A tale of Networking by one of our members: Bettina Bunte of Utility Warehouse
Janet and John Do Networking
Even in the land of Janet and John, the economy bites. John has been made redundant. Can you spell redundant? John doesn’t want to.
Janet has a full-time job. She no longer buys John his favourite treats.
“We have to tighten our belts until you have a new job.”
However, she gives John a small allowance. See Janet wear the trousers.
See John sitting in the garden looking sad. His neighbour, Mrs Bickerstaff, looks over the hedge:
“Eyup Fluffikins, what’s up?”
After John explains that he cannot afford his favourite Sherbet Fountains, Mrs Bickerstaff suggests the recruitment agency her friends Sam and Carol run.
See John in the office of Artemis explaining his skill sets:
“I used to work for the BBC, but without the late great Sir Terry, no one wants me.”
See John cry.
Janet returns from work and finds John in his den in the dark playing the piano.
“How was your day?” Janet asks.
“Sam and Carol put me on their books. They suggested I speak to Vic at Academy FM to do a bit of volunteering on local radio. I can do that.”
See John smile and play an upbeat little tune.
“So why are you sitting in the dark?” asks Janet.
“The light’s broken. But I can play in the dark.”
See Janet hit John on the head with the Margate Handbook.
“Get it fixed.”
Neil from Local Leccy is in the Margate Handbook. Now Neil is standing on the ladder fixing John’s light. John feels envious. Do you know what envious means? John does. He wishes he had skills other people want.
“Is it you who plays the piano?” asks Neil.
“Yes,” says John and plays Fur Elise.
“I wish I had time for lessons,” says Neil… “And a good teacher… Before I go, can I use your loo?”
“You’d better use the upstairs one. The downstairs one is blocked.”
“I can help with that.” Neil picks a card from his tool box and hands it to John.
“Bob, Clearflow Drainage” it says.
See John snigger when he sees Bob’s van. The Turd Emergency Service.
See Janet looking impressed. Janet is not impressed often, but John has managed to get both the electric and the toilet fixed without spending the month’s entire budget. Janet has no reason to hit John.
See Janet sulk.
See John at Academy FM. He chats with Vic about his dilemma. Do you know what a dilemma is? John is in one.
“All I can do is work in a studio and play the piano.”
“Why don’t you teach piano lessons,” suggests Vic.
When Janet comes home, John is playing Joplin – the Entertainer – his favourite. Janet wonders what he is celebrating.
10 minutes later, John skips into the kitchen and tells Janet to sit. See Janet turn purple. After all, she wears the trousers and decides who sits. She stands, hands on hips.
See Janet get ready to hit John.
John skips to the fridge and pulls out a bottle of bubbly (the cheap stuff) and pours each a glass.
See Janet pull a face.
“I had a wonderful day,” says John.
Do you know what an epiphany is? John does now – he had one.
“I am going to teach Piano lessons. And then I’m going on the radio to talk about it. AND… I am going to go networking at the Thanet Premier Business Group.”
Do you know what networking is? It’s a meeting where people get to know, like and trust each other. And then they recommend each others’ businesses.
John learnt a lot of new words today.
John skips happily on the spot, as if he needs to go potty but is too busy.
“AND… I already have my first student.”
Janet forgets to hit John and sits down, flabbergasted. Janet can spell flabbergasted but never knew she would need to.
Six months later
John is smiling at Mrs Barkes, the mother of his third Monday student. Mrs Barkes just told him all about her mother-in-law, who is elderly and a bit crotchety, but is refusing to move into a suitable home.
“I can help with that,” says John. He picks a card out of the box on his piano and hands it over.
“Caremark Thanet” it says.
“Speak to Garry. He arranges care in the home. I haven’t used him myself yet, but everyone in the group says his carers do excellent work.”
John’s last Tuesday student is late. John is worried.
“I’m sorry I’m late. My mum’s car broke down, so I had to take the bus from school. My dad will pick me up.”
“I can help with that,” says John, “but I don’t have a card. Tell your mum to speak to Owen at Kent Car Craft. She should say I recommended him. Owen keeps my jalopy on the road.”
On Wednesday, John skips down the High Street to do Janet’s shopping. His hours are more flexible than Janet’s. Janet hates shopping on Saturday mornings.
In the bakery, Mrs Knips tells John all about the new conservatory she wants built, but that she cannot find a builder she trusts. And then there’s the patio… what a nightmare.
“I can help with that,” says John, and whips out two cards. Mrs Knips is so grateful she gives him a two Knips Kisses – the house special: mini raspberry pastries.
In the butchers, Mrs Horton is in the queue behind John complaining about her leaking flat roof.
“I can help with that,” says John, and whips out another card.
In the sweetshop, John not only buys 2 Sherbet Fountains but also some peardrops and a quarter of mint imperials when Dr Kitt walks in.
“I am too old for this shit. So many new regulations. I thought being a landlord would be easy money.”
“I can help with that,” says John, and whips out yet another card.
In the grocer’s, John is telling Mrs Frontage all about James from JMS solutions when Mrs Hoare from the pub on the corner puffs in.
“Do you have any ice? My machine is broken and I have a party all wanting cocktails.”
“I can help with that,” says John, and whips out yet another card as he helps Mrs Hoare fill her basket with ice.
Next John goes to the library. John used to read magazines with lots of pictures. He still likes magazines with pictures, but now he also reads books on self-development. He is looking at a book called “Eat that Frog!!!”. John does not want to eat a frog but he wants to know how to achieve difficult tasks. Mrs Doyle, the librarian, sits down heavily next to him.
“Are you alright, Mrs Doyle?” asks John.
“No, my back is killing me. I think I’ve pulled something lifting boxes.”
“I can help with that,” says John, but can’t find the card he is looking for, so he writes the information down on a piece of paper.
In the evening Janet asks sourly: “So, what have you been up to today?” Does Janet know what envious means? John looks so happy.
“I did your shopping and I made lots of recommendations. I told Mrs Knips that Andy from AP Construction will give her a fair quote for a new conservatory and she rewarded me with Raspberry Kisses. And Peter from P & Sees will lay her decking afterwards. And Mrs Horton will have Tim from TMI roofing see to her leaking bathroom. And Hughie from Belvoir will help Dr Kitt because he’s too old for that shit. And James from JMS Solutions will sort out Mrs Frontage’s daughter good and proper because her laptop ate her dissertation. And you know Mrs Hoare…”
See John snigger.
“… Mrs Hoare from the Wheatsheaf – her ice broke and Brett from Triple AAA can supply a new ice machine that works. And Mrs Doyle from the library has hurt her back so I told her about Jenny from JAS Physiotherapy who can use her elbows to make her all better. Jenny has magic hands. I need to get new cards for her.”
Hear Janet threaten to use her magic hands on John’s throat.
See John ignore Janet.
“And then on my way home, I bumped into old Mrs Hurdman. Do you remember old Mrs Hurdman?” asks John.
“The year 5 dragon from Upton? Oh my God. Is she still inflicted on children?” replies Janet.
“She runs a tuition company,” says John, “and complains about the cost of ink because they have to print so much. I told her all about Ian at WBS Printers and Copiers. He’s the man.”
See Janet pray for Ian.
Thursday, John has only one student, Edina Sheppard. Look at the tattoos. She did them herself. She is a tattoo artist. She is playing badly today.
“What is wrong?” asks John.
“I want to open my own tattoo parlour after my apprenticeship, but everyone tells me it’s too hard to work for yourself.”
“Why?” asks John.
“I like the art, but I’m no good with paperwork.”
“There are people who can help with that.”
“But how do I find them?” wails Edina.
“Well,” says John, flexes his fingers and plays a ditty on the piano. “You see – 6 months ago, I started my own business. I went to the bank about a start-up loan. I go networking. I met fantastic people at Thanet Premier Business Group who all helped me. I would recommend all of them. Lorna, from LW Services is helping me with my bookkeeping. If your business gets big enough to have employees, she does payroll, too. Also, there is Mark, from Levick’s Accountants. Many of the other businesses use him. Lionel, from Sharp Printing did my business cards and leaflets.”
See John puff out his chest and point at it. See the logo and name on John’s shirt.
“Keith from Edwards Embroidery did that. And the signs I have on the house and car are from Lynda at Allsigns Solutions.”
“But what about insurance and health and safety – that’s really important in my field if you want to do it properly. It’s too complicated,” says Edina.
“How important is your own business to you?” John asks.
“I dream about it every night,” replies Edina.
“Then speak to Kevin from KD insurance and to Jenny from Sandford Hodges about health and safety.”
“But that’s all bound to be really expensive.”
“Can you make money with tattooing?” asks John.
“Yes, big money. I’m good. I have a 5-month waiting list as an apprentice.”
“Then it’s worth it, surely.”
Look at Edina thinking hard. She plays the piece she is practising with only one small mistake. She is smiling.
“Do you also know someone who can help with a website?” Edina asks.
“I do, actually. Jeremy, from Managed Web Services.”
John pauses. John has learnt a lot, but he still does not understand Jeremy.
“I don’t understand what search engine optimisation is,” John says slowly, “but Jeremy does.”
“But it’s all still expensive.”
“It’s all value for money. And all the people I mentioned will speak to you first to discuss what and if they can help and for how much, and that first chat is free.”
At the weekend Janet and John go to Margate.
Janet is sad. Look at Janet’s pale face. Look at John notice Janet’s unhappiness. She is not hitting him or going to the Bingo. She is just walking beside him. John walks her to the old town. They have tea and cake. John loves cake as much as Sherbet Fountains. Look at the crumbs in his beard.
John speaks first. That’s a first. John tells Janet he loves her. Janet looks up. Look at the disbelief in Janet’s eyes.
“I do. This past 9 months have been a rollercoaster. And you have supported me in my business. I love my new life. And I love you.”
Janet is silent. Another first. She has always worn the trousers, but recently, John seems to be sharing them. She does not know what to say.
“I think we should go on holiday,” John says.
See Janet smile wistfully.
“Abroad?” Janet asks.
“Abroad,” John confirms.
“But where?” Janet asks.
“Lets speak to Kaye, the Travel Counsellor and she will find us something amazing.”
“What about the money?”
See John smile conspiratorially.
“I have a plan,” John says. “First we re-mortgage. Martin from Redhouse Mortgages can probably find us a much better deal than what we have now. That will save us some money. Second, we speak to Bettina from Utility Warehouse about our bills and that will save us even more money. You will love the cashback card. And she can show us a way to earn extra money in a few hours a week. All that will pay for a holiday.”
Janet considers this. She can’t find an objection. What’s wrong with her?
“I am earning a regular amount now, so we can make other plans.”
Janet is still listening, amazed at how decisive John has become. Does she love this new John?
“I want us to speak to Sara from SLS Willsandmore. We need a will and powers of attorney because you never know…”
Janet thinks about a life without John and can’t. See Janet take John’s hand to reassure herself.
John looks at Janet’s hand in his. He feels all warm inside. He wants to take Janet home. Now. But he has more to say.
“Thinking about the future, I want you to meet Ed, from Howard Financial Planning Ltd. He can tell us about an ISA and other financial services.”
“We don’t earn that much that we need financial advice.”
“It’s still better than money just sitting in the current account.”
See Janet find some sarcasm.
“Excuse me,” asks Janet, “who are you and what have you done with my John?”
“Don’t you like the improved version.”
See the love shining out of Janet’s eyes, quashing her doubts.
“I also think we deserve a treat,” says John. “You know that old armchair in the back room. The one that you inherited from your grandmother?”
“I love that armchair. So many memories. It’s so tatty, though.”
“I want Gaile from Victoria Gayle Interiors to reupholster that for you. And if that doesn’t bankrupt us, you can have matching curtains and you can make the room your library. And for my music den, I want Debi from Debidoodah to do her doodah and redecorate it. Do you know she does murals?”
See John dream about playing in a jazz or ragtime bar.
“Before we go home, I have a present for you,” John says.
See Janet look in wonder at the shape of the present. She has only ever had scarves or socks from John in recent years. See Janet remember throwing the face cream for aging skin John bought for their 25th wedding anniversary at his head. John has played it safe ever since.
“It’s to start your library. And it’s signed by the author. He’s in our breakfast group.He’s written a book.”
See John leer at Janet.
See the twinkle in Janet’s eyes.