Connecting Locally: Which networking groups are right for you?

As a business owner you likely get offers to join various networking groups every month. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the offers to join everything from your local Chamber of Commerce to a wedding network to a caterers only group, but don’t take these offers for granted. These events give you the opportunity to expand your reach and introduce your business to a new crowd. So how do you make the most of these groups?

Pick and Choose
You may get an offer to join twenty different groups in a year. The key is to pick those that you feel will help you make the best connections for your business. While being part of these groups is great, it is work. You have meetings to attend, events to participate in, and you have to keep running your catering and event planning business. If you’re offered to join new local networking groups, evaluate what it is that they are providing you and your company; are there training sessions? Are there speakers? Do you get to connect with varying business leaders in the community? Do you get to connect and learn from fellow industry players? Make a list of what it is you need to bring into the fold of your monthly business routine to help your business grow.

What’s the Value
Joining multiple business groups can add up quickly; monetarily and with your time. Once you’ve researched which groups or events are best for you to participate in from an exposure standpoint, evaluate which groups are the best investment. Look at how many times a year the group meets and the content of the events. For example, a group might meet monthly for a speaker luncheon and have a $200 yearly association fee. Before you spend that $200 though, look at the content of the luncheons to see if you’d realistically be attending every single one. If you find that not all the content is relevant to your business see if there is a “per luncheon” fee you could pay as a non-member. This will allow you to invest only in the luncheons that you feel you will give you the best value. If you feel like every single luncheon is an opportunity to learn and meet new people then pony up and send in your two hundred bucks!

Delegate Attendance
If you’re one of the lucky caterers who can afford to be a member of multiple groups but time is your issue, delegate attendance. One of the biggest struggles we see small business owners combat is allowing someone else to represent their company. As you expand just remember the blessing of growing means delegating the burden of responsibilities. Pick a trusted associate and ask them to attend one (or all) of the meetings on your behalf. This allows them to reinforce connections for your business and frees up some of your time, which can be spent taking a little well-deserved break, or if you really need to prepare a tasting menu. Pardon the pun, but you have a lot on your plate as a business owner. Be sure to spread some of the tasks out.

Business groups are here to help you. Which business groups have you joined in your community?