Local business leaders advise on networking: how, where and why to do it

Las Vegas is a city known for its 24-hour lifestyle, and members of the business community have learned that networking opportunities can pop up any time, anywhere.

Whether waiting at a stoplight, attending a fundraiser or catching a flight, new connections are always waiting to be made, local entrepreneurs and businesspeople say.

While the rise of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn has made networking as simple as clicking a few buttons, nothing beats face-to-face introductions, especially in Las Vegas’ tight-knit business community. With dozens of networking events and mixers held every month at restaurants, bars and clubs around town, there are plenty of chances – for those willing to put in the effort – to get out, be seen and exchange business cards.

VEGAS INC reached out to local businesspeople well-versed in the networking hustle to learn how, where and why they network. Here are some tips to make the most out of every networking opportunity:

How has business networking changed over the past 10 to 20 years?

“The lines between a ‘business network’ and ‘personal network’ have blurred. With Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other online social groups, we now know much more about a person than simply their work or personal persona. A ‘friend’ on Facebook may also be a peer in one’s professional environment. It’s not about business connections; it’s about quality, personal relationships.”

— Nikkole McCartin, director of the executive MBA program at UNLV’s Lee Business School

“Networking used to be done by attending conferences and obtaining business cards. I now find people to network with or discuss issues with by searching and finding sustainability or environmental groups using social media, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.”

— Carolyn Johnson, environmental supervisor, Las Vegas Valley Water District

How is networking in Las Vegas different than networking in other cities?

“Just like the city, you have to be ‘on’ 24 hours a day. You have to be networking all the time no matter where you are – the gym, grocery store, nail salon or car wash. Especially in my field, I can see a client, media member or colleague all in an hour while running an errand. I love that we are a big city but with a small-town community feel, and no matter where you are and what you are doing you can run into someone you know.”

— Terri Maruca, vice president, Kirvin Doak Communications

“I think Las Vegas is easier to network in. Ninety-six percent of people are from somewhere else and they have left their network behind, so they really need to network and are open to it. Additionally, the 4 percent who were born and raised here need to network with the new guard, or they will wither on the vine. Vegas is special in the make up and history of where everyone is from; it makes for a great environment for networking.”

— Joel Jarvis, producer, Kaercher Campbell and Associates Insurance Brokerage

“Las Vegas is different in that the guy parking cars can be connected to the guy who owns the building. You just don’t know. People change positions so much. I am always running into people at their new jobs. That’s why I always say, ‘Be careful whose toes you step on today because they may be connected to the (butt) you’re kissing tomorrow.’”

— Danny Vegas, founder, Danny Vegas Live, a business networking organization

What is the best networking advice you’ve received?

“Following up is more important than the initial contact. Unfortunately, it’s also the most overlooked part of networking. If you want to be remembered, you need to follow up with the people that you meet.”

— Robert Richardson, owner of Richardson Graphics and founder of NetworkinVegas.com

“It’s about the quality of the relationships you build, not the quantity of business cards you collect. Too many people attend networking events simply to collect as many cards as they can. They couldn’t care less about making a real connection with someone. These days, I often leave a networking event with only three or four cards, because I’ve spent the time making a deeper connection with people I already know rather than rushing around to grab cards.”

— Gina Bongiovi, attorney, Bongiovi Law Firm

“Don’t sit with your friends at networking events. The reason you are going there is to meet new people. Think about this: each person you meet has an entire list of people they know. By opening yourself up to new relationships, you are in essence opening the doors to meeting hundreds of people. We are all happy to make introductions, but if you hang out only with the people you already know, you will never meet new contacts or any of their contacts.”

— Robin Jay, president and founder, Las Vegas Convention Speakers Bureau

“Always carry business cards, especially in Las Vegas. Keep them with your ID. They are just as important to have at the ready. Also, never throw a business card away, as its guaranteed that will be the exact one you will need in the future.”

— Yvette Brown, owner, Cosmopolitan Connections Inc.

What is the worst networking advice you’ve received?

“Someone once told me not to tell people what my business is until the second meeting, because I should get to know them and only listen to them the first time I meet them. Nothing could be further from the truth. You may not want to go into the long version of what you do, but you should always tell everyone what your business is when you first meet them and find out what their business is before you set up a meeting.”

— Sonya Washington, cake artist, Castle of Cakes

“The worst networking I have observed is when promoters come up to me and pretend to have lost my card. I fell for it one time; I had no idea who the guy was. It is really annoying because all of a sudden you end up on text and email blasts. Be genuine and have a conversation if you actually want someone’s contact.”

— David Schnitzer, marketing and public relations, Surrender Nightclub and Encore Beach Club

“Go to two or three events/mixers/networking events a week so you’ll connect with lots of people. Networking is about genuine relationships, not the quantity of business cards in a Rolodex.”

— McCartin

What’s the most unusual place you’ve made a business contact?

“In the airport or aboard an airplane. The early morning Southwest flight to Reno is a great place to network over coffee and peanuts.”

— Lester Romero, Wells Fargo Bank assistant vice president and regional banking sales coach manager

“As a Realtor, I have a very disciplined Saturday schedule. For the past seven to eight years, I’ve been out every Saturday morning visiting garage sales in specific neighborhoods, handing out fliers on homes that I have for sale and looking for people ‘decluttering’ their homes to put them on the market.”

— Sam Wagmeister, Realtor, Prudential Americana Group Real Estate

“At a traffic light. I saw the side of a truck that said “Pumped” and I yelled out the window, “Hey, what do you do?” Turns out it was a pest control company, and I was looking to change companies. We exchanged numbers at the stoplight, and a business relationship was born. He is still my pest control guy.”

— Washington

What is your favorite place to network outside the office?

“I love attending events, such as non-profit fundraisers, sporting events and restaurant or show openings. Normally, these types of events are very relaxed and provide a casual atmosphere that are conducive for meeting new people or catching up with old friends.”

— Maruca

“The Brio in Town Center seems to be the place for business lunches. While lunching with a business contact, I usually run into a few other people I know who would benefit from an introduction. The Sammy’s on West Sahara is the same way.”

— Bongiovi

“The Bar and Bistro in downtown Las Vegas is the greatest because it is quiet with fabulous choices for a quick bite or drink.”

— Johnson

“I like Gordon Biersch, especially since it is close to my office in the Wells Fargo Tower.”

— Romero

“When I’m meeting with a new connection, I always try to go where they want to go. I want them to be comfortable, and that starts by being in an environment that puts them at ease. The conversation flows more freely and connections happen more authentically.”

— McCartin



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