Dear Uncle Marty,

I know you’re involved in some community groups. How do you suggest I get involved, and what are the best groups to join?

Hoping to meet new people,

Friendly Florence “Flo” Fenstermacher

Dear Flo,

Indeed, I highly recommend joining some community networking groups.

Right now, I’m very involved with a group that I co-founded: the Collegetown Small Business Alliance. “Collegetown” is the name of my neighborhood of Ithaca, New York, aptly named because it borders the university here. It’s a very unique couple of blocks, and so we’ve banded together to share ideas, co-market, and solve neighborhood quandaries.

I’m also on a bunch of committees with my local university and with my city. I’m constantly at City Hall for one meeting or another, and on campus for design charrettes for building makeovers and committee meetings to plan community walks and information fairs in my neighborhood. I’ve found that being part of a committee is an amazing place to network, as you’re there as a volunteer and not as a salesperson.

Years ago, when I was working with the AMPC Flagship Store in Rockford, Illinois, I was part of RASA, the Rockford Area Services Association. This group was amazing, meeting once a month at a different host restaurant to network and share ideas. We were each given a couple of minutes for a brief introduction of ourselves and our businesses at the start of each meeting, and then we spent the rest of the time talking about how we could work together. It was invaluable!

Many stores join their local Chambers of Commerce. I highly recommend this. And don’t just join, run for office! Take a page from Fahim’s playbook and become the Chamber Vice President. You’ll work your tail off, but the connections you make will be well worth it.

Other people like the BNI (Business Networking International) networking group, and this might be a good place to start if your town has a local chapter. Personally, I find their 7AM breakfast meetings uncalled for, but that’s just because I am the antithesis of a morning person and it’s everything I can muster to get to my store to open on time at 9AM.

I’m not sure what’s available in your neck of the woods, but certainly there are some organizations just waiting for you to join. And if nothing tickles your fancy, take a page from my playbook and start your own! Your neighborhood certainly needs a small business alliance to facilitate its own business-to-business networking.

When you’re at these meetings, events, and posting on these groups’ listservs, keep in mind to not use the platform as blatant advertising. Don’t list your services like some bot, but offer your support and friendship as a fellow community member. Share news, sponsor good causes, donate your time and goods, and offer your services only if they add value and provide solutions. Otherwise, let your outreach draw others to you. Be a magnet, not a bulldozer.

Not all groups meet at 7am (#JustSayin),


Marty Johnson, AMBC Director of Marketing |

The original version of this Ask Uncle Marty letter was published in MBC Today Volume 19, Issue 2 (March/April 2017).

Source: AMBC Blog