5 Small Town Networking Lessons from Bethel, Ohio

by Jeremy Powers on March 17, 2011

Grant Memorial Building - Bethel, Ohio

This week I attended a business networking meeting in Bethel, Ohio.  If you are not from around here, Bethel, Ohio has a population of about 2,700 people.

I expected, at best, a dozen local business owners attend.  I didn’t even bring any company brochures; I assumed there would be plenty of time to talk with each business owner.

I was wrong. There was about 70 business owners or managers in the room.  The event was outstandingly coordinated, with organized speakers, lunch, and plenty of interaction.

So what did I learn?

5 Lessons for Small Town Business Networking

1. Always bring sales collateral

One service of my company is creating sales brochures for small businesses.  So it was pretty embarrassing to be asked for information for the “take home bags” and not have anything.  ALWAYS keep sales collateral in your car.

2. Plan for the worst AND best case turn-out

The worst case scenario when organizing a networking meeting is to have only two or three people show.  The best case is what happened this week in Bethel, Ohio.  Every local business owner is there, along with half of the business owners from neighboring towns.  I had planned for the worst case, but I was unprepared for the best case.

3. There is no dress code

This is one of the best parts of working with small business owners.  If you can find a man wearing a tie in the room, you know he either sells insurance or works for a bank.  Dress too nicely, and owners will assume you charge too much.  I often attend networking meetings in slacks and a blazer.  For this crowd, I took the blazer back to the car.  It turns out, you can have good conversation, good food, and be comfortably dressed.

4. Business owners like start-ups

Your local hardware store, print shop, or movie theater was started by the guy who owns it or his family.  If you are in your first years of ownership, tell him.  He knows your concerns, shares your desire to succeed, and admires your nerve.  “It takes guts to start a business.  I’d rather give my work to a kid with some nerve and hunger than some franchise or sales associate for a big town agency.”

5. These are passionate people

These folks love their business.  They love their family.  They love their hobbies.  “All work and no play is not for me.”  My table spent twenty minutes talking about bear hunting.  Everybody was engaged.  Small business is about passion, both work and play.

A tip of the hat to:

I’d like to thank Judi Adams of Community Savings Bank for organizing the event.  I had a great time, and met some outstanding people.

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Teresa Baudendistel

I agree, Judi did a great job of getting this together. She is a wonderful asset to our community.
Thanks for the kind words about our town. I have been in business for 26 years in this small town. Wouldn’t trade my job for anything! Where else can you bring your kids and now my grandkids to work?

Teresa Baudendistel
Bethel Floral Boutique

Jeremy Powers

Teresa – Thanks for the note of agreement. 26 years is a long time, and I respect you for it.

I agree 100% on having the kids at work. I don’t post the pictures on my site, but you can see pictures of my kids playing in the office on the Winding Staircase Facebook Page.

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