Tips for starting a business network
Nancy Korman, partner in 760 Associates, a graphic design and public relations firm in Newton, Mass., started the Women's Lunch Group in 1974. It has 100 members, with not more than two or three from any profession. Ms. Korman started the group when she realized she was outside the informal loop through which business opportunities pass. Equal parts altruism and self-interest characterize the founders of networking organizations. Among their suggestions for starting a group:
Gather advisers from industries, professional, and academic entities. With their help, identify key people and existing networking groups.
Agree on a format, time, and central place for meetings. Put together mailing lists. Attendance at the first meeting will depend on personally inviting key people. Subsequent meetings will depend on strong mailing lists, announcements in local publications, and word-of-mouth.
Contract a facility interested in catering a monthly meeting. Establish a regular time and location. Depending upon how business is done in the area, lunch may be better than cocktails or breakfast may be better than dinner. Stay away from the last two weeks in the month. Most holidays fall during that time.
Establish a mailing address, phone contact, bank account, and file a DBA (Doing Business As) form with your city or town. Arrange for help with typing, creating the mailing list, taking reservations, and mailing announcements.
Find speakers for the first few meetings who will be interesting to a wide variety of people. The speakers' name or subject will create interest.
Print the announcement of the first meeting and the reason the group is being formed. Mail this and registration forms three weeks before the event. Send announcements to local publications. Follow up with phone calls to the core group.
Startup costs run between $700 and $1,000. Registration fees should cover these costs as well as food, service, or rental fees.