Wednesday, August 31, 2005

"Local Networking Through Your Chamber of Commerce"

One of the most overlooked resources for new business owners, or current business owners looking to take their company to the next level, is their local Chamber of Commerce.

Many business owners I know don't belong to the Chamber of Commerce. When I ask them why, many don't really have an answer, or simply say their business wouldn't benefit from the organization. I think the real issue at hand is the fact that these business owners have no idea what the Chamber of Commerce actually has to offer them. If they knew, they'd probably join in a heart beat.

Although the Chamber of Commerce probably benefits businesses that deal B2B (business to business) more so than a business that deals with the average consumer, the connections with other business owners and relationships you can make with other members in the Chamber of Commerce, can prove quite valuable. A realtor, for example, is not always considered to be in a B2B type of business, but even other business owners need to buy personal residences at times.

Networking lunches and weekend get-togethers are usually how most organizations provide a relaxed atmosphere where business owners can really get to know other business owners within their local community.

Networking aside, the Chamber of Commerce can provide other benefits as well. Many offer discount "clubs" for services to be traded within the Chamber of Commerce organization. For example, any service from any business who is a member is 10% off for any business who is also a member.

The monthly meetings can help one recognize change, and other opportunities within the local community.

Volunteering to help run the organization, or be on the board, can establish you as a local community leader, often leading to other opportunities.

Free listings and advertising in the directories can prove valuable, since many people look to their local Chamber of Commerce as a resource for having the information of businesses who provide the products they need.

Counseling services are sometimes offered to new businesses and start-ups.

My local Chamber of Commerce even has a meeting room available upon request for members to use whenever they please. Facsimile machines are also available for use, and there is a message board where many business owners post businesses for sale, partnering opportunities, or advertise their services.

As you can see the Chamber of Commerce can provide you with many marketing outlets to help your business succeed. You might meet someone along the way who has been looking for exactly that which you provide. You might make new friends, or meet new suppliers who can help make your business more profitable. Use the Networking lunches as a chance to get out of the office, and not fall into the trap of sitting in isolation scouring the internet for articles like this one.

You can usually find your local Chamber of Commerce by searching for "Chamber of Commerce" + your CITY and STATE on Google. Yearly dues are usually just a couple hundred dollars, but with just a few connections, you can easily re-coup the cost and turn a profit out of joining a fun local organization.


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