No, really. We’ve each heard it a thousand times before, but what we are learning about the tried-and-true cliché is that it works. To get ahead, to advance one’s self, to succeed, is to know the right person.
Whether they gave you early motivation, presented you with your first opportunity, steered you in the right direction when things got tough, or helped develop you as you grew into something more, no man is an island unto himself, and we cannot get along, much less get along well, without our fellow man.
Representatives from Atlanta, Georgia’s Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce (or simply MAC) were quick to point out that a huge component of what they do – their focus on the retention and expansion of companies throughout the metro area – is to form and cultivate those relationships.
“Every day I get to work, I spend almost all of my time helping others to get connected. I literally spend all day long connecting people who I feel need to be connected. It’s all about the connections,” enthused Nancy Wright-Whatley, Vice President of Entrepreneurial Development at MAC since 2010 and a huge generator of new business development opportunities in the state as she works to connect small and large businesses together.
Whatley, along with Katie Kirkpatrick, Senior Vice President of Policy, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, continued, touching on many of the various ways that the two work tirelessly at MAC to:
- Generate new business development opportunities for small business members;
- Facilitate connections between businesses and universities to ignite job creation and innovation;
- Cultivate startups;
- Accelerate job growth through strengethening partnerships between higher education and area businesses;
- Promote metro Atlanta as a center for innovation, entrepreneurship, and higher education; and
- Improve the business climate and quality of life by focusing on core infrastructure and human capital needs such as education, workforce, transportation and environment.
How, exactly, do they accomplish all of this?
“We do a lot of programming around how to be better business owners. We work on an education side – presentation skills, etc.,” explained Kirkpatrick. “We also work with a lot of big companies,” she continued. “We ask them, ‘What do you need and how do you need it?’ Know your value proposition – know who buys what you sell and then let’s get you connected. MAC helps you be prepared for that big customer.”
Presenting to a Commerce Club Conglomerate audience made up almost entirely of small business owners and entrepreneurs, both women were eager to share their passion for their work, work that is essential to the nearly 150,000 businesses that currently call Atlanta home.
Explaining that a five-year strategy update at MAC initially meant admitting that there was a void, a neglect of the entrepreneurial community, Whatley and Kirkpatrick shared that the Chamber is now deeply invested in engaging that ecosystem, in doing whatever it takes to make small businesses happy and to help members get a return on their investment.
Like fiery stars shooting across an inky sky, Whatley continued pelting the rest of MAC’s informative presentation with nuggets of sound business advice.
Along with encouraging those in business for themselves to always tell a story (“It helps people remember; it knits the fabric together. And please, don’t try to sell me anything!”), the energetic blond also praised the classic elevator pitch.
“There are a lot of people today who can’t even tell you what they do; when people can do that, they can go far.”
The meeting concluded with advice that came full circle.
“It’s important to understand the importance of connectiong people. People want to know you. You have to develop those relationships. Come. Be seen. Be known. Tell people what organization you are with. Network. You have to give [of yourself]. It’s like putting money in a bank. Those connections are so important.”
At the end of the day, confessed Whatley, without them it’s nearly impossible to make it.
“People want to do business with people they know and like. You’ll fall into a big blackhole otherwise.”
Blackholes aside, it’s really not rocket science, she concluded.
“Get involved. Meet people. Help people. One connection at a time – it works.”
Ever made a connection that made a huge difference in your career? Had someone come along who gave you the leg up that you needed? We want to hear about it! Comment below.
To learn more about MAC and what they are busy doing for our city, please visit www.metroatlantachamber.com
The Commerce Club Conglomerate, a vibrant group of up-and-comers, startups, entrepreneurs and more, meets monthly to discuss growth strategies and small business throughout the city. Come be a part of the lively discussion. New speakers every month. Dialogue and questions welcome!
404.222.0191 or Anna.Chafen@ourclub.com for inquiries or reservations.