WE ALL NEED A CONNECTION — OR TWO
BY JIM KENDALL
We hopefully have friends. But we also need connections, people we can turn to when we and our businesses need that inside information everyone else always seems to have. One-on-one connections can be can be both helpful and important.
Read more below – and contribute your own ideas via return email. (Include your name, business name and email address for proper attribution.)
Building the rapport that puts you (and, therefore, your business) into the local information flow requires thought, effort and a certain amount of discretion. However, knowing who in the hometown marketplace might be the connection that makes best sense for your business may be worthwhile.
Certainly, the idea deserves some thought, especially if it seems that you’re on the outside looking in while someone else is always in the know.
Connecting with knowledgeable individuals in your broadly defined community can help you and your business: People you can share information and ideas with can make the difference between a good and very good business experience.
Depending on your business and your ability to become part of the information flow, these are the types of one-on-one connections that likely can be helpful:
* The village manager is a good person to know. So, at least peripherally, is the mayor. But perhaps best is the city’s economic development director, the individual most concerned about filling empty office and retail space, and bringing new jobs and tax generating businesses to the community.
Your goal should be to establish a relationship that allows you and the economic development officer to establish a two-way information exchange – maybe at lunch once a month.
* From Lake County south and west, community colleges and a handful of more traditional four-year schools populate the landscape. Find out who heads the academic department where your business awareness and skills might fit and suggest a get-acquainted cup of coffee with the department head or lead instructor.
Perhaps you could be a guest instructor once a semester or host a class session at your facility.
* A growing number of suburban high schools offer programs for kids whose career aspirations (or, sometimes, household budgets) make college less realistic. Talk to the high school district curriculum staff about possibilities.
* You might take a similar approach with the managers of the various Small Business Development Centers throughout the suburbs. Several also have resources that focus on international trade opportunities and government contracting possibilities. Start at (http://www.blipstar.com/blipstarplus/viewer/blipstar.php?uid=5161672.
* DePaul University’s Coleman Entrepreneurship Center and Loyola’s Family Business Center may be worth an exploration or two. College of DuPage seems to be moving ahead with construction of its own innovation center in downtown Glen Ellyn.
There are other options that may be easier to pull off. Keep in mind that your intent is to establish your role as a go-to-person, so think about these opportunities:
* Co-sponsor a topical seminar with your accounting or law firm. If you have appropriate space, host the event at your location. The idea is to raise your (and your business’) visibility.
* Volunteer for a term on an appropriate civic commission or board.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with chambers of commerce and networking groups as a way to raise your visibility; the connection approach suggested here is a tool that will help.
© 2018 Kendall Communications Inc. Adapted from Jim Kendall’s Daily Herald newspaper column. Follow Jim on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Jim@kendallcom.com.