Launching a business or keeping one going in these dark economic times takes all your energy. But it's essential to occasionally stop and attend that meeting at the local Chamber of Commerce or hit an association's social hour for a couple of hours. As important as it is to collect names and emails of customers for that marketing campaign, building up your business network is a vital part of any company strategy."People associate you with the business -- it's part of the branding process," says
You don't want to be the person friends and acquaintances flee from when they see you. "You are trying to make friends for your business," adds Lehman.
Business Networking International. When Marcus started her stationary company, her work hours were between 9 p.m. and midnight, when her three kids were in bed. Networking in person was out of the question. So she tapped into the free Small Business Online Community, powered by Bank of America ( BAC). "Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, I had access to the advice of fellow small business owners as well as the site's expert contributors," says Marcus, who branched out into stylish flip-flops earlier this year. Since connecting with the site, she's learned how to run a successful trade show booth and deal with human resource issues.