Networking Choices

Time has simply slipped away so fast, part of it consumed by attending SDMWVBE (Small, Disadvantaged, Minority, Women, or Veteran Business Enterprise) events in multiple states. Not a day goes by that that we don’t get at least one invitation or notice about an event in one of the states where we’re certified.

Networking is working on your business, expanding its profile in specific communities which is the fundamental criteria we use to determine whether to attend an event. New York City Empire State Development holds Tuesday Outreach and Training; Delaware’s Office of Supplier Diversity routinely shares information about events (four so far this week and it is only Tuesday!); WBENC (Women’s Business Enterprise National Council) host events at 14 regional councils and in DC almost monthly while NMSDC (National Minority Supplier Diversity Council) has events at 24 regional councils and in New York City regularly; and every state has outreach events for its SDMWVBE community members. There’s not enough time on our annual calendar to attend even half of these events. So the question is often becomes, how do we decide whether to attend?

Our strategy is to attend the events that have a more specialized focus on our industry. In early September, we attended a general Pittsburgh business mixer. Mid-month, we traveled to New York City for an informational networking event for SDMWVBE vendors in the information technology space. This gave us an opportunity to meet with both the Supplier Diversity and IT officers of NYC’s MTA. The first week of October found us in Maryland for two events, one IT vendor day sponsored by the Department of Transportation and the other by the Department of Information Technology. Last week, we hit the Think Big Forum Women Who Make & Create at Pittsburgh’s Chatham University. Tonight we’ll be at a Pennsylvania Women Work event courtesy of 84 Lumber’s WBE program. And in November, we’ll visit a couple of Pittsburgh Technology Council meetings.

We believe in taking the time to research the organizations who offer events we might be interested in attending. What is their charter and will it be mutually beneficial for our business to establish a relationship with this organization? Mutually beneficial, you ask? Businesses have to be profitable, and many of these events are organized by non-profits or government agencies and there are often fees associated with the event. Spend your money wisely with organizations you believe in so you’ll both be viable for next year’s big event.

We were fortunate to identify three recent events that were specific to the goods and services our business offers. The invitations arrived via email because we are a SDMWVBE certified business in New York and Maryland and we suspect companies were selected for invitation based on NAICS or NGIP codes. You can check out networking opportunities in your area by visiting the web sites of your state, county or local government SDMWVBE offices, WBENC or NMSDC. You can also reach out to you local SBA office for recommendations or to other owners of SDMWVBE businesses you have met in the past

These networking opportunities offer more than a few hours of socializing. They are opportunities to: make connections for future referrals; seek or offer guidance on issues in your area of expertise; or, learn how SDMWVBE procurements work with specific corporations or government agencies. Showing up makes you and your company visible. Showing up often makes others more aware of your business. Contributing expertise or offering referrals makes you and your business memorable. Being memorable often leads to referrals and business for you.

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