Fundamentals of Networking

Success is Equal Parts What You Know, Who You Know and Who Knows You

 

Is your professional network wide enough to support your strategic goals?

Forming alliances with potential business partners takes more than handing out business cards and perfecting your elevator pitch.

It requires you to invest time and effort in establishing genuine relationships based on mutual respect, trust, and professional generosity.

sbc-networking-graphicIt’s human nature to prefer to do business with people you know, feel comfortable with, and trust, which is why who you know is often more important than what you know. It’s also why most successful people cultivate relationships with other successful people: to build alliances with trusted associates they can rely on when they’re ready to put deals together.

Building alliances is an idea that’s beautiful in its simplicity. If everyone brings something to the table, then everyone at the table will be fed. As a certified MWSBE, you’ve secured a valuable asset to bring to the table. So how do you claim your seat?

By proactively seeking opportunities that complement your company’s strategic focus and cultivating professional alliances of your own. Many government projects are large and complex and lend themselves to collaborative bids. Getting your feet wet by participating in such a collaborative effort is an excellent way to begin recognizing the potential of your MWSBE status.

As you begin to form alliances with other companies in your area of interest, it’s important to:


Be visible.

It’s vital that the right decision-makers know who you are and what you do. Once you become certified, certification programs such as NC DOT SBE/DBE, NC HUB, and the City of Charlotte SBE/MWBE will list you in their vendor registries, allowing contractors looking to form alliances to find you. And your certification status is definitely something you can highlight in your marketing plan.


Be proactive.

Just as the various agencies facilitate contractors being able to locate you, they also provide resources to help you learn about bidding opportunities for local, county, and state projects. Solicited and awarded contracts are also public record. So you can find what projects prime contractors are bidding on to express your interest in partnering with them.

Check out bidding opportunities for City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, NCDOT Business Partners, and the State of North Carolina for more information.


Be involved.

Business opportunities are still evolving. A lot of people are actively working to develop programs to give small business owners an opportunity to participate in the region’s growth.

In addition to the Small Business Consortium, you can get involved with groups like the Governor’s Advisory Council on Historically Underutilized Businesses or one of several professional groups sponsored by NCDOT. In addition, affinity groups and organizations are developing programs to support small business owners. Join groups like Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte, Carolinas Asian-American Chamber of Commerce, or Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce to get involved.


Be generous.

With your time, your expertise, and your influence. Networking is meant to be a two-way street. Working together on a common cause can be an excellent way to meet people, observe and demonstrate your character, and ultimately initiate and strengthen a professional alliance.

If you own a Small, Woman or Minority-owned business and are interested in securing government contracts, you are strongly urged to obtain applicable SBE, MSWBE, HUB, DOT-SBE/MBE/WBE certifications.

Alissa S. Nash is the Founder and Sr. Marketing Strategist for ThatIsWhatIDo.com