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Have you heard of this network? If not, take note. And I say this for a variety of reasons. Here’s my BITA – Network Overview to tell you why.
Brainchild of Paul Whitnell, BITA was set up over 10 years ago when Paul emigrated from Ireland to the UK. He encountered a culture that was different to the culture in Ireland. He found it a vulnerable experience and one that pushed him onto a steep learning curve.
But not one to sit about on his laurels, Paul decided to set up a network to help grow & foster relationships between Ireland and the UK, particularly within the construction sector. Construction and manufacturing is Paul’s background, hence leaning in this direction.
Upon moving to the UK, Paul had joined the London Chamber of Commerce, but quickly became disenfranchised as it was not, what he felt, a member centric organisation and didn’t offer value for money. And this is the polar opposite of how he sees BITA. He says,
‘as soon as you join, you get value for money’
There is a low churn in membership and everyone is vetted. Collaboration is a core pillar of the BITA value set.
Some of the traits of a successful networker are discipline, tenacity, perseverance and consistency – these will all resonate when I tell you that it took 8 years to break through to achieve the trust upon which BITA now stands.
BITA stands for British and Irish Trading Alliance. Due to changes, expansion and a growing remit, it’s about to rebrand to Business International Trading Alliance, so watch out for that reincarnation!
It’s people who know people who help people.
Simple but powerful right?! And that’s the essence of networking. It’s people who come together, get to know one another, build up awareness, trust and learn to collaborate, support and raise each other up to succeed.
Paul does not believe in a one seat per profession policy in BITA. And so, the membership is open, wide and varied. There is a huge focus on connecting businesses, providing many opportunities throughout the month to engage, collaborate and connect. Integrity, passion and delivery are core facets of BITA.
There are 500 corporate members, encompassing 12,000 people.
The ratio is approximately 60:40 UK & Ireland and the gender ratio is circa 25:75 women to men.
Ideal members are those who understand the values and ethos of BITA, i.e. integrity, value and delivery.
Membership in the UK was typically construction based, however in Ireland, the membership has organically grown and attracted new industries including fintech, agri-business, biotech, technology and of course construction.
The BITA CRM system offers members the opportunity of profiling themselves so that they can get matched to the right businesses to fit their immediate requirements.
One of the huge benefits of BITA membership is how small companies can get introduced to big companies. Through BITA’s relationships doors are opened that wouldn’t normally be accessible. This can translate to tenders for large projects, e.g. Tier 1 projects where smaller companies have the opportunity to go through a prequalification stage, in order to become a contracted supplier.
Young Professionals & Women in Business/Construction
BITA is a huge supporter of young professionals and indeed women in business and women in construction. There is a strong recognition that there is a serious shortage on the labour front, so they are working hard to focus on making a traditional industry into a progressive, forward thinking industry that benefits everyone. There is also a focus on ensuring that construction is deemed a good career path.
Locations in the UK:
What started out as a network with a branch in London, BITA has and continues to expand. It now boasts a multitude of chapters. Check out the chapters near to you in the following locations:
- Isle of Man
- Brighton – coming soon!
- South West
Locations in Ireland:
- Galway – coming soon!
- Algarve – launched as of April 2021
- Poland – coming soon!
International Strategic Partnerships:
- Causeway (Covers Scotland and Ireland)
- Club Hibernia (Australia)
- USA (spanning 23 States)
- Ambassadors can also be found in:
- New Zealand
Types of Events:
Each chapter hosts a number of events each month. You can see the schedule here for local events and once you are a member, you can register to attend any event as suits your own schedule. Likewise, as travel begins to open up and live events begin to get scheduled, you are welcome to avail of cross chapter networking opportunities. All in person networking events in BITA happens once monthly.
As with all networks, their events moved online when Covid-19 hit. They now use a platform called REMO to host virtual networking events. Most networking meetings are an hour long and run from 8am-9am. Many chapters moved to hosting weekly networking events, particularly with a focus to keeping their members connected and being aware of their mental health.
Their all sector networking events are categorised into business and social networking events. Summer time sees a number of summer social events happening too and the Autumn schedule has a number of awards events and joint chapter events, e.g. Leeds and Manchester joint networking event. The BITA events can typically have anywhere from 50 – 70 people in attendance.
There are a number of focussed Construction Network Lunches which are held in Liverpool, London, Isle of Man, Dublin and Manchester.
BITAx – these networking events are for young professionals and run on a weekly schedule.
At the BITA luncheons there are typically 3 sponsors who pay £1500 for the opportunity to have 5 minutes air time on stage in front of 250 attendees. I had the opportunity of attending one of these events in The Westin Hotel Dublin a couple of years ago and I can testify to the quality of people in the room. Senior decision makers and business owners all ready to connect and collaborate.
A network isn’t complete without a good old fashioned golf outing. There’s an upcoming event in August 2021 with the Kilkenny Chamber of Commerce. Other social events, such as clay pigeon shooting or other sporting events are also scheduled throughout the year.
The annual ball is the BITA Awards Ceremony. It’s a black tie affair and it’s held in the Savoy in London.
Called Networks, BITA publishes a quarterly magazine which sees a readership of 2500. It’s an opportunity for members to share their success stories, to learn and to grow.
Knowledge and learning is a core benefit of BITA membership. There are a range of supports available to members to avail of and to promote within their companies, including:
- HR Hub – General membership allows companies 40% access to the HR resources that are online, however the enhanced membership BITA X gets you full access to all HR resources.
- Procurement Hub – this includes the opportunity to post tenders, get applications for new careers or to promote your business in order to access new business opportunities.
- Mentor/Specialist Hub – This initially started out for young professionals joining in the industry, but it has quickly expanded. It is said that we should all have 5 mentors in our lives, namely: a master of their craft, a champion of your cause, a co-pilot, an anchor, and a reverse mentor (where you work with someone younger than you to make sure you have a fresh outlook!)
- Training Hub – in a dynamic business environment, it’s critical to have a resource that can keep you up to date on legislation, compliance and general business. The training hub, called MyKademy offers a range of precorded and live trainings to BITA members.
- Resources Hub – This includes videos, pdfs and miscellaneous resources on business plans, legal updates, financial reviews and much more.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
CSR is a core pillar of how Paul runs and sees BITA evolving. They have been responsible for many initiatives and making dreams come true…everything from sponsoring a young kid to get his pilot licence to helping singer Christy Dignam from Aslan, realise a dying wish of creating a new album as part of his legacy.
World Cleanup Day:
On 18th & 19th September 2021, BITA Is involved in World CleanUp Day. #BePlasticAware is the theme and organisations from around the world are registering and uniting to help clear up plastic from our local environments. Members and non members alike are encouraged to get involved. You can find out more here and there is a simple registration form on the page.
£495 + VAT per year
Getting Social with BITA:
All the details and so much more are available on their website. And here’s a short video to give you a flavour of one of their live events (pre Covid obviously!), plus they have a general YouTube channel. You can also head over to connect on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter.
Connecting With NetworkingJean
You can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I hope you enjoyed the reading about BITA – A Network Overview. If you are a part of a network and would like to get the network profiled on my blog, book an interview slot with me here.
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