By Bill Reynolds, Jeffersontown Chamber Board Chair
The following op-ed was written by Bill Reynolds, Jeffersontown Chamber board chair and president and owner of Element502.
“It’s not just about what you know, but who you know.”
In almost every aspect of life, a relationship can be the link between where you are and where you want to be. It’s no different for our business community.
Though the days of a rolodex and a cold call may be in the past, the power of networking and creating strong, community partnerships have stood the test of time. And will continue to persevere no matter the country’s economic position.
Oftentimes, networking is reactive, in response to job layoffs or a recession. Instead, we need to think about being proactive and always building relationships. Local chamber organizations can play a big role in that.
I got my company involved in the Jeffersontown Chamber more than seven years ago because I realized the value in being a part of something bigger. Since then, my team – Element502 – has been introduced to new professionals, partners and opportunities we wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. From the immersive programs to the exciting annual events like the Gaslight Festival, the Chamber has helped businesses grow. That is a result of proactive networking.
Proactive networking can be best understood as relationship building first, business second. By building and maintaining relationships, companies establish natural partners, who are willing to recommend their services to inquiring customers or prospective clients and offer support when challenges arise.
A best practice for proactive networking is to, first, get familiar with the surrounding business community.
In fact, most economic growth will occur in businesses already established. It’s the 80/20 rule – 80% of growth will come from companies that have already invested in a community and 20% will be new to the area.
In Jeffersontown, there are nearly 2,000 businesses, many of which have doubled in size since opening their doors. Understanding the existing business footprint in a community will ensure companies are connecting with the right people and the right resources, providing a starting point to markettheir business, as well. After all, good business starts with being a good neighbor.
Making connections is essential to the growth of any business, whether it’s connecting a company to resources, people or programs. Business needs may evolve, but the benefits of a strong network remain the same.
Finding the influential figures and companies who are driving positive change in a community is another essential skill to building better business. Companies must be willing to work together with a variety of entities, from elected officials to commercial real estate brokers to non-profits and associations. These partnerships can help facilitate economic development investments like infrastructure to attract new talent and business to the area.
Taking a proactive approach to networking also means celebrating successes along the way. It’s important to always acknowledge a company’s major milestone, announcement or recent decision. In other words, this means engaging with the community.
In 2022, the Jeffersontown Chamber has celebrated with its members at more than 25 events, both in-person and virtual, one of which was the annual Business Expo, bringing together nearly 1,000 business executives, community leaders and government officials to discuss the state’s recent economic development success.
Proactive networking takes a wholistic approach and applies to every professional. It’s always a good idea to begin building relationships and getting connected to the right resources. Don’t wait until there’s a reason to connect.
Now is the time to work together to accomplish our common goals. So, get out, meet new people and start making connections.