The power of networking

Among the groups to which I belong is The Entrepreneurship Institute.

TEI is comprised of leaders from nearly two dozen business service provider organizations in the Greater Cleveland area. Every other month, we meet to discuss the current state of affairs within our respective industries.

It’s a unique opportunity to gain insight about what’s happening across the business spectrum and share ideas of how each of our organizations deal with common issues that arise during the normal — and not-so-normal — course of business. It’s also a great place to pick up prospective client referrals or, in my case, trend story ideas for SBN.

Business experience is valuable. It provides the ability to quickly analyze and deal with different situations because you’ve seen them in various forms before. But the continuous acquisition of knowledge and experience from external sources and the subsequent understanding of how to apply it is even more critical to long-term success.

A key initiative of TEI is an annual conference designed for presidents and CEOs. Last month, more than 120 senior executives attended the President’s Forum to hear a slate of speakers that included former TRW chairman Joseph Gorman, Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell and TravelCenters of America CEO Ed Kuhn.

The speakers shared strategies, case studies and pearls of wisdom about how they run their organizations, tackling such topics as transforming management styles as your company grows, how to maximize alliances, the value of mergers and acquisitions, and what it takes to steer a business through a difficult turnaround.

I was lucky enough to moderate three breakout discussion groups during the course of the day-long conference. It’s amazing what can happen when you put diverse business owners and leaders into a room and let them swap stories, problems and solutions in a friendly, noncompetitive atmosphere.

Simply put, networking with your peers in any form is a surefire way to develop and implement ways to improve your business and develop that all-important competitive edge.