By BETH ALTENA
A business luncheon at the SCORE on Northland Drive offered a chance to discuss the value of networking and build business relationships. Attendance represents the diverse membership of the Rockford Chamber of Commerce and included nearly 60 people representing a wide variety of companies.
The format included networking at two different tables at the outdoor seating at the SCORE, and began with asking attendees to describe why they believe the Rockford Chamber is of value to their business. Words such as “localocity” offered by attorney Jason Ropp generally pointed out the importance of being involved in the community.
Rick Walker from SCORE business counseling described the organization’s background. SCORE stands for Service Corps of Retired Executives, which is a nonprofit group of 13,000 volunteers. The goal of the organization is to help businesses thrive and improve. Walker said small business is the backbone of this country and provide the majority of jobs.
Entrepreneurship is also one of our countries strengths, but he noted owning and running a business is not without risk. In the first year statistically 85 percent of all businesses fail. In the second year 70 percent fail. In the third year 62 percent fail and even after surviving for ten years, the failure rate is still at 35 percent annually. He said running a business is an enormous amount of pressure and wondered how many in attendance are not able to pay themselves what they believe they are worth to their own company.
SCORE is in existence to offer free advice from those volunteers who have experience in the business world and may be able to point out areas to improve. He said it is not uncommon for business owners to be so busy running their company that they may not realize solutions to problems that they face. He said in 2012 nationwide SCORE helped 11,000 small businesses, potentially saving an estimated 17,629 jobs. He said there is no cost for the counseling and no limit to how many times a company can come to SCORE for help.
Rockford Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jeanne Gregory spoke about the goals of the Chamber. She talked about relationship building, community involvement, personal relationships between business people and creating business. She called networking “hugely important” and said the Chamber strives to help members build their business and in personal growth.
Annually the Chamber offers a State of the Community event where members hear from representatives from Rockford Public Schools, the City of Rockford, from State Representatives and members of the State Senate.
“We want your business to grow, that is the heart of this community,” she stated. Gregory said she was astonished at the figures stated by Walker about business failure, that after the first year the failure rate continued to be high.
The Chamber, doing its part to help the business community beat those odds, offers classes on such topics as marketing, social media, how to be politically involved. The organization operates with a staff of two full time people and one part time person. “We are a volunteer based organization or we couldn’t do what we do,” Gregory stated. Gregory reminded members to watch for the quarterly Rogue Review published by the Squire as a source for information about fellow Chamber members.
The every other month luncheon is open to Chamber members and future members and rotates through different venues throughout the community. The cost is always minimal, the food is always exceptional, and the opportunity to grow your business is priceless.