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Meeting the right people – the decision-makers

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Sometimes all you need in life is one break.

If you’re a small business owner in the Greater Lehigh Valley, you don’t think you get as many as you should.

A total of 71 percent of the more than 15,000 businesses have nine or fewer employees. About half of them have five or fewer employees and make up about 35 percent of the total business community. And the majority of them need something people rarely discuss directly in public, but know intuitively that without they’re going nowhere fast.

They need to meet the right people.

Anyone can network and any business can have a website and social media – but what are you really getting out of it?

It’s a tool that has to be managed and managed well. For most small businesses, sadly, they are like the proverbial tree that falls in the woods with no one around to hear it.

To put it bluntly a small business needs to have an impact with the decision-makers who can increase their bottom line.

One way to have such an impact is to encourage our larger businesses and organizations to get to know what products and services can be obtained locally, from a small business. Unfortunately, it is a challenge for small-business owners to be able to knock on those doors, as it takes a lot of research and persistence to find the right person to begin having a conversation.

The good news is that our small-business community has remained steady even through the great recession of 2008. That noted, the bad news is our small-business community has remained steady for at least the past 10 to 12 years, before and after the great recession.

If the Lehigh Valley needs to secure its business base, one of the best places to start is with our existing small businesses and help them find ways to grow. Although they may not provide the high-paying executive positions, they will provide sustainable employment.

If just our small businesses with five or fewer employees were able to grow their employee base by 10 percent, we would conceivably have 1,864 potential employment opportunities.

Knowing this growth potential, for more than a year 12 area organizations that work with and support businesses in our community have joined together to plan a Valley-wide reverse trade show.

Titled Lehigh Valley Meet the Buyers Expo, this event Oct. 22 in Bethlehem encourages our larger business entities (private, government and municipal agencies) to meet our small businesses who can potentially provide local sourcing opportunities. The goal is to have 50 buyers available to meet with some of the more than 300 small businesses who will be attending the event.

Everyone gets something out of this event. Small businesses learn the types of products and services the larger businesses or agencies may be seeking and it gives them the opportunity to pitch their business to the right buyer or buyers at one event. Larger businesses are able to meet, question and interact with smaller, local businesses that could potentially provide services and products that they were not aware of – and on a competitive value level.

For the Greater Lehigh Valley community, the expo provides an opportunity to strengthen our entire business community. History has shown us that the majority of increased employment effort will occur from existing business.

It’s true that similar events have occurred in the past, but none included the variety of public and private buyers that this expo is providing or the major collaboration of business-supporting agencies.

This is a cut above.

Following the expo, there is a networking lunch with Judy Wicks, author, speaker and entrepreneur of sustainable business philosophy (White Dog Café, Philadelphia) for both buyers and expo attendees. Registration is separate for this event.

If you own a small business (or know of someone who does own), the website www.lvmeetthebuyers.com provides the details about the expo and includes three online webinars from the pre-expo workshop series (federal government procurement, Pennsylvania Costars cooperative purchasing program and preparing for the expo), information on the buyers that are attending (types of products and services that they are interested in) and the online registration form.

Or, if you represent a larger business entity that would like to participate as a buyer, you can contact the expo committee through the website as well.

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Stacy Wescoe

Stacy Wescoe

Writer and online editor Stacy Wescoe has her finger on the pulse of the business community in the Greater Lehigh Valley and keeps you up-to-date with technology and trends, plus what coworkers and competitors are talking about around the water cooler — and on social media. She can be reached at stacyw@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4104. Follow her on Twitter at @morestacy and on Facebook. Circle Stacy Wescoe on .

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