Relocating? 3 Ways to fast-track your networking in your new home

In 2002, I moved my home and my business from a town just south of Boston, where I’d been located since I started my company in 1989, to a small rural town near Springfield, MA. For all intents and purposes, I might as well have moved out of state.

A few days after I settled into my new home, I sent an e-mail to a huge number of people on my address list, asking who they knew in Western MA. Despite being just a 90-minute drive on the Pike from downtown Boston, I found that almost nobody in my fairly extensive network knew anyone who could be helpful to me in my new home in the Pioneer Valley.

One friend did have a contact in the Business School at UMass-Amherst, which is in the town next door, but the year I moved, the university was in the throes of bad budget cuts so the marketing person I eventually met with had zero dollars to spend on freelance writers. But that was the extent of the contacts my friends/clients/colleagues had. I am not sure I why I was so surprised; after all, I did not know any one here either! But for some reason I had just assumed others did. Talk about the great divide; you drive across I-495 from Eastern Massachusetts into Central and Western MA and it’s like another country.

While I was still working with some of my Boston-area clients (and still do to this day), I wanted to build up a client roster closer to hand. And so I did what everyone does who moves their business; I started networking, networking, and networking. And then I networked some more. Here are some lessons I learned along the way about how to restart your business in a new location:

•  Check out the Chamber and I mean really check it out: My first step was to research the local Chambers of Commerce. Luckily, the Northampton Chamber of Commerce had its annual open house about three weeks after I moved. I went and by the end of the evening, I was writing a check for membership. I found people there to be wonderfully welcoming. Eventually, the Chamber even became my client, and I obtained several other clients through my listing in the Membership Directory.

There are, of course, a number of other chambers in the region that I could have joined. But I did my homework and found the one that is, I think, most welcoming to self-employed people like me. I know from past experience that all chambers are not created equal; some cater to corporate members and, often, self-employed people or small business owners are an after-thought. So my advice is to try out a meeting or two to see if you’ll be made to feel welcome.

•  Don’t just join; volunteer: At only my second Chamber Arrive @5, I was recruited to join the Membership Committee, which opened up a ton of useful connections. Serving on the committee gave me visibility and allowed me to build connections much faster than if I had just attended the networking events. By volunteering, I got to expose my PR and communications skills to a handful of other volunteers who knew the region well and were very willing to help a newcomer settle in. Volunteering is like putting your networking efforts on the fast track.

•  Let people know you’ve arrived every way you can. Shortly after I moved, I sent out a short press release announcing that a ghostwriter had moved into town. The local weekly paper picked it up and, lo and behold, I soon had a phone call from someone who needed my services! So be sure to use all means at your fingertips, including an old-fashioned press release, to let people know that you’re establishing a new business in town.

And, of course, now that social media is all the rage, you can use Facebook and Twitter to let people know of your new location. Use search.twitter.com to see what tweeters are talking about the town or region you’ve moved to and follow those people. Some of them will follow you back and this will help you start to form connections.

Find out if Tweet-ups are held in your area; these are live events where tweeters get together to network. And don’t forget to check out LinkedIn for groups of business people in your new home. Join the group and post an introduction for yourself. I made my move in the days before Twitter and LinkedIn groups, but you can be sure I would be using them like crazy if I moved again today.

Starting over again in a new place can be challenging. It took me a good two years before my business income was back to where it had been before my move. But I have never regretted the move and am extremely happy that now I have friends/colleagues/clients in both Greater Boston and in the Pioneer Valley!

2 comments

  1. Liz Provo says:

    Excellent message, Jeanne. As a member of the Greater Easthampton Chamber, I also felt that it was a great fit for small businesses. In addition to your suggestions I might add to join a local professional organization. I do a lot of work with builders, so I chose the Western Mass Homebuilders Association and MassReia, a real estate investor's association.

    One other thing that I found to be very helpful in establishing my business in Western Mass was to volunteer, not only in the chamber, but for local community events. You'd be amazed that the different people you can meet outside the normal business oriented networking events.

    Glad to have your talent here in the Pioneer Valley and I enjoy following you on Twitter!

  2. Jeanne Yocum says:

    Liz, I wish I had thought to add your suggestion re: volunteering for community organizations. I actually did that as well when I arrived and it made me feel a part of the community very quickly.

    Hope to see you at a Tweet-up soon!

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