By Julianne Goodwin
Networking is a key component of any successful business strategy. Making important contacts, meeting prospects and exchanging ideas with our peers in the business community not only helps us stay abreast of industry trends, but keeps us connected. In today’s marketplace, relationships are essential to business vitality.
As a member of the Community Development Foundation, Tupelo/Lee County’s economic development organization and chamber of commerce, I participate in networking events and encourage my staff to do the same. When choosing a networking event, always ask yourself what goals you hope to meet by participating in that program. While some opportunities are designed to learn about a certain topic, others involve roundtable discussion or simply making business connections.
While networking is important, strategic networking is critical to making the most of these opportunities. Trying to get the largest stack of business cards at an event may not be as effective as meeting one to two key prospects or colleagues with whom you can develop a lasting relationship. Be consistent. Follow-up with these contacts soon after the networking event. Always focus on what you can do for that person, not what they can do for you.
With the ease-of-use and widespread popularity of social media, business networking has a completely new facet. While social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are great for relationship maintenance and sharing your message with a broad spectrum of contacts, there is still no substitute for face-to-face networking.
CDF offers an array of networking opportunities for its members to help us expand our networks and develop relationships. Events like the Business to Business Connection and Taste of Tupelo attract more than 2,000 attendees, offering networking on a vast landscape. Other events like the Business Roundtable, Tupelo Young Professionals socials and new member networking events provide a more intimate setting to make contacts.
One of my favorite programs offered by CDF is First Friday. Held the first Friday of each month, September through April, First Friday is a complimentary networking breakfast that features a relevant, nationally recognized speaker and a great opportunity to meet and interact with business leaders in our community.
First Friday’s relaxed atmosphere gives participants the opportunity to meet other professionals in Tupelo and Lee County and share ideas over a cup of coffee and continental breakfast. Programs highlight topics of importance to the business community including industry, economics, politics, healthcare and education.
The September First Friday program will feature Thomas H. Klier, senior economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Klier’s research focuses on the effects of changes in manufacturing technology, the spatial distribution of economic activity and regional economic development. The event is sponsored by the Mississippi Automotive Manufacturers Association. Corporate sponsors of First Friday are Robinson & Associates and SnyderMedia. Each event is hosted by the BancorpSouth Conference Center.
As business trends come and go and the economy continues to evolve, relationships always will be an important part of business success. Take the steps necessary today to expand your network. If you are not a member of CDF, or haven’t taken advantage of the networking opportunities afforded to you through membership with your chamber of commerce, call them today at (662) 842-4521 to get involved. I promise, you’ll be glad you did.
Julianne Goodwin is chairman of the First Friday committee. She is co-owner of Express Employment Professionals in Tupelo.