Since this is my first appearance on The Alternative Press, I thought I would share a bit about my background and the focus of the column. I am a small business owner who is passionate about issues and challenges that business owners' face. Like many of you, I started my company after leaving a corporate job right after 9/11. I launched Consultants 2 Go, a marketing consulting firm with my business partner, Sandi Webster in 2002. Needless to say, it was not the best of economic times but we are able to go from start-up to a million dollar company in four years. I have learned many lessons from this experience, so I wanted to share what we learned with other business owners and "would- be" entrepreneurs. In fact, some of these insights I wish I knew before I started down the path of entrepreneurship. From time to time, I will also discuss recent trends and issues that are in the news that impact all of us.

When I started my company I was told to start networking immediately! I broke into a cold sweat and immediately conjured up images of people running through a maze racing from person to person gathering business cards. I now realize that true networking could not be further from this image. In fact, I didn't realize it then, but I had been successfully networking for many years. I just called it something else - volunteering in my community. When I had this breakthrough, I began assembling a list of "Quick Tips" to share with other novice networkers. I think these tips work equally well with business owners and job hunters:

Follow Your Interests
Don't get involved or join groups, just to get something from them. Join the group because you are truly interested in what they do and more importantly, you want to help them be successful. This is how trust and collaboration are developed.

Build Deep Relationships
It is far better to join one or two organizations where you really become active and get involved, than join 20 organizations where you only attend a meeting or event once a year. Getting involved is the best way to build long term relationships with people and it's through these relationships that opportunities will emerge over time.

Don't Collect Thousands of Business Cards
We have all been at events and meetings where someone rushes up and thrusts a card at you. They barely heard your name or introduced themselves when they start waving a card. Please don't fall into this trap. Collecting twenty cards from people you can barely remember is not effective or productive. Stop and connect with each person you meet at the event. Ask genuine questions about them and their background. Spend twenty minutes or more with someone you really enjoy and in the end a true connection will be established. Remember it is quality not quantity that makes you successful.

Don't Call Someone After You Just Meet Them and Ask Them for a Favor
Successful networking is all about helping others. It's about relating and working with others that you share a mutual interest or connection. Don't squander the connection. Nothing is a bigger turn-off, than the person who calls you after you just met them and wants to pitch something to you. Typically, the receiver of the pitch wants to hang up or run away and usually stops returning messages. Rather, enjoy the relationship and let it develop over time.

Have Fun
Finally, relax and have fun. It is far more rewarding if you do things that you like. People will sense it and everyone will relax around you. Remember the old adage - People buy from people they know. Build your networks by developing mutually beneficial relationships with people!

Don't forget, you can email me at Peggy@Consultants2Go.com with any questions you might have and I'll be glad to answer them.