Winning Strategies: The Power of CEO Networking

Most print shop owners overlook one of their most important assets – themselves as the CEO of their business. Business owners are part of a select group of individuals who have chosen to be business leaders and take certain risks. Business owners share common experiences, and whether your business has three employees or 300, you wear many hats and you are singularly responsible for the success or failure of your business.

We all know that networking is important and with the advent of the new tools of the Internet such as LinkedIn and Facebook, connecting with others has become more than just a fad. We realize that the more people we know the chances for doing business with them increases mathematically. While connecting online should not be ignored, face-to-face meeting is paramount. It is one thing to be linked to someone online and quite another to be in a live discussion.


Local Connections

The majority of all printers’ accounts are with small and medium sized businesses that are privately owned or run by a local CEO. While the main contact within those companies may not be the CEO, I will contend that the CEO is the one who has the ultimate influence over which vendors they use for their printing.

Who is the best person in your company to network with other CEOs? It’s obviously you, as you are their peer. Salespeople may find it tough to get a sales appointment with the CEO, but you, as an owner, will get more appointments with fellow business owners.


Where to Find Them

How do you network with other CEOs? It’s simple, just figure out where they spend their time when not in their offices. Here are some places where you can interact with CEOs:

Local business group meetings such as the Chamber of Commerce: Don’t just join the chamber to have your name in its directory – get involved in a committee or ask to be on the board. Go to the meetings where the CEOs go. Those may not be the “business after hours” events, but rather board meetings or committee meetings. Make an appointment with the executive director and ask how you can meet more members and help out with the group.

Non-profits: Their boards of directors are usually made up of prominent local businessmen. Get involved with non-profits that you feel an affinity for personally. Yes, you will be asked to help out with their printing at a discount, but the benefits usually outweigh the costs.

Private schools: Business owners are among the ones who can afford to send their children to private schools. While the cost to send your children to a private school may seem high, consider the good possibility that you will do the school’s printing, plus be in a position to meet other parents who are some of the pillars of the local business community.

Rotary, Lions, or Kiwanis clubs: Most members are local business people. Join one of these groups. Find the one that has the largest membership and one with which you will be comfortable working on their projects or causes. The fringe benefit is that you will do their printing, but the real benefit is who you get to share a meal with during the meetings.

Trade associations: Depending on your market, you may want to join the home builders association, the tourism bureau, convention bureau, marketing association, etc. The key members are usually business owners or in other spheres of influence that can introduce you and your business to business owners.

Country clubs: Business owners and professionals are the ones who join and are active in your local country clubs. While the purpose of a country club is social and not business, it is a fact that a lot of business is transacted between the members.

Golf outings or awards dinners: While the cost of the event may seem high, who attends these events? Getting a chance to spend four hours on a golf course or to have dinner with other CEOs is time well spent.

The local YMCA/YWCA or gym: Joining is not only good for your health, but you will meet other people like you who also own businesses. I have two clients who first met their best customers at the gym.

Local arts events such as the symphony, theater, ballet, etc.: The largest benefactors of the arts are local businessmen. They not only go to the events but get invited to the social events that accompany them.

Formal networking groups: Today there are many formal networking groups that meet regularly with the primary purpose of exchanging leads. Pick the one that has the largest membership of business owners. Avoid ones that are made up of very small businesses and salespeople. Don’t limit yourself to the groups in your town, but expand your horizon to other communities where you want to do more business. Don’t be shy about giving leads. In most cases you won’t get quality leads until you prove yourself as a lead giver. When you get your chance to talk at these meetings, be very specific on the types of leads that you want.


Listen Closely

What do you talk about with when you meet other CEOs? Don’t talk about your business, but rather ask questions about them and their businesses. CEOs, generally speaking, have big egos and they love to talk about their businesses and themselves. What you do will come up at some point, but keep it short. The key is to get to know more about their businesses and what makes them tick.

Remember that one the primary responsibilities for you, as the CEO of your printing business, is to promote your business. You are the face of your business and it’s a fact that the more people of influence you get to know, the more business you will get. Every sales consultant will tell you to start your sales prospecting effort by getting an appointment with the top executive. You will be amazed by how easy it is to do business with a company if you know the owner.