LeTip leads a new breed of networking groups

  • By Christina Harper Special to The SCBJ
  • Thursday, August 28, 2008 4:47pm

New business owners just starting out want to network with others in their area and learn who can help them get off to a good start.

Established businesses are always looking for new customers and more work. Owners often join area Chambers of Commerce to mix and mingle and keep themselves apprised of what businesses are doing in their community.

Now many Snohomish County business owners, new and established, are joining a variety of categorized business groups to promote each others’ enterprises. One of the largest of these groups is LeTip International, a business-to-business networking organization where chapters meet weekly for an hour or two, over lunch or breakfast, and give each other pre-qualified referrals or tips for potential clients.

Cheryl Balle heard about The Marysville Morning LeTip Chapter more than 15 months ago. She and her husband, David, own Photo and Sound Saving in Stanwood, a company that transfers photographs, video tapes, slides and other visuals and recordings to CDs, DVDs, or portable hard drives.

“I thought it was a lot of effort to go down there once a week,” Balle said, but decided to visit the chapter at one of its from 7 to 8:30 a.m. gatherings each Thursday at Bob’s Burger and Brew in Marysville. She liked the experience but still wondered about the logistics and if it would be work. When she visited again, she soon realized LeTips could be a group worth making an effort for because each member is part of everyone’s advertising force.

“I was still cautious but I joined,” Balle said. “It’s another form of advertising. If it doesn’t work, I’ll move on.”

It wasn’t long before the Marysville Morning LeTip members were helping Balle’s business, now in its fifth year, beyond what she could have wished for. Now, she gets up at 4:45 a.m. to make the meetings, has become a volunteer for the extended board of directors and recently became the group’s publicity chair.

LeTip meetings are structured to make use of the time members are together. Chosen business owners get to make presentations and answer questions about their business. Members must bring at least four tips a month to their group. These are handed out at chapter meetings.

Balle and others have full confidence in the tips they are giving to people since they know each business and often use their services themselves.

“They are going to want to do an exceptional job,” Balle said. “They want to share their business as well as yours.”

LeTip International was established in 1978 and has more than 500 chapters throughout the United States and Canada. There are 54 chapters in Washington State, 15 of those in Snohomish County.

Potential LeTip members can expect a visit from board members at their work site. A vote is then taken on whether or not that person can join. LeTip invests in training its members on how to generate more business or how to present a 30-second commercial for their businesses, something that members can do at a chapter meeting.

LeTip members must be the only person in their profession in their group. If a mortgage broker wants to join a chapter and there is already a mortgage broker there, then members will help that person to find another chapter.

Renae James, publisher of Hometown Values Coupon Magazine in Mukilteo, North and South Everett, Marysville, Smokey Point, Arlington, and Stanwood, is the Marysville Morning LeTip president.

She heard about the group from an acquaintance at the Marysville-Tulalip Chamber of Commerce almost four years ago. As a new business, James didn’t hesitate to join the group and was its seventh member. She started meeting a lot of business owners.

“My business is all about business relationships and growing business,” James said. “That’s what LeTip is about.”

The Marysville Morning Chapter has just voted in its 26th member. They have three more applications in hand for other businesses ready to join. Membership for LeTip is $390 a year, which members see as worthwhile for promoting their products and services.

For networking, James says LeTip is a “10”. “It’s awesome,” she said.

James and others can see how networking is affecting their businesses when it comes to dollar amounts. James has received about $12,000 of business this year thanks to her fellow members in the LeTips group.

As well as having lots of fun at meetings, chapters can also host food drives and other events to help out in their communities.

The Marysville Morning chapter just donated 215 pounds of food and $263 to the Marysville Food Bank in July. The donations were collected at a chapter mixer and came from local businesses attending the event.

“Most people walk away (from the meetings) with the warm fuzzies,” James said. “And, they know it’s a group that’s serious about growing our businesses.”

For more information about the networking group, visit the Internet at www.letip.com or www.marysvillemorningletip.com.

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