The Arkansas Valley Resource Alliance, a networking group in the Buena Vista area, is looking to bring a wider array of business industries into its membership.
“We meet every other week, we discuss business ideas, we pass leads, we pass referrals,” said Morgan Pennington, a mortgage lender with Mountain Homes Lending who started the Resource Alliance this year modeled after a concept used by the local chamber of commerce in his former home in Denver.
The group of about 17 professionals in industries ranging from finance to marketing to carpet cleaning to technical writing to massage to medical support hypnosis gather twice a month and open their meetings with a quote from Larry James, the business coach who authored the “Ten Commitments of Networking.”
“Networking is … using your creative talents to help others achieve their goals as you cultivate a network of people strategically positioned to support you in your goals expecting nothing in return,” James said.
Each member of the group gives an introduction – an elevator speech about themselves and their business and how the group can be of most help to them.
“I’ve lived here for about 4 years, but most of my work came out of Denver,” Pennington said. “I got married and I’ve got a kid on the way and thought ‘I want to transition and be a part of this community.’”
Arthur Serna, a real estate agent with Re/Max, had started his practice about a year and a half ago after living in the Arkansas Valley for over a decade.
What both Serna and Pennington knew was that no one is an island when it comes to getting your business off the ground in a small-town, seasonal economy.
“I linked up with Morgan and told him what I was doing and said, ‘Hey, we’re both bringing our businesses up here, let’s team up and do one of these networking groups.e’”
After the introductions, the centerpiece of each meeting is a 10-minute presentation from a different member on the strategies they are using in their business.
“The whole idea is to teach each other how to help each other,” Pennington said. “What would help you right now grow your business?
“Say with Sandi (Lyman), the acupuncturist in the group, she wanted to meet with doctors and say ‘Hey, if you are having issues with lower back pain, you might consider sending your patients to me.’ So every meeting is a different introduction,” Pennington said.
“With me, I work well with real estate agents as a lender. Arthur works well with people trying to figure out what their home value is and do comps or sell their home to buy a home. Everybody in the group is in a different industry and we try and help each other grow.”
The meetings end with a period of time to pass referrals and give testimonials to help give businesses a boost through word of mouth.
“The way our meetings go, it’s just a positive thing,” Serna said. “The way we structure it, it’s all about ‘How can I help another business owner. How can I help someone grow their business. And in return, we get leads from them.
“Everyone’s doing that and everyone has that same mentality, that’s how it grows … it’s easier to talk about someone else’s business than it is to talk about my own business, you know? It’s easier to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got this awesome photographer in our group, here’s her number’ and pass on a referral that way.”
That’s easier to say than “Hey, I’m a great photographer,” Pennington said. “Having 16, 17, 20 people saying ‘This is a person I’ve liked and trusted’ rather than going out and singing your own praises.”
Under the networking group concept, the group accepts only one person per industry to keep things diverse, and the Resource Alliance is looking to diversify even more, trying to bring in tradespeople involved in businesses that are in high demand in Chaffee County. Providers of services like electricians, plumbers, roofers and carpenters, as well as attorneys, accountants and others.
The more different business backgrounds get involved, the wider the pool of ideas that each member can benefit from, Pennington said.
The Alliance has been pitched on social media as an alternative to the chamber of commerce, but Pennington and Serna, both themselves members of the BV Chamber, insist this isn’t the case.
Rather, Pennington said, the Resource Alliance can work for business owners in a complimentary way with chamber membership.
“We’re trying to bring people together and trying to bring business owners together in this community and be a part of the chamber. I got this whole idea originally from being a member of the Cherry Creek Chamber in Denver,” Pennington said. “Ultimately, it would be great for us to find ways to partner with the chamber.”
“We all have the same thing in common, we’re all small business owners, we’re all trying to help each other out, we’re all trying to survive up here in the mountains in this beautiful community,” Serna said.
If you’re interested in attending a meeting of the Ark Valley Resource Alliance, contact Morgan Pennington at firstname.lastname@example.org