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Keep your company connected

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With the time requirements involved with starting or running your own business, hobnobbing over hors d’ouerves may be low on your list of priorities. But networking can lead to new opportunities, new ideas, and even financing. Networking will also keep you up-to-date on local business decisions or regulations that could affect your business.

Virginia offers a variety of networking opportunities. Local chambers of commerce are a great place to start. These groups offer a variety of events, including some primarily social activities, as well as seminars to improve your business. They often act as the voice for the local business community before local and state governments. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce appeals to business owners across the entire state.

Also, consider attending trade shows in your industry or even exhibiting your product or service at one. Most of these set aside time specifically for networking.

The Procurement Team of the Virginia Department of Business Assitance offers training seminars on “Selling to the Commonwealth” that include state buyers who are available for talking with potential new suppliers about their products and services. You can find networking opportunities across the state on the Virginia Department of Business Assistance’s Web site at http://www.vdba.virginia.gov The S.mall Business Development Centers Web sites (http://www.sbdcvirginia.org) also include local business events.

Public libraries host events and flyers for other events can be found in their community rooms. The business section of most Virginia newspapers will publish listings of upcoming local meetings, seminars and other networking sites.

Today’s networking is not just limited to after-work events. The Virginia Business Pipeline (http://www.virginiabusiness.org) offers businesses the opportunity to connect with other businesses online. More than 24,000 businesses are registered at the site, which serves as a procurement tool. Between 60 to 80 requests for proposals are added to the site each month. Companies can create a profile to promote their product or service.

In addition, many businesses are finding success with social networking. Social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter give businesses an opportunity for free advertising, connections to other businesses, and direct contact with customers. Most accounts are free to set up, easy to use and don’t take up much time. There’s still no replacement for face-to-face contact, however, so don’t let the computer be your only networking outlet.

While self-study and disciplined, solitary work are important to the success of a business, networking can help a businessperson avoid mistakes, develop helpful relationships and find new opportunities for business development.


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