Strategic Business Networking in Chicago and Beyond

Business Networking Chicago and Beyond blog
Strategic Networking

Have you been wondering if you should get out there more in the community to promote your business? Networking and forging new relationships can directly lead to new customers. But it can also lead to partnership opportunities. It can be inspiring and educative to learn from other hungry business owners. And with proper follow up and a genuine interest in helping others, your business will be heralded and rewarded. Strategic networking is really that simple, if you find the right groups for you.

There’s something out there for every type of business. Below we’ve compiled a list to get Chicagoland business owners started. If your business is in another location, let this list serve as a guide to what to search for in your area (and we’ve marked which resources and organizations are national).

Chambers and leads groups

Your city or neighborhood has a chamber of commerce. Businesses in and around your city are members, and many are active at attending chamber events. This is a great way for small business owners to meet other local business owners. There are always ways to help each other out. Plus, you will hear from others what else is going on that you should know about. You can check out the schedule, and usually attend events as a non-member, at least for a time.

A common networking structure is what I call the “leads group”. The goal of group members is structured and strategic networking to get quality leads from each other. They generally only let one person per business-type in, so you don’t have competition in the group. These types of groups have frequent meetings and rules and responsibilities. Leads groups are a commitment! Members are of or targeting small business owners. Any one group will have a mixture of members serving consumers and members serving businesses. They require a membership fee. National examples include BNI and LeTip (a couple of the Chicagoland chapters are Chicago and Schaumburg).

The Small Business Advocacy Council (SBAC) is a Chicagoland organization advocating for small businesses through politics, education, and support services. SBAC members get plenty of networking, and with a purpose.  They are only in Chicagoland, but there are frequent events with easy access from all Chicago suburbs. You can attend a couple of events on their calendar before paying for membership. Your city may have a similar advocacy group.

The American Club Association (ACA) is available in Chicagoland and Kansas City. ACA is an organization made up of smaller clubs and professional networking groups.

Networking with executives

Executives’ Club of Chicago is a great way to stay abreast of business and Chicago issues, but also an opportunity to network with executives. These and the following types of group events are more expensive, but potentially worth it.

The Economic Club of Chicago is much more exclusive. It is a great way to meet other business leaders, and is a tool for professional growth.

There are a few social clubs around Chicago that have a member-base of executives and top professionals. The social opportunities come in various formats, depending on the club, and membership gets you access to the facilities and services. The Chicago Club and the University Club are examples.

Your city likely has similar clubs and executive-focused groups.

Networking by industry
Healthcare Industry Event
Changing Healthcare Delivery through Design, by Ted Eytan

Meeting others in your industry can be very beneficial to your business. If you are a business serving other businesses, networking with industries you serve can be a great way to get new business. The best way to find groups and events for any industry is to do a web search for your area.

Conferences and workshops

Conferences and workshops serve as informational events, while providing an opportunity to network with other business owners or prospects.

Eventbrite is one place to search through events in your area. Usually these are conferences and workshops, but can also be strictly networking-focused events. You can subscribe for free to get weekly emails of events that fit your interests.

Think of a type of conference or workshop you’d like to attend, and do a web search. You’ll find that some great events are free, while others have high ticket prices. Once I contacted a conference about volunteering, and got free entrance to the speakers, so you never know what you might find if you look!

There are endless other opportunities, which, believe it or not, are most easily discovered through networking!


Feature photo by Tech.Co