engagement.
Married team Kevin and Barbara Steele of Agile Design have over 25 years' design experience working with big names such as Manchester Business School and The University of Liverpool, as well as a host of business start-ups.
In 2013 they moved from Cheshire to the edge of the Cotswolds. As their old friend Guy Bassett of Over-See Project Management (a Sterling Cheltenham Central member) knows the area thoroughly, he was able to advise Kevin and Barbara on where to set up home. And to help Agile Design become established in the area, Guy also introduced them to Sterling.
Sterling soon became a great platform for Agile Design; Kevin and Barbara are now members of Sterling's Cheltenham Regency and Evesham networking groups.
Agile Design offers a full branding and design service for ambitious start-ups and growing businesses, so smaller businesses can benefi t from Barbara and Kevin's high calibre design services.
Over the summer of 2015 Agile Design created the dramatic new Sterling branding, redesigning its website and other marketing materials. They worked closely with Neil and Tracey Davis of Sterling as well as collaborating with other Sterling Network Group members including Andy Hockridge of Imagemaker, Dan Kershaw of DevelopMy and copywriter Lizzie Quarterman