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Networking and Business Tips from Buffalo’s CEOs: Part 1

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership, one time known as the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce, hosts events from time to time that create tremendous networking opportunities for those doing business in Buffalo and the rest of the world. Although the internet has made it easier to research expert’s points of view, and many say that is the preferred method for business people networking online, this past Thursday’s gathering at the Pearl Street Grill was a wonderful opportunity to network with many of the top business people in Buffalo and Western New York.

The CEO Silent Auction gave attending winners the opportunity for a one-on-one meeting with the CEO from their winning bid. There were opportunities to talk with some of the auction CEOs that were up for bid as well as with many of the hundreds of top business people that had come to connect. Some consider networking a dirty word. I believe the secret is to create networking opportunities, but to call it anything but.

When participants bid in the CEO Silent Auction and win, they get to meet with their ‘prize’ with the proviso that the hook-up is not a sales call. I thought it would be interesting to ask the auction CEOs what kind of tips they might be offering in the area of relationship building, business advice and career advice. I was amazed at how they were able to give such great off-the-cuff answers. Also I realized their answers would be general in nature, though in a one-on-one situation likely to be much more specific to one’s niche. I was inspired after hearing their comments:

Michael Ohlweiler Partner KPMG LLP 

“In terms of building a career, particularly early on, it is about investing in your career and personal growth. Make sure you are reaching out to all of the available resources that you have. Whether you already have contacts or have the ability of expanding those contacts – stay connected with the friends that you graduated with from school, and join different organizations. Invest in your own career by making sure that you are taking the time to not just do your job well, but to develop yourself and have a goal… where you want to be going in your career, and that you are taking the right steps to get there.”

Ann Evanko Attorney President Hurwitz & Fine PC 

If you build relationships when you don’t need people, when you do need people they are there for you. You can’t find this out in a difficult situation and say ‘”Oh my God! Who can I go and talk to about this problem? Who can help me find a new job? Who can help me in this situation? “.  It is an ongoing process that needs to be started right away… when you don’t need networking, or when you don’t feel as if you need to network. Establishing a network in the beginning creates that base from which you can tap into when you need it. The best time to start networking is when you are young.
Paul Buckley President Applied Sciences Group Inc 

As far as networking is concerned I think optimism is probably the very best thing that you can provide to anybody else. Today we are in an economic climate that seems to be based on fear. Everybody is afraid they are going to lose their job and that the economy is going to fall apart. But never bet against the United States of America in the long run. If you look at the big picture, if you look at the downstream, we are going to recover,  and especially in Buffalo. Why? Because we have never been able to take advantage of the huge economic highs that occurred in the rest of the country, we are also not suffering the economic woes that much of the rest of the country is experiencing right now. The end result is that we have not lost enough to worry as much about it.”

We have everything to gain by being optimistic because we know how to handle ourselves in the midst of a recession. We have been behind the economic curve for twenty years. In other parts of the country phones have stopped ringing and the people expecting those calls have no idea what to do. We know how to scrounge, meet customers and how to do new business. If you come in with that sense of optimism, you can break new ground, you can meet new people, and you can carry on the business. My business in particular went from a number of large contracts to a whole bunch of small ones, because we recognize customers can’t afford right now to do big huge capital projects, but they still need to optimize their processes. They still need efficiency gains. They still need to do something to battle this recession. Well it might not be 2000 hours of work that they usually bring, but it is 100 hours of work. So if I go out and do that twenty times I have successfully replaced my big project. And that is the approach that we take. That is what I talk to my customers about. Don’t keep going after the big bids. Rather go after the opportunities that are actually available, they are smaller but there is still a lot of them. A challenge is nothing more than an opportunity to do something else
I believe that 85% of progress comes from networking. And here were have heard a few pointers from some of the best in Buffalo. Mr. Buckley’s comments inspired me the most. Having an optimistic attitude overcomes all. Buffalo’s more challenging economic past steels us against current adversity.  Going for more, smaller business opportunities now, versus going for the whale of an opportunity in the past, reminds me of the concept of adapting. From a quote by Charles Darwin It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”  I would have to believe that because business is always cyclical, when things do turn around, your market share will increase when the economy does turn it up again!
If you found this event interesting you might want to check out upcoming Buffalo Niagara Partnership events.

Written by Carolyn Batt

Carolyn Batt

Carolyn Batt is a Buffalo marketing director by day and international traveler the rest of the time--although always returning to her home for the past 12 years in Allentown.

View All Articles by Carolyn Batt
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