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Seven principles for maximizing membership opportunities

By Henry DeVries

How much do you expect to get from the membership dues you pay to join a business club? One man got $200,000 and enough linkages to launch a business. He was seeking capital and a seasoned manager to propel his two-year-old company into production. He found both the money and the man he was looking for at a local venture capital club, a new breed of organization evolving throughout the country during the last few years. Not only do the clubs welcome venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, but also investors, corporate managers looking for entrepreneurial jobs, and service providers such as attorneys, business plan consultants and accountants seeking to expand their client base. In fact, an attorney garnered more than twenty clients through the contacts he has made at venture capital club meetings.

It pays to be a joiner. To advance your career or build clientele, it’s essential to take part in professional groups. Work toward becoming a leader of one or more clubs; do that by joining the right committee. Do some homework before volunteering. Determine the chairpersons and members of various committees, then join those comprised of people with whom you want to form linkages. Committees give you a chance to show off your stuff (not just swap business cards), plus an opportunity to get to know all of the members. Use your status as a group member to seek advice from key players inside and outside the organization. Here are some recommendations to accomplish all that and more.

  1. Strive to join groups in which you are one of the few representatives from your profession or corporate rank, rather than organizations comprised solely of professional colleagues.
  2. Let someone convince you to join the group. Use him or her as an ally to become a leader of the group, but avoid assignments that require maximum work with minimum reward.
  3. It is more important to attend the social hour than the meeting itself.
  4. Do your homework before joining a group. Begin by forming a linkage with the key staff person.
  5. Joining the membership committee is a smart way to gain the favorable attention of the group’s power structure.
  6. Seek out high-visibility assignments, such as ad-hoc committees that report to the board of directors.
  7. When you discover that an organization doesn’t exist in an area where you want to form alliances, take advantage of a golden opportunity and form such a group.

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