The Importance of Making Connections at Business Conferences

Here’s how an entrepreneur grows his business by networking at conferences

Charles Griggsby can often be spotted at minority business conferences. Whether it is a local Minority Business Development Agency event, a National Minority Supplier Development Council confab or the BLACK ENTERPRISE Entrepreneurs Conference where he’s a regular fixture, Griggsby understands that such gatherings lead to networking opportunities that can grow his business.

As CEO of Dallas-based Facility Interiors Inc. (No. 32 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE list with $90 million in sales), Griggsby has snared clients that rank among the world’s largest publicly traded corporations. Some like Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Enterprise Rent-A Car, Halliburton and Electronic Data Systems maintain a strong presence at minority business conferences. A contract furniture dealership, Facilities Interiors gets the call when organizations relocate, renovate or consolidate.

For Facility Interiors, those relationships often are forged at business conferences, says Bob Basic, the company’s chief financial officer.

“We find out who supports minority business enterprises and who’s looking for it. So, I’d say in that sense that we look for a warm cell more than we go cold calling,” he says. “Here in Texas it’s important for them to work with minority owned businesses. And when they see that they have a furniture supplier that they can work with and be confident in the results it allows them to open up those dollars to us.”

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You don’t necessarily meet the person at the company that does the facilities work, but they may introduce you to someone that works in their organization, points out Griggsby.

“Most of the companies that we do business with, we established a relationship at a conference. It’s where the networking began and the relationship began,” says Griggsby.

As an example, he points out meeting a regional facilities manager at Xerox at a Dallas/Fort Worth Minority Business Council roughly five years ago. That manager in turn recommended an office furniture manufacturer use Facility Interiors to supply the furniture when Xerox was moving offices.

It comes down to liking your product and service and communicating about it.

“I enjoy talking to people when you look at what they are thinking about doing and you look at the furniture, the way the furniture looks it gives them an image of their company. That’s what furniture does.”

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