Despite the early hour it’s a hive of activity as the varied mix of folk from all walks of life stand around chatting and tucking into a buffet style breakfast.
But it’s not long before we are called to order and around 30 of us take our seats.
I have joined the Manannan chapter of Business Network International (BNI) for their weekly gathering.
As Business News recently reported on these pages, this cross-section of enthusiastic people have generated referral business which has totalled more than £1 million.
I was invited along to the meeting by membership co-ordinator Martin Corkish. A number of other first-time visitors sat expectantly for proceedings to begin.
BNI had decided to open up their doors to a select number of visitors to have a look at how their weekly meetings operate.
Also at the meeting was Carmen Parkinson from Lancashire. She said there were thousands of chapters all over the world.
She told me: ‘We are in 46 countries and it’s a really popular multinational organisation.
‘It’s just a word of mouth organisation. Everything is done by referrals. Wehave hundreds of thousands of members.
‘I’m a director of BNI so I look after four groups and this is one of them. I come over every month and offer support.’
She said she was particularly fond of the Isle of Man chapter and the work it does.
Paul Maddocks, local director of the group, told Business News why the meetings are held so early: ‘Our aim is to start early finishing by about 8.30am so it doesn’t impact on people’s working days.
‘It gives everybody in the room the chance to catch more business. It’s every Tuesday morning at this hour with the exception of the TT and Christmas.’
Business people from all over the island travel to the meetings.
The meeting I attended was well organised and zipped along at a fast pace, the 90 minutes whizzed by in no time at all.
Mr Maddocks was at the helm chairing the meeting which is orderly and good-natured. He sat at the top table accompanied ably by Anne Marie Hanna, secretary/treasurer, and managing director of Ability Plus employment agency, and our UK visitor Carmen Parkinson.
One of the key factors is that each member represents just one sector of business such as accounting, building, recruitment, finance, insurance, estate agency, electrical contracting, removals, landscape gardening and so on.
Members stand up to have their say but things move along crisply because they only have 60 seconds to make their specific point.
Charlie Turner of Intersport, Strand Street, Douglas, is in charge of the clock on a smartphone, which counts down the 60 seconds in which members make their individual points. A bell sounds if they overrun their alloted time.
Brian McManus of Quest Landscape Services gets up to announce he has a stand at the forthcoming Manx show and asks his colleagues to pass on the word.
Most of the other members get up to say something. The philosophy is based around thinking of ways in which you can help someone else first and finding out what it is they need or what introductions they need to help them grow their business.
I listened as business folk spoke, all keeping to their 60 seconds.
One was looking for folk to migrate to a cloud; an estate agent told how he has a client ‘with a generous budget’ who wants to find a home with a sea view; another business person was looking for an introduction to one of the big banks and others told of their plans and projects.
And when they had all had their say it was the turn of the assembled guests to be given the chance to introduce themselves including, to my surprise, myself.
I imagined myself being on the legendary radio show Just a Minute as I stood to give my completely unrehearsed impromptu spiel. There was no deviation, no hesitation but maybe a little repetition as I mentioned this newspaper’s business pages more than once. Eyeing Charlie Turner’s clock a couple of feet from me I managed to finish bang on time . . . and earned a round of applause in the process. Perhaps this was more out of sympathy than anything else!
I have to say it does all seem to be a refreshing change and business was conducted briskly with no chance for waffle. Certainly everybody enjoys themsleves but there is a serious aim at the end of it all.
And it certainly seems to be a winning formula as Mr Corkish announced that in the last week alone members generated more than £30,000 worth of referrals.
Business cards are literally flying around and later in the meeting members criss-cross the room passing testimonials and referral results to each other. There’s a great feeling of optimism circulating the room.
Every week an ‘Oscar’ statuette is presented to the winning 60 second slot and Mr McManus was delighted to be chosen. He told me he would be responsible for picking the winner the following week.
Every week one of the members has a ‘guest speaker’ slot where they can talk at a more leisurely pace for the luxury of 10 minutes.
This week it was the turn of Damian Molyneux, advocate at M&P Legal based in Bucks Road, Douglas.
Members pay a one-off payment of £110 and then annual dues of £435, but as Anne Marie Hanna pointed out, they are expected to make a much bigger return from being members of this networking organisation. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this hardy group of people don’t achieve their new target of £2 million of business in the next 12 months. WWW.BNI.EU