Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sustainable Networking

I have been a member of a couple networking groups and have visited numerous different ones over the years. These networking groups can be an important marketing and sales element of a business plan for small to medium size organizations. These groups usually allow just one representative from each industry who then provide leads to each other.

One problem with most of these groups is the dearth of like-minded green businesses, since this is not a criterion for membership. Fortunately, that is starting to change and I’m hoping this post will encourage others to start green business networks in their communities.

First, a little background. I helped start a “green” networking group here in Portland back in 2002. I was selling B2B in the progressive community and saw a real need for values based businesses to connect efficiently and economically. Informally, with folks from the ReDirect Guide and others, we started our own green networking group to make it easier for like minded folks to connect.

Our group was informal, with minimal dues (we asked everyone to throw in a few bucks each meeting) and met every other week at a locally-owned progressive restaurant. Everyone present got a chance to give a 30-60 second introduction and promo for their business before we’d feature a 10-minute in depth talk by one of our members. This group successfully served its function of helping all of us obtain more business.

That group has since dissolved but I recently joined a similar group here in Portland called Bridges, a green business networking group. Bridges is a bit more formal and structured but the key here is that the group uses sustainability as the primary screening tool for every member. Besides myself, Bridges has a green financial planner, physician, acupuncturist, builder, insurance broker, mortgage broker, real estate agent, graphic designer, marketing consultant, life coach, computer tech, geologist, and a real estate appraiser. This group is vibrant and growing.

It is really easy to start a networking group and I would encourage green business leaders to get one started in their area. Feel free to contact me if you need any help and/or post ideas and suggestions here to help others get started.

Business networking groups are a great way to learn, share and grow as a community. There should be green business networking groups across the country.

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