Though Alan Feuerman admits he’s not the best at planning, the founder and president of South Florida Business Connections organizes networking events for South Florida professionals to meet and get to know one another.
Nearly 10 years ago, working as a life insurance agent, Feuerman struggled to find a place in local chambers of commerce, because he was in a competitive field. He chose to begin his own referral group with the support of his wife, remaining a life insurance agent until the economy began to tank in 2008. Later that year, he chose to leave the industry for good and began running South Florida Business Connections full time in 2009. Today, the organization boasts more than 5,000 subscribers to emails about local networking events that are open to nonmembers. Member businesses—there are more than 100—meet regularly in referral groups and also are added to the business directory on the website.
“It was a very personalized way of marketing your services, and people got to know each other and trust one another and refer business to one another,” Feuerman says. “We started in different areas and it just continued to grow and grow.”
The events include after-hour mixers, breakfast networking, luncheon referral groups that meet at local restaurants, marketing workshops, speed networking, fundraisers for nonprofit organizations and more. (One event was a grand-opening mixer for the opening of Silverspot Cinema at Promenade at Coconut Creek.) Members often speak at events to promote their services, and even nonmembers can attend an event for a fee.
Feuerman is especially keen on helping seniors and works with organizations such as the Broward Coalition on Aging and the Elder Services Resource Network through South Florida Business Connections, which has three referral groups that specialize in senior services.
“We try to focus on win-wins for everybody,” Feuerman says. “We have a lot of companies that help us because we’re small.”
A self-proclaimed “day-by-day” man, Feuerman admits it can be daunting to organize meetings and events for Fort Lauderdale, Weston, Hollywood, Coconut Creek, Boca Raton and Delray Beach. However, working with others and helping business owners makes it worthwhile.
“What I like most is meeting each person, hearing their story, finding out all about them and seeing how we can assist and help them to grow,” Feuerman says. “I’m dedicated to helping people.”
For information on how to join the free email list or become a member, call Feuerman at 561.674.4300 or visit sflbusinessconnections.com.
Feuerman shares his top 10 networking tips.
- Properly RSVP for a networking event and arrive on time. Arrive early and, if possible, stay late. Some of your best connections are made during these times.
- Set your intention ahead of time. Ask yourself if you are there to publicize, develop relationships or tell people about a service.
- Know and have your 60-second commercial polished so it sounds natural. Focus on the benefits you provide, such as saving money or solving problems.
- Dress professionally. You only have one chance to make a first impression.
- Bring plenty of business cards.
- Circulate, mix and mingle. Don’t spend the whole time talking to only two or three people. Try to limit yourself to no more than 10 minutes with one person.
- Don’t hard-sell. Inform people about your products and services, but don’t try to sell to them. Find common interests, both business and personal, and build a friendship.
- Build relationships. Actively listen to people. Find out their story. Don’t just talk about business.
- Create good business karma. Donate a raffle prize or sponsor an event. Connect people looking for work with potential employers.
- Follow up, follow up, follow up. Remember it can take 12 to 18 “touches” or more to obtain a new client.