Just add wine to spice up the new networking

Alex Purvis of Enate, Founder of W(h)ine Club[4]

With networking events cancelled for months ahead, one tech software-as-a-service company has found its own way around the issue.

Alex Purvis, Sales Director of Cheltenham-based Enate Ltd was determined not to lose all social contact with colleagues and business prospects when lockdown came, so she came up with the idea of  W(h)ine Club.

It uses the now ubiquitous and obligatory video conferencing, but adds wine and interesting people – thought leaders and experts together to brainstorm key societal and business issues caused by the pandemic. The rules are simple: no hard sell, relax with a glass of wine and share ideas.

Two months on, and W(h)ine Club now has a guest list from some outstanding corporate entities including Aviva, Biffa, Ricoh, Astra Zeneca, GSK, Zurich Insurance, and more, in addition to intelligent automation specialists from Symphony to ISG, along with a range of NHS specialists, including professors and surgeons, from Great Ormand Street, Royal Marsden, Alder Hey, Children’s Health Ireland and NHS Digital.

It includes a delegate list of over 50 people, and Alex says these are individuals who may normally compete in the corporate world. She said: “As a new member brings us a new challenge, those who were once competitors are now promoting each other’s products and services, and tagging together technology to offer end to end as solutions for the greater good. Everyone involved genuinely wants to help and collaborate, yet prior to W(h)ine Club most members had never met before.

Alex takes up the story: “Working with the NHS naturally evolved via introductions from members. When an NHS professional comes on to explain their challenges, some are struggling to find a solution to a tangible problem, some are looking to discuss more thematic issues. With chief surgeons, professors, and other experts joining the weekly call, one of the key areas of discussion focussed on supporting the mental health of key workers. In fact, the theme of PTSD is now probably one of the most frequently discussed topics as doctors and nurses struggle to cope with the horrors of COVID-19 on their wards. Consider the impact of your daily working environment if it’s on a ward of 24 patients, all lying prone, ‘faceless’ and struggling to survive. The realities of providing critical care during the outbreak will stay with staff forever.

“The difficulty in addressing mental health, as we’ve learnt from one speaker who is an Oxford University Professor and the world’s foremost authority on the study of Optimism and Depression, is that as a taboo subject for so many years, virtually no funding was given to mental health research. Now, we’re thankfully at a point in time when the general acceptance is that mental health affects almost everyone, but there is still so little evidence on which to build solutions, pandemic or otherwise.

“In that sense, we try to keep in mind the front-line worker during our conversations. It’s unlikely that the group will build a mental health app (they already exist), but whatever we are putting together has to somehow either give back time or make life easier and solve a genuine problem – it’s no good introducing technology to a situation just so a trust can say that they’re using a certain tool. That being said, on the substantial list of solutions we’re now working on, one in particular uses complex machine learning to prioritise the rebooking of patient surgeries, to make sure the person at the top of the list is actually the one most in need, and no one is overlooked.

“Most importantly, over several weeks of collaboration, many NHS trusts are now aware of a network of people willing to help and are coming forward to speak with us and address the old adage: ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’. We were extremely proud to find out that W(h)ine club was a topic at a recent Great Ormand Street board meeting and we’re looking forward to welcoming more Trusts as they hear of us.”

None of us know when the pandemic will end, when the lockdown will lift, or how the new normal will evolve. What I do know is that, thanks to W(h)ine Club I am now part of a highly engaged, generous, professional community. We have built trust and even friendship. I eagerly look forward to the day when we can finally meet together in ‘the real world’ to share a glass of wine and carry on the conversation.

W(h)ine Club is a weekly online event hosted virtually by Enate’s Sales Team, Alex Purvis and Martin Boakes. Please feel free to contact them directly via LinkedIn to register your interest.