By Barbara Fowler
What if you are in the right business but in the wrong location??
Two years ago, I took an early retirement package from Prudential and looked around for a new career opportunity. I had been working for 30 years and had loved it. I had moved around a fair amount, been given the opportunity to be the Chief Marketing Officer in both Europe and South America and had spent the prior four years, based in Newark, New Jersey, in charge of International Field Training.
When I left Prudential, I was interested in finding a company that could utilize my marketing expertise and help me continue to develop my skills. I soon found Chief Outsiders, a company that specializes in providing part-time and fractional CMO services to mid-size companies and I got to work.
It was an entirely different experience, working with a small start-up, developing my own clients and investing my own money. I loved it, except that I didn’t want to live in New Jersey the rest of my life. I had nothing against the people and the opportunities there but the weather, the taxes and the congestion made me long for another location.
What to do?
I remembered a letter someone once wrote to Ann Landers. I know that dates me but the gist of the letter was a woman, asking if it was worth it to go back to college and complete her degree. She shared with Ann that it would mean less time for her family, her housework and her friends. It would take three or so years to complete. Would it be worth it?
Ann responded by writing two letters, dated three years in the future. In one, the woman was three years older and asking the same questions. Should she go back to school? Would it be worth it?
In the other, the woman wrote that the last three years had been tough, she had lost sleep and had to ask her husband and family for more support. But she had completed her degree and she was so happy. Her kids were so proud. I think it was an analogy to my situation. I knew it would be harder to start in a new location, to begin again.
After much reflection on this, I decided to go for it, to start-over, in a location of my choice, a location that I wanted to remain in for many years to come. After looking at a couple of places, my husband and I decided on the Charleston, South Carolina area. But I knew no one. I had no contacts, no business possibilities. Many of you have probably been in this situation or contemplated it so I would like to share some tips.
These are my five best ones:
- Send a note to all of your Linkedin contacts, telling them about your move. Request help in getting new contacts in the new location. You will be amazed at who responds. Some people who you are extremely close to who you know have contacts don’t respond at all while others who you can’t entirely remember give you great contacts. Don’t judge anyone, just appreciate those who reached out and remember this in the future. Pay it forward.
- Join local Linkedin Groups. For example, in this area, there are several local Linkedin groups like Charleston, South Carolina Professionals and The LowCountry Business Network. Reach out to them to ask for advice and recommendations. Remember to give as well as receive. Offer some of your advice and services.
- Do a search of your target market in the local area. My target is CMOs of mid-sized companies so you can check out these on Linkedin and seek them out. You can’t get everyone’s name on Linkedin unless you have connections in common but if they are in one of your Linkedin groups, (see above) you can reach out and ask to connect. Again, ask for advice and recommendations, donÂt ask for business.
- Look for Alumni from your University. I happen to have gone to a couple of universities: Wittenberg, Wake Forest and NYU and I looked up local graduates and reached out. Many responded and were willing to meet.
- Look at the organizations you are currently in. Determine if they have a chapter in the new location. If so, reach out. If not, see if one is needed and think about starting it. I belonged to several groups in New Jersey: ACG (Association for Corporate Growth), MENG (Marketing Executives Networking Group), and Vistage (an organization designed to help CEOs of mid-size companies grow their businesses). There wasn’t a local ACG or MENG chapter, but Vistage has been especially helpful in getting me started here. The local Vistage chair, Dan Wertenberg, asked me to join his group and has given me a lot of valuable counsel.
- Look at the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary. Lions Club and groups like that. Do members of your target market belong? If so, join and become active. If not, look for other groups where your target market is active. These could be church groups, volunteer groups, neighborhood groups. Do not join the group unless you are interested. No one wants to meet someone who has only joined a group like this to get business. But when you have interests in common, you can make good friends and connections over time.
Events and Publications:
- Subscribe to the local business journal and local newspapers. Check their websites for events and activities. Oftentimes people make the mistake of going to events for people just like them and hoping for business. Go to different events targeted for your potential clients. I went to Knoxville and attended Social Slam and met Rosemary O’Neill, who sat down with me, shared her experiences and asked me to write a blog post on the topic. Charleston has a harbor and so had a world trade event recently. There was a technology event last weekend. Go, check out the booths, see if you can volunteer, be there, meet people.
- When you read the periodicals, check for people you want to meet. Keep a list of them and ask others you meet if they can introduce you. For example, if one of your target markets is professional service companies and you are meeting a lawyer, have a list of several accountants, lawyers and other professionals. When you meet your lawyer, share the list, tell him or her you are planning to contact them and ask who they might be able to introduce you to-then ask for people similar who aren’t on your list yet.
People I Met During Move:
- You meet a lot of people when you move, including mortgage brokers, real estate agents, real estate repair people, home inspectors etc. make sure everyone knows what business you are in. My real estate agent, Mary Carson helped. My mortgage broker, Lorcan Lucey added his support. The man renovating our house, Phil Bennett, gave his advice. Also, ask them for advice on who is a good professional for services you need-like a new furniture store, home decorator, hair salon, Veterinarian and dog sitter. When you get recommendations from them, they are more apt to help you.
Has it all been successful? Was it worth it? These are two different questions. Right now, success is not guaranteed. This is a work in progress. I am meeting people and working hard. But there are no results yet. Was it worth it? My husband and I love our new community in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, The weather has been great. The people are special.
I took a risk. Sometimes we are not in the position to take these kinds of risks. Sometimes we have to stay where we are, we donÂt have the option or money to change locations. However, if you do find yourself in the right business, but the wrong location, I urge you to at least examine the possibilities. Even if you cannot afford to move right away, once you decide on the plan, you can do many of the things mentioned above to prepare you for the future. And if you choose Charleston and need some help, reach out to me.
Thank you, Barbara!
It’s been such a pleasure welcoming you to the Lowcountry!