Basalt group gains edge | AspenTimes.com

Basalt group gains edge

When tough economic times struck the Roaring Fork Valley in fall 2001, members of a midvalley group called Lynx had a jump on the competition when it came to hunting down business.

The organization had already been in place for six years ? spreading leads among colleagues through a highly effective networking group. Lynx wasn’t created in direct response to an economic downturn, but it sure didn’t hurt when it hit.

The majority of the 35 members meet virtually every Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. in the Basalt office of the Roaring Fork Land Co. The 90-minute meeting provides great opportunities for socializing and practicing communication skills. But the bread-and-butter is the exchange of tips, leads and referrals designed to spur business.

The group exchanges about 100 referrals per month, according to president Wendy Lucas, a Basalt real estate agent. Members are encouraged, if not outright expected, to pass along tips to other members of the club at each meeting.

They have cards they can fill out with a prospective business client’s name and contact information. Those cards were flying around the room at one recent meeting.

And virtually every member sung the praises of the referrals. The meeting even includes a brief period where “testimonials” are shared about how referrals lead to business.

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Shane Ortell, who runs a window coverings business, said he recently built a home in Silt and couldn’t hit the streets to look for new clients.

“All of my business basically came from this group for four months,” he said.

George Albert said the referrals from Lynx members were the key to his successful launching of his own plumbing company. “It really works,” he said.

Attorney Tim Whitsitt, one of the original members of the networking group, said it wasn’t legal for attorneys to advertise until recently, and it is still sort of taboo. A legal practice is “very much a personal contact type of business,” he said. Networking through Lynx has proved invaluable in cultivating new clients.

“That’s the way we get our business. It’s been great for us,” he said.

Because it is so important to make a good impression during brief professional encounters, the Lynx members constantly sharpen their communication skills. Every meeting opens with a 60-second presentation by every member, even the seven-year veterans like Lucas and Whitsitt.

The members also create a fair share of personal business for one another. There is a diverse collection of businesses represented. In addition to the lawyer, the realtor and the plumber, there is a florist, a jeweler, a nutritionist, a physical therapist and a naturopathic physician.

“This group has helped me with my wedding, my allergies, my back … ,” quipped Jodi Johnson, an advertising sales representative for a radio station.

Lynx tries to limit membership to one person per business category. When a prospective new member appears and overlaps into an existing member’s territory, they are encouraged to try to figure out a way they can divvy up leads in an equitable way. If that cannot happen, the newcomer is politely shown the door.

Lucas started the networking group in 1995 after she was invited into a Glenwood Springs chapter of an international networking organization. She figured she might as well start a group in Basalt, and the dues might as well benefit local causes rather than an international organization.

Members pay $240 annually, and they can be kicked out if they miss three consecutive meetings in a six-month period without extenuating circumstances. All funds go to a charitable cause.

Lynx has $5,000 it has earmarked for educational efforts in Basalt. The organization’s executive committee will decide this week which of the schools will benefit from the donation.

Lynx has members from Aspen to Silt, although most are from Basalt and Carbondale. They are always looking for new members. Call Wendy Lucas at 927-8080 for more information or attend the meeting at 7 a.m. on Tuesdays at the Roaring Fork Land Co. office on Midland Avenue in Basalt.

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