Canadian Pizza Magazine

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New in town?

A few simple steps to become part of local networks


January 26, 2009
By Treena Hein

Topics

For pizzeria owners new to their communities, following a few simple steps in order to become part of local networks will reap rewards in the short term and for years to come.

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For pizzeria owners new to their communities, following a few simple steps in order to become part of local networks will reap rewards in the short term and for years to come.

“Networking gives business owners who just moved to town an opportunity to make contact with individuals in the network to establish clients on an ongoing basis,” says Michael Hughes, also known as The Networking Guru. Hughes is the owner of the Ottawa-based consulting firm Networking for Results (www.networkingforresults.com).The first thing to find out in your new geographic area is what networks already exist.

“There are several different types of networks,” he says. “There are business and professional networks, such as tourism associations, Chambers of Commerce, BNI [Business Networking International], BIAs [business improvement associations] and economic development groups. There are also community networks such as school associations, service clubs [Kinettes, Rotary, Lions], charities and community centre committees.” Social networks include sports leagues and associations, playgroups, seniors’ clubs and church groups.

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Once you have a list of networks, Hughes advises to pick the critical ones. “These are the ones that will provide the best ongoing return.” Secondly, he says, “Leverage them to maximize the network’s benefit to your business. Find out the big annual and community events that networks are involved with. For example, if it’s a big hockey community, there are definitely community centre associations and hockey clubs.”

The next step is to brainstorm what communication methods would work best to make contact with members of the network through one of the organization’s leaders. “For example, you might contact the organizer of a sports league by phone and then have a meeting in order to get coupons out to each team,” Hughes says. Research the communication vehicles local networks use (newsletters, e-mail blasts, regular meetings) to educate the market about your new pizza location or promote a special offer.

Actively participating in one or more networks is also an effective way to secure ongoing business. “If people see you taking initiative, in a committee or leadership position, they will trust you with their business,” he says.

Mehran Abadan opened Canadian Pizza House in Uxbridge, Ont., about five years ago. Abadan suggests that a reputation for good food and responding to requests is the key to keeping customers coming through the door when you start a new business.

“Local people know me and so when visiting sports teams come to town, they ask where the best pizza is, get my number and call me. I have been asked to help [sports teams] for occasions when they have a big order and want a discount, and I do that for them.”

Benefits of joining business networks
Becoming a paid member of a business group such as your local Chamber of Commerce can provide new business owners with many benefits. Members of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, for example, are offered free opportunities to access its 900 members through a listing in Business Connects (an annual members directory and networking guide) and an online listing on the Chamber website.

Chambers also hold a large number of networking opportunities every year. For example, the 40 events held by the Ottawa Chamber include an annual business awards ceremony, a Christmas charity event hosted in conjunction with other organizations, and their monthly Eggs N’ Icons speaker-breakfasts. Bob Rae and Mark Cohon, commissioner of the Canadian Football League, are a couple examples of recent speakers.

Beyond the networking benefits of attending these events, you can also sponsor them and raise your community profile. “The Chamber is cited as the most credible business source in our city,” states the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce website, “and aligning your business with a Chamber event portrays your company as a business leader and community partner. Your brand is seen by executives, managers and other influential decision makers who regularly attend Chamber events.” Chambers also provide their members with discounts on business expenses such as newspaper ads, office supplies, insurance, banking services and gasoline.

Although you’re very busy with staffing, orders, advertising and the million other details that come with opening or moving a business to a new community, ensure networking is a valued part of your ongoing marketing plan.

“Relationships are a cornerstone of success,” Hughes states. “Creating, nurturing and renewing relationships are critical success factors in today’s busy, competitive professional environment. Yet few people have invested in becoming more aware of the principles that drive relationships, developing their skills in this area or designing a strategy to build better relationships as a foundation for the future.”