NORWICH – For close to three decades, Chenango County’s Chamber of Commerce, now called Commerce Chenango, has been giving business professionals an opportunity to network with their peers and learn more about other local businesses through its Business After Hours program.
“Business After Hours are designed to spotlight the host business, and allow networking among the attendees,” explained Commerce Chenango’s Membership and Events Coordinator, Jill Eddy.
According to Audrey Robinson, Commerce Chenango’s director of communications and tourism, the program is all about relationship-building in a relaxed setting after regular business hours. Since it was introduced by Chenango’s chamber and others across the country in 1981, the program has become one of the most successful chamber initiatives of all time, she reported.
Why? Because, according to Robinson, networking is one of the biggest reasons businesses join the chamber, and the program provides a clear benefit in that regard to both the host organization. Not only does it help introduce them to new contacts, resources and potential customers, but it also fosters greater collaboration among members of the local business community.
Eddy is in a unique position to attest to the benefits of the program, since prior to working for the chamber, she attended many of the events as a member. She even hosted a BAH herself as a small business owner.
“I think it’s a great way to get people in (to see what your business has to offer),” she said.
Chamber members pay for the privilege of hosting the event, which covers promotional costs, she explained. The business themselves are responsible for catering and decorations, and Eddy encourages them to customize the event with tours, demonstrations, music and the like. The events are so popular, she said, that the calendar often fills up months in advance. They are currently booked through February of next year.
According to Eddy, average attendance ranges from 30 to 50 guests, but on occasion that number can reach upwards of 100.
Eddy says she often hears success stories following these events. One of those she cited was an upcoming bridal show being planned by Celebrations Creations in conjunction with the Northeast Classic Car Museum, which grew out of a connection made between Celebrations owner Kerri Insinga Green and NECCM’s executive director, Doreen Bates, at a BAH.
“It isn’t an obvious connection, but a great fit,” she said.
While sales are not the focus of these after hours networking events, they are sometimes a by-product of the contacts made through the program, Eddy said, explaining that for one local car dealer, a BAH resulted in the sale of a new vehicle to an attendee.
It is just that kind of success Smith Ford LLC will be looking forward to tomorrow night, as the car dealer hosts its first Business After Hours from 5 to 7 p.m. The evening’s activities will include demonstrations, refreshments, door prizes, a 50/50 card game and more, according to Eddy.
Bill Tyrell, owner of Smith Ford LLC and the Giant’s Warehouse, said he believes that “service after the sale is the most important part of a dealership.” He invites BAH guests to come and see what Smith Ford can do for their businesses.
The event is free for Chamber members. To register, contact Commerce Chenango at 334-1402. Visit them online at www.chenagnony.org.