So when I got up on Tuesday to attend a breakfast meeting of the Bramhall Business Club at Indulgence Bramhall (a cafe/bistro in the heart of Bramhall village –if you haven’t tried the food and fantastic ice-cream yet  -you should I hadn’t deliberately planned on meeting  H.E. Mr Mark Rutte,. Prime Minister of the Netherlands. So how did this occur?

The simple answer is Networking. For those of you who know me, I strongly believe that networking helps you to build relationships and brings you closer to those people you want or need to meet, whether in pursuit of a business connections or career opportunities. You can read lots of best practice and ‘top tips’ on how to network effectively, and those strategies are all good. In reality I really do enjoy meeting new people, and in my experience the meeting of those people has led me to all sorts of opportunities – and that is another discussion.

The saying ‘be careful what you wish for’. This phenomenon was explored during a programme I watched on TV a few days earlier. Derren Brown presented a programme based on an experiment following a ‘rumour’ that a sculpture of a dog in a park in Todmorden had the power to bring you luck if the dog was stroked. The premise was that those people who were convinced that they would be lucky after ‘stroking’ the dog,   lucky experiences seemed to follow.  Whilst those people who considered themselves unlucky never put themselves in situations, or seized opportunities, that might bring them luck.  The experiment identified that whatever your outlook on life  – lucky or unlucky – that’s what you will get. The same principle as ‘The Secret’ –whatever you ask The Universe, The Universe will deliver.

So back to the day I met the PM of the Netherlands. After a good networking event at the Bramhall Business Club at Indulgence Bramhall, I followed up with a potential client, one that had contacted me originally via my website, to learn that they were going ahead with my initial proposal. Great job. Steve my web designer (who I also met via networking) had really done a great job in making my profile on Google more visible. Check him out I then headed into Manchester to deliver a Touch Look & Check (TLC) talk as a volunteer and TLC Champion for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.  I had been invited by Anthony Gregory, Head of HR at Cobbett’s, a leading law firm in Manchester, to present as part of their commitment to the Health and Wellbeing of staff.  I felt really positive and motivated after the event as I had presented to around 44 staff on this breast awareness campaign and the feedback was great. I met some really nice people and met with a few people who I knew from the firm.

I had already arranged to attend the networking event at Manchester Town Hall, arranged by– Netherlands Business Support Office (NBSO) Manchester and the Netherlands Embassy in London. This event was to welcome the Dutch Prime Minister and Dutch Ambassador to the fantastic City of Manchester as part of a 2 day economic visit that saw them meeting David Cameron, Nick Clegg and business leaders in both London and Manchester.

I was invited to this event because about nine months earlier I had met Angelique Meyer, Chief Representative/Managing Director, from NBSO whilst at an IOD event for Women in Leadership. We had a conversation, exchanged business cards and connected on Linked-in. A few weeks ago I received an invite via the post and registered to attend the event. I have an interest in the Dutch and their country, as my eldest daughter is married to a Dutchman and lives in Amsterdam and is expecting her first child. I have visited Amsterdam on several occasions and have fallen in love with the City. My plan is to work between both Holland and the UK at as part of my on-going plans.

So back again to meeting the Prime Minister – I arrived at the Town Hall. Outside the Christmas markets were being set up in readiness for trading at the weekend and a splendid Orange Carpet was laid in preparation for the arrival of the delegation from Holland. The Town Hall is a fine example of Victorian splendour and I am always enthralled by the beauty of the building. As I walked up the magnificent staircase toward the reception it did cross my mind that it would be good to meet the Ambassador or the PM, but that thought quickly left my mind as I was greeted at the door by the staff of the Town Hall with reception drinks.

I started to chat to people, meeting both Brits and Dutch visitors.  I met with the Mayor of Rochdale and the lady Mayoress and we were joined by a member of the Dutch Press, Eric Vrijsen. I introduced myself to a gentleman, Craig Stoppard of Craig Stoppard Ltd, we had a brief chat about our businesses and then moved into the main reception where the Prime Minister spoke to those present. I then spoke to a couple of people who were from the Dutch Consulate, and during this conversation a photographer asked me if I had a British business, my response prompted her to ask me to follow her, plus she asked if I had met anyone else in the room who had a British business. I sought Craig out.  When we joined the photographer (sorry I can’t recall her name and she didn’t have a card), she explained that she was trying to get a photo of the PM with a couple of British business people.  Craig and I were thrilled it was us!! Mr Rutte was truly engaging, we posed for a few photographs but he was genuinely interested in what we did, and if that is staged for political purposes, then he did it very naturally. We chatted for a few minutes and then Mr Rutte was asked to move on to talk to others in the room. Craig was thrilled that he had had that photo opportunity, so was I.

Why did I get picked out, perhaps it’s the red hair or just that I had that momentary thought that it would be good to meet the PM and The Universe presented that opportunity to me. Whatever the reason, I was on a high and revved up to meet even more new people in the room.

I met some really lovely, interesting Dutch business people, Jeroen Mol from Beyond Reality, David Linssen, Director of Business Development, Consolidated Media Industries as well as a talented Dutch Sculptor, now living in Darwen, Lancashire, Marjan Wouda We were joined by a researcher from Salford University who chatted with Jeroen on how his business can support universities with technologies his company develops. There were great discussions on how people could and wanted to help each other as well as finding out a bit more about each other personally.

I have already connected with Craig on Linkedin and arranged to meet up later in November. I will connect with the other people I met there and who knows where those connections will lead. You may even be reading this blog, so hope you like it.

In between these meetings, I also managed to meet with Graham Clarke, UHY Hacker Young, Manchester, a contact I had met via 4 Networking plus I also managed to deliver on some paid work that day.

Great day all round. My message is to never under estimate the power of networking.

As well as the great people I met, how cool will it be when, at some stage in the future, I will be able to tell my Dutch grandchild that I met their Prime Minster just before they were born.

Thanks to NBSO, IOD, Linkedin and other networks that led to my meeting with Mr Mark Rutte. I look forward to a long relationship with Holland and its people.