Don’t get Hung Hanging Out

 Women in business, small business, business development, business travel, federal government contracting




Years ago, a mentor told me that to be successful in business you have to be willing to simply hang out with folks.  You really do!

I started making deals once I started hanging out at:

  • prebid meetings
  • small business conferences
  • chamber meetings

… and just plain old-fashioned asking for face to face appointments and scheduling phone chats.

However, what start-up business owners are not told is to watch your expenses.

Trade dues, chamber memberships, parking and lunches can get expensive.   One year I spent $10,000 in trade dues and membership directory ads.

I recently talked to a small business specialist in a federal government agency.  She told me to watch out for their events, attend, and get to know them better.  She said, “Clo, you need to get in their face”.  But, she added that I need to be careful about the pricey registration fees and travel costs.  She said, “if you make the investment, don’t dare go and come empty handed”.  The truth is that most of the time, you leave these events empty handed.

Recently, another federal agency small business representative asked me to visit his office in Maryland.  He added that I really needed to invest in an office space there too.  I told him I would only make the investment if there was a real business opportunity available for me so that I could recoup the expenses.  Making these business development investments is a risky catch-22.  Be careful not to get hung out to dry!

I wish the corporate and government small business advocates would put themselves in our shoes.  To make business development more affordable for start-ups, they need to:

  •  use live virtual chats for face to face meetings (e.g. using Skype);
  • have large business sponsors pay for events so that our registration is free; and
  • have large business sponsors donate toward making travel grants available to us.

I think most small business advocates are clueless about what it takes to build a business from the ground up because they have never done it.  They get their pay check every two weeks and they do not really care about learning what they really need to advocate for.  They can start by advocating for a way to get us where we need to be.

Nell Merlino and her Count Me In program staff were the first real small business advocates I met along the way.  In 2007, Nell paid for my flight and hotel to an event in Charlotte NC.  The event was sponsored by large businesses like Dell, Office Depot and Sam’s Club.   It felt great to get that level of support.  Small businesses need more support like this across the board – -from celebrities and large corporations!

The Count Me In program is having an Urban Rebound-North Carolina Conference and Competition for Women in December.  It’s funded by a grant from the Sam’s Club Giving Program.  Learn more at countmein dot org backslash URNC.

by Clovia Hamilton, President

Lemongrass Consulting



Written by

Clovia Hamilton is an entrepreneur with 30 years of professional work experience as an adjunct biz law & ethics professor, university technology transfer specialist, engineer and planner. Clovia is a licensed patent attorney and completed an Executive MBA at Wesleyan College. Her next pursuit is a Phd in Mangt and she supports The Phd Project, American Association of University Women (AAUW), and Women in Public Policy (WIPP)! Clovia has trained hundreds of business owners since 1999 when she began to assist the Univ of IL in Champaign with faculty high tech start ups. She has also assisted hundreds of small biz owners by training them on how to get government grants and contracts.

8 Comments to “Don’t get Hung Hanging Out”

  1. […] I recently talked to a small business specialist in a federal government agency.  Read more… […]

  2. AWESOME article Clovia – I love that you are so clear on what we small business owners really need – perhaps you can be the conduit through which that message gets communicated to the advocates – I will check out the link you posted too! Thank you for your presence in the world and for doing your great work!
    Amethyst Wyldfyre would like you to also read…Speak Sell Serve & Succeed in Your PJs! Day 30My Profile

  3. Darlena says:

    I really agree with this article. As a small business owner, I have used up a lot of resources attending events as well as speaking with Small Business Liaisons. It would be nice of them to incorporate cost effective ways of being more accessible to Small Business Owners.

  4. Clovia,

    You are to be commended for this GREAT article. As a previous SBA 8a business owner, I know first hand the painful price and expense that was paid making frequent trips to various Federal Agencies for face-to-face meetings–only to return home empty handed. Your recommendations should be posted on a banner for all small business.

    Barbara Atkins
    Penna Group, LLC

  5. Archie Cardwell Jr. says:

    As a former deputy associate director (retired) for small business for the Dept. of the Army I agree with the points you make in your article. I advised small business owners to seriously consider their budgets when contemplating joining a chamber of commerce or professional organization. The membership fees in my opinion are too high and the return on investment is too low to justify spending that kind of money. Instead I suggest that you spend some time at the beginning of every month scanning the events calendar of these organizations to see if there are any topics of interest or guest speakers that can help you grow your business. If there are then spend the $25-$30 to attend but “leave with more than you came there with.”

    • Clovia says:

      Great to hear from you Archie! You are absolutely right! The membership fees; registrations; and other expenses are too high… I have learned the hard way, to get work hard for the return on the investment (ROI)!

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