Outreach is good, but at arm’s length is better

Business Times’ panel of local professionals agrees that the best networking is face to face

            At its core, a business network is a type of social network whose sole reason for existing is to assist business people and their places of business generate sales and activity. And with the advent and growth of what the term “social networking” now is used more often to describe, our panel suggests that getting back to the basic of networking is needed more than never in today’s economy.

            “When I first got to Grand Junction over twenty years ago people told me that Grand Junction is a place where people like to do business with people they know,” says Diane Schwenke, “That is as true today as it was then. Although how they get to know each other may have deviated a bit in the age of social media and email communications, we still value face to face contact in the local business environment.” For this reason, the Chamber offers multiple leads opportunities in the form of its Leads groups, Networking at Noon, Business After Hours and an annual banquet.

            And reasons for having a large network to pull from goes beyond just doing business with someone, it is an effective tool to help out your clients when you may not have the answer. “The more people you know, the more opportunities you have to refer and receive referrals from clients and business associates and further to serve your peers, clients and networking contacts,” says LaVonne Gorsuch when talking about how networking helps her refer clients in the proper direction. “At times, client needs are outside of the professional services that Dalby provides,” adds Chris Allen, “Because of our strong relationships with our clients, many times they ask for a referral.  Usually these referrals come out of a networking relationship.”

            It is not just helping a client to resolve a particular situation that a networking group can come in handy for a small business owner or manager. There are times when it is just as important to have a peer group network that can help businesspeople address a situation that is peculiar to their own industry. “Networking with a peer group of like-minded or same industry business owners leads to opportunities to share trends and specific industry data to our local market that makes immediate impacts to the bottom line,” says John Cassity who regularly works with other franchise owners as well as the other business owners who occupy space in his immediate surroundings. “Being able to acquire outside knowledge and alternative perspectives allows us to make more informed decisions, particularly since our industry has constantly changing trends, techniques and regulations,” adds Rob Griffin.

            For the panel, however, what networking really comes down to are the one-on-one relationships that are more personal in nature. And while the future trend would seem to be more and more of the online variety, our panel agrees that actually knowing and meeting the people you are going to do business with is best. “I really enjoy getting to put faces with names,” says Suzie Miller, “We spend so much of our time at work, it is important to make these connections, not only for professional reasons, but to also get to know the good people of this community and enjoy each other’s company.”

            And in the Grand Valley, opportunity abounds to meet with other business people, owners and professionals. “We estimate that we have over 300 events per year.  Each of those, whether it’s a golf tournament or a committee meeting is an opportunity to get to know other business professionals,” adds Schwenke.