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Passing the leads

Networking group focuses on personal referrals

Routt County’s lone business eagles have a new opportunity to soar with a flock.

A new business networking group called Relay offers business people the opportunity to join a tight team whose members are committed to supporting one another ahead of outside companies. In addition, individual team members agree to provide two business leads a month to other members.

Organizers Rob and Kelley Sexton say the Relay concept is based on the premise that “the strongest business lead is a personal referral.”

The Sextons, who moved to Steamboat Springs in May 2002, own Magic Carpet Travel. Rob has just started another business, 1Source Communications.

“Both of us really enjoy helping people,” Rob said. “We got here, and there wasn’t a leads group like this.”

Relay is a private nonprofit and is not the local affiliate of a regional or national organization. Instead, the Sextons said, they borrowed what they think are the best qualities of business networking groups they’ve encountered elsewhere in creating Relay.

Since beginning the group in December, they have attracted 24 members who pay quarterly dues of $75 and attend twice monthly lunch meetings or breakfast meetings. The Sextons do not take a salary or a fee, Rob said. The dues support maintenance of the Web site and other expenses related to communicating with the members and hosting the meetings.

One of the most important rules to know about Relay is that only one of each kind of business can belong to a single group. For example, there only can be one certified public accountant, or one cleaning company, in the luncheon group. But a second CPA or cleaning company could belong to the breakfast group.

Limiting membership by business type ensures that all the team members will be impartially generating leads for one another, Sexton said. Members are urged to focus less on the leads they are receiving than on the leads they are producing, he added.

Allison St. John, a CPA with Blue Sage Tax & Accounting, said joining the group has involved a feeling-out process as she gets to know her teammates in a professional sense and builds the confidence necessary to recommend them to her existing business contacts.

“At the beginning, I was nervous about the who lead thing,” St. John said. “But I think it really fosters the opportunity to get to know other business people and gain confidence in them. I think it can be a matter of personally using their services.”

Team members get at least four opportunities a month to stand up in front of the entire group and promote their business. It’s a way to build team members’ understanding of one another’s business goals over time, Sexton said. There are also training sessions intended to help members generate high quality leads.

The lunch group meets from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. the first and third Wednesday of every month at the Egg & I in Sundance Plaza. The breakfast group meets from 7 to 8:30 a.m. the second and fourth Thursday of each month at the same restaurant.

During the meetings, which Sexton promised will always begin and end on time, each member is given 30 seconds for an introduction and 60 seconds to bring out a new aspect of his or her business.

Time is allotted for longer presentations from outside guests or members.

At each meeting, members pass their business cards around, distribute written business leads and formally compliment one another for good business deeds.

Those swapping cards at Wednesday’s lunch meeting included a consultant in human resources and personnel issues, a real estate broker, the owner of a technology company, a consultant specializing in resort issues related to accessibility, a business banker, a mortgage lender and an attorney.

During the meeting, Ruth Dombrowski of First National Bank of Steamboat Springs told her teammates that she can help them arrange lines of credit to help even out cash flow in Steamboat’s cyclical resort economy. She gave a short talk that is typical of how Relay team members educate one another about the goods and services they provide. The exchange of information helps to generate meaningful leads.

Dombrowski said she also helps clients contemplating the purchase of an existing business. When negotiations have reached a serious phase, she often can go over the books and advise the prospective purchaser. In some cases, when sellers are reluctant, Dombrowski will review the books confidentially and give her clients a report that protects the seller from full disclosure when appropriate.

Of course, in business, it’s not just what you know, but whom you know.

For more information about Routt County’s growing business networking groups, go to www.

steamboatrelay.com.


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