“It all started when somebody kept asking me to go to a networking event – I’d never been to one before, initially I was put off because I was getting regular phone calls asking if I was going to attend. I ignored it and put it off until a friend of mine said he had this great networking group he attended called BNI and I should come along. I found it all really interesting, everyone in the room stood up, one by one and told me a little bit about their business, it all seemed pretty cool, and they all seemed like nice people. Then of course it came to the part where they asked me to stand up and talk about my business, I had no idea it was going to happen, so, I completely bricked it, made a complete hash of my minute and that was my first foray into networking.
The second time I went along I was ready, I quickly understood the ethos of BNI which is givers gain, but I also learned that a lot of the key elements are pertinent to networking generically. If I help you, you will probably try and help me back – I got that, and to cut a long story short, I was a member of BNI for 16 years.
I helped to grow the chapter I was in and realised that I was able to communicate well with people, as well as being able to exert some kind of trusted representation with a good reputation within BNI. I was also going to lots of other networking events and building the same kind of reputation.
Throughout this time, I was generating leads for my own businesses, understanding a bit about giving stuff away in the hope of getting something back. I sold one business and set up a whole new property investment brokerage, which to be fair, probably wouldn’t have even got off the ground if it hadn’t been for the networking, and the trust that I had built up. After a few years, Brexit hit that business quite majorly and I found that I was struggling, so whilst chatting to someone at a networking event about the troubles I was having – he said, why don’t you just set up a new business and just be you, be Chris Mansfield. He pointed out that there were probably loads of companies out there that would like me to do their networking for them, companies that don’t like to network, ones that have better things to do with their time, so I seriously started to think about it. That was at the beginning of 2018, so I started running it past one or two firms, just as an idea and they both said, sounds like a great idea, we’d be interested!
Initially I set something up with a lady who had a lot of telemarketing experience, we packaged our services together offering a combination of networking and telemarketing packages and things were just starting to gather momentum when COVID struck. All the networking just stopped and then on top of that, when it got to March, I found out that I had to shield, which completely shut me down until the July. I soon realised that I had a big problem, I’d had no income for months, my savings were running out and there was no sign of it getting any better anytime soon.
After the realisation that I was in big trouble, I decided to put a post out on LinkedIn, I’d seen others reaching out for help on there as they had lost jobs and needed help etc. I really struggled with this, as my pride and the unwanted feeling of humiliation was hitting me, but I decided to put it out anyway. Whilst I was drafting the post, I suddenly realised I had exceeded the character count, I didn’t even know that was possible, I’d basically just been venting, so I started editing it, cutting bits out until I had actually moulded a post that was incredibly relevant.
The post basically said that it was very uncomfortable for me to be posting it, as I’m not the one usually asking for help, I’m usually the one helping others, it was about the situation I had found myself in, how I had arrived at this point, and that I now needed some help. I eventually hit send and instantly felt a sense of relief. I had done something constructive, and all that fear subsided. I forgot about it for a few days and carried on with shielding, listening to music and reading books. Two or three days later I went back to it to see if anyone had responded, and I was totally overcome! The 18 years of networking that I had done up to that point had really come home. I’d had 183 personal messages, I replied to them all, but the thing that really got me was the fact that the post had been seen by 16500 people and every time it had been shared, sometimes by people that I had never met, it always came with a testimonial. One guy wrote “I’ve never met Chris, but this has been shared by a friend of mine, so he must be a good guy” wow! It was very humbling and very emotional.
Off the back of that, amongst other people, I got a phone call from Matt Turner – owner of Creative Pod, who wanted to talk about offering me some work, so we sat down and negotiated a fee arrangement and within that fee he would build my new website and produce logos and business cards etc and that’s how it all started, out of nowhere.
I then spoke to another guy who I had met through networking, a branding expert by the name of Chris Hughes. He took great interest in what I was trying to do so, we sat down and had a conversation over a coffee. His creative, branding brain started working and he pointed out that what I do is so much more than just lead generation, I’m this catalyst thing in the middle that makes things happen. I join people together, I’m the glue that fuses them together – the fusion. That’s where the name Fusion came from with the subline of ‘the business catalyst’ and the strapline of ‘putting the right business-people together’ it says exactly who I am, what I do and how I do it! In true networking style.
During the property investment days, I had met a lady on a trip to the Caribbean and we just clicked, it was quite amazing, unfortunately, two years after we met, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She was initially given 18 months to live, so, we set about doing all the nice trips we wanted to do in the short time we had left. I made sure we always had something for her to look forward to. We always kept moving forward and striving to keep getting there and by keeping her positive we managed to stretch her life out another three and a half years. We lived a lifetime in that all too brief period, visiting different places and not caring about the expense but it was really important – life’s too short. She died in February 2015, which still came as a shock because no matter how prepared you think you are, when it actually happens, you’re never prepared.
Suddenly, in March 2016, a year later, I became very ill. It all started with a spider bite. It was my first motorbike ride of the year, so I got my leathers out of the cupboard, put them on, knelt down to do the tyre pressures and got this sheer pain in my knee. I thought I’d knelt on something sharp, but it turned out I had been bitten by this false widow spider that had nested in my leathers during the winter. My GP thought I’d just been stung by something and gave me antihistamine. After a week, I took myself to hospital as my leg was swollen and inflamed. They gave me some strong antibiotics, and my leg was just starting to get better when I had to go to Spain for three days and unknown to me when I came back, I had picked up swine flu!
In the meantime, the infection in my knee would spread through my leg and into my system, which then led to a heart condition called Endocarditis, which was continuously spreading infections around my body which I was initially unaware of. The first place the infection spread to was my lungs and that had been developing, unknown to me, whilst I was in Spain.
I got home on the Wednesday and on the Friday (good Friday) I found myself in Hospital with double pneumonia and swine flu. I was on the emergency floor in isolation for a few days and weirdly on one particular day, one of my best mates turned up to see me, all three of my kids and three of my former partner’s kids had also come to visit, they all sort of turned up at the same time. I was actually oblivious to what was going on, texting people saying that I would be out in a few days, lying in this bed feeling not too bad – suddenly this nurse comes into the room and tells me that I was going into intensive care! They wheeled me away and I remember saying things like “see you later’ etc, but what I didn’t know was that they had all been called and been told that I probably wasn’t going to get through the night. They had been told to come in and say goodbye.
I was in intensive care for six nights my lungs had collapsed due to the swine flu and pneumonia, and I was being pumped with oxygen. I came out of there into the high dependency unit for a few days and then back into an isolation room, and with lots more antibiotics I eventually got to a point where they felt I could go home.
I was back home for about a week before I had another fever with flu symptoms, I called 111 and they sent out a paramedic, she looked at the previous history and decided I needed to be back in hospital, so she called an ambulance. It turned out that from being on my back for six nights and six days, I had blood clots on my lungs, which were stopping me from breathing. After being treated they sent me home, but I once again I had fever and racing heart rate so back I went to be admitted to Hospital.
Eventually a doctor asked me more about the history and the spider bite, he said he had an idea and called another consultant. She asked to look at my fingernails and saw these tiny little black flecks in my nails and said that was exactly what they were looking for! She told me that the black flecks in my fingernails were a sign of Endocarditis and that’s why they weren’t getting to the cause of the problem, my heart was continually recirculating the infections.
I had to have six weeks of antibiotics, four hours a time, twice a day! Three or four weeks into that, they then tell me I’ve got a problem with my kidneys, due to the massive amount of anti-biotics. I wasn’t allowed to go home because they had to get my kidneys sorted out whilst still continuing with the antibiotics for my heart condition. I was told that Worthing Hospital had never encountered a case like mine where a person had suffered 5 life threatening conditions, including 6 nights in intensive care, and survived!
They took a gamble to keep treating the heart and hoping that the kidneys would recover, they flushed me through with 3 litres of water and a litre of saline and nine days later I was discharged and completely clear.
That was in the June, then in the August I got called back into hospital for a bone marrow biopsy, which is not nice, to try to find out why my white cell count was so low and why my immune system hadn’t protected me better than it had, and when they got the details back they discovered I have a rare form of leukaemia. Excellent! They monitored me for a year but had to treat it in November 2017. I’m now left with an incurable cancer, that can’t be cured but can be treated and so far I’m in my fourth year of remission, which is good.
The upshot of all of that, following the loss of my partner in 2015 when I thought I’d realised that life’s too short, was that when you have the hearse backed up to your own front door, that’s a whole different ballgame. Life really is too short, and it’s made me live life a little differently. It’s a case of just recognising that today is a good day, you’ve woken up and that’s a good start and you’ve got a choice as to what you do with that day. You can decide whether you’re going to have a good view on the day, or not and I’ve found that if you get up with the right attitude life’s actually pretty good.
My new business was formally launched in September 2020, coincidentally I met my new partner in the same month, both off the back of a Covid pandemic so the World can’t be all bad! I’m going to enjoy what I’m doing; I’m going to network, meet some new people, have some good conversations and make the whole world seem a better place.
My attitude to networking, which goes right the way back to my early BNI days with givers gain, has made me realise more than ever, how important it is to try to enjoy each day and just see how many people you can help.”
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Chris started building his extensive network of contacts and connections in 2000 when he attended his first BNI meeting and totally grasped the ethos of “givers gain”.
20 years later, having previously networked for his own businesses for many years, he now works on a daily retained basis for businesses wanting to grow through lead generation, strategic partnerships or acquisition and uses his trusted reputation to bring the right people together.
He is well known as a serial networker and for generating good quality business leads and connections in and around Sussex and London.
He effectively short cuts the usual process of emails and phone calls trying to contact the right person and being thwarted by the “gatekeepers”, by knowing the right person to speak to or knowing someone who does, and because of the trust people have in him they are usually willing to take the call!