Networking at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce

Irv Spivak

In the late 1980’s I joined the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce to jumpstart my networking and relationship building skills. One of my principal  activities was participating in the twice-monthly networking groupsBusiness Alliance 1.

Though I’m not a ‘morning person’, I chose the Tuesday AM group, knowing I could commit to its schedule. The group, led by Chair, Irv Spivak. Today, Ordained Secular Minster; then, the undisputed San Francisco King of the burgeoning world of Voice Mail and Pay Telephone Booths (wow, 25 years had given us major change in communications).

Co-Chair was Suzanne Tucker. Then and Today, Owner of One Stop Graphics.

There were 30 of us in the group; only one to a profession. Every meeting, we went ’round the room, each giving a 30-second commercial about our business, honing our skills in a friendly and supportive environment. At each session, two members gave a 10-minute promotional talk about their business, focused on its key areas of focus, and what would make a good lead for their business

Suzanne Tuckr
Suzanne Tuckr

We ended the session by circling the room, one more time, each of us dispensing sizzling hot leads (a phrase coined by Irv). This was not a name and phone number, but someone we had talked to about a fellow member’s business. And, had received permission to share the prospect’s name, phone number, and specific needs with our Business Alliance cohort.

In our uber-busy world, it’s easy to let skills, such as these, fall by the wayside. I can’t…. because they were embedded into my subconscious by Business Alliance 1 at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce

After Shock

On October 17, 1989, people throughout the San Francisco Bay Area were shaken by the Loma Prieta Earthquake. I had just returned from a conference in Phoenix, not one hour before the quake.

On the phone with a client in Los Angeles, my third-story apartment started to shake. I lost the phone connection, dove under my desk, and heard glass breaking at the front of the apartment. After about 30 seconds, shaking stopped, and I surveyed the damage. Just a few broken glasses… no phone connection… no power; nothing dramatic. Phew!

Where was my wife, Chris? She normally worked at a bank branch in Foster City. That day, she was part of a seminar team,toward the South Bay, near Palo Alto, off of Highway 280. It was now only 5:15pm, I gathered myself, batteries, and candles. In a very long two hours, Chris magically appeared; bedraggled, but no worse for the wear.

She recounted getting her students outside, from the 2-3 story seminar building, out an open parking lot, away from breaking glass or worse, a building collapse. Fortunately, her drive home was still during daylight hours. Stretches of Highway 280 were squeezed by the quake, creating temporary skate board ramps in the middle of the road. She drove off-road, around these impassable sections, and as the days passed, the highway settled back to a level state.

Survivor Guilt

As the phones and electricity began to come back to life, I started to feel survivor guiltSan Francisco power was coming back on, slowly, section by section. We lived in Diamond Heights and could see a reflection of flames, in the sky, coming from homes and businesses burning, in the San Francisco Marina. Until almost 11pm, we could only see two buildings, with lights on, in the South side of the city… San Francisco City Hall and San Francisco General Hospital.

The Morning After

The tumultuous events of October 17th were not a dream. It was random chaos of all sorts: buildings damaged beyond repair, the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge in a state of partial collapse, the collapse of the Cypress structure (Highway 880), punctuated by a postponement of the Giants – A’s World Series.

And then came a voicemail message from Irv. We were in the dark ages of communications, or so it seems, now. With some good strategy, Irv had crafted and sent a message to everyone he knew in greater San Francisco…. clients, members of Business Alliance, friends, acquaintances. Essentially, he said just a couple of things in that voicemail message

  • If you are in distress… in need of a place to stay, move your business belongings, whatever… call him (Irv) back and let him know what your needs are and the best phone number to get in touch.
  • If you were in good shape… please let him know what you can offer: transportation, muscle, a place to sleep, some temporary office space, whatever might be helpful
  • And then… Irv would become the matchmaker, connecting needs with volunteers
Jonathan and Mojdeh Stone
Jonathan and Mojdeh Stone

Soon Irv connected Chris and me with another member San Francisco Chamber memberADBP (Another Dancing Bear Productions), owned by Jonathan and Mojdeh Stone. Their lives were disrupted in every way. The ADBP office was on the second floor of a brick building on Front Street. The building was condemned, immediately.

Somehow they managed to get 15 minutes dispensation to go into the building (using a cherry-picker) and retrieve their business records. ADBP sold corporate gifts, imprinted items, that sort of thing. They could get new manufacturer samples, easily, but managing to retrieve customer records was a huge win.

Their monthly parking space, near the office, was underneath the Embarcadero Freeway. The road was closed, pending inspection. Ultimately, it would be disassembled, making way for a boulevard. Jonathan and Mo’s Marina apartment had been red-tagged. Meaning… they couldn’t go into the apartment until the fire department had inspected the property and deemed it structurally sound.

Jonathan and Mo had a place to stay, with relatives. Within a couple of days, they had managed to make a connection for new (or at least temporary) office apace. Chris and I were able to help by using two of my vans, and the four of us transported the new furniture into their office.

A relationship sprouted out of a massive, tragic event. Everyone knew someone, affected. Just being able to help out, even a little, was a healing experience. Making lifelong friends was completely unexpected and the ultimate bonus.

Andy Ebon



PS: Next Monday evening, August 25th, I will be speaking at a Networking Event as part of the WeddingWire Education Team at The City Club of San Francisco, walking distance from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the second generation of ADBP offices.

Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Meal Companion Networking: Who and Why

Woman looking to her social network  - isolated over a white background

The art of face-to-face networking is not a random event. That is particularly true of a lunch or meal function. In most cases, you will be seated between two people.

At any meal event, you have many choices:

  1. Sit with random people you don’t know.
  2. Sit with friends and/or people you do know.
  3. Choose to sit with one or two people you would like to know more about.
  4. Sit down at an empty table, and wait to see who surrounds you.

There are certainly other options, but I recommend #3.  The most effective way to expand your circles is to invite one or two specific people to sit with you.

An ideal strategy is to find out, in advance, who has RSVP’d for the event. Even if an RSVP list is not available to you, in advance, be the first one to arrive and review the meeting badges, laid out on the registration table.

Review them, and pre-select 4-5 people who would be food for you to know… or become more familiar with. Think about who and why those people may be important as part of your circle of business contacts. Connect with them during cocktails, chat a bit, and ask 1 or 2 to join you for the meal. If not already committed, it’s likely they’ll be flattered, and join you.

Use the time and opportunity to ask questions, and learn about your meal companion.

And then follow-up. Do that, consistently, and your contacts will grow.

Andy Ebon - signature



Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Stand out in a crowd, without dressing like Lady Gaga

Stand Out
Lady Gaga

Networking situations have interesting dynamics. What makes people gravitate toward others? Why do certain individuals stand out and others become invisible?

Last night, Singer/SongWriter/Performance Artist, Lady Gaga, appeared at the Pearl Showroom, in the Palms, Las Vegas. This morning, there was a positive review in the paper. No review of Lady Gaga would be written without an arduous discussion of her wardrobe (costuming). Her ever-changing glam fashion facade recalls breakthrough presences of performers such as Madonna and David Bowie.

Eyes can be on you, without your having to be ostentatious. Here are two examples.

DJ Marcello Pedalino is the first. I first met Marcello  a number of years ago at a DJ Conference. He  stood was he was impeccably dressed. Suit and tie, sharply groomed, neat as a pin.

stand out
DJ Marcello Pedalino

In a gather of mobile DJ’s, who all to often sported T-shirts and jeans, accessorized by expanding waistlines, Marcello always stands out. If you didn’t know him, you would think, “I wonder who HE is. He must be somebody important.”

Over the long term, this has created what I term The Marcello Effect. Year by year, I see more and more mobile DJ’s decked out in suit and tie, even when it might not be absolutely necessary. Hopefully, they are continuing that fashion statement in their local networking opportunities, not just at national DJ conference, because it looks good.

Darcy Anderson, Fashion Director, JC Penney: Darcy was a client, when my first DJ company, Music Man, provided music for many fashion shows in the San Francisco Bay Area.

stand outDarcy was a stylish dresser, but what stood out was her singular fashion accessory, a bumblebee pin. Actually what stood out was not the pin, itself, but where she wore it. Darcy always wore it on the right shoulder, on the back of her jacket.

Invariably, people would see the pin from a distance, and come up to her to let her know she had ‘something on her shoulder’ only to see it was not a mistake, but a fashion accessory.

This staple of Darcy’s wardrobe made her distinctly memorable. Here I am, blogging about it thirty years later.

What are you doing to make yourself distinct and memorable? In this case, not your company, YOU. When you walk into a room of 125 people, many of whom haven’t met you, is there anything you’re doing by your presence or actions that makes you memorable?

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Start networking, yesterday!!

start networkingMy friends who work at wedding venues are losing jobs at an alarming rate. Their job tenure appears to have no relation to their departure.

In some cases the person with the most experience (and highest paycheck) is let go in a ‘cost-cutting move.’ In other situations, a job is eliminated, due lack of event activity, and one or more people absorb the work until ‘business picks up.’ In yet other cases, business close down altogether.

Here’s the thing: If you slave away as an event or catering manager for a wedding venue, it’s easy to never leave the premises. Bad idea.

It’s always important to attend industry networking events at other properties. There are two good reasons. First, see what cool things other venues are doing. Second, meet other industry people and develop personal relationships.

Today’s competitor may be your next employer, should you get laid off. Also, vendors do business in many places. They could be the source of your next job opening.

Vendors like to brag about their relationships with ‘big name businesses.’ They name drop an event at the Four Seasons or the Ritz Carlton (went out of business at Lake Las Vegas – sold to Ravella Hotel). 

The fact is, too often, vendors don’t have a relationship with ‘the venue,’ they have a relationship with ‘one person at the venue.’

So the question becomes: If that venue contact is transferred or laid off, how solid is the relationship, in real terms?

Relationship building means more than attending industry organization meetings. It means becoming familiar with everyone in a department. It means having friendly relationships with competitors.

There is nothing more sad than seeing a member of organization who has been MIA for a year, suddenly show up after he or she has been laid off. It’s a little late, at that point.

Networking should not be situational or calendar-based. It should be part of everyone’s personal and business marketing plan.

The value of real interpersonal business relationships is priceless.

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog