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Bring in the team

Jun 02, 20032 mins

Network with other professionals to expand your business

Scott Van Valkenburgh remembers the situation well.

Five years ago, as an executive with Intel, he was charged with putting up a new company Web site. After a failed attempt to work with a single agency, Van Valkenburgh turned to half a dozen independent contractors versed in graphic design, copy writing and programming – and launched the site under budget and ahead of schedule.

Van Valkenburgh has since turned that lesson into a new business. In April, he and six other independent consultants teamed up to launch Vantiis, a virtual organization that introduces clients to thousands of consultants, contractors and vendors who bid on projects ranging from Web site design and software development to marketing communications and strategic consulting.

“Our core strength is the ability to exchange opportunities without giving up what we have individually,’” says Van Valkenburgh, a strategic business consultant in Santa Rosa, Calif. “We’re all fiercely independent. That’s why we’re not working in corporate America with a salary.”

There was a time when small businesses ventured no further than their own areas of expertise. Yet, with the Internet as a link, independent contractors can create a network of professionals and team up to broaden the services they can offer their clients.

Creating a professional network is fairly simple. Seek out consultants or contractors from noncompeting fields. If you’re a marketing writer, for instance, team with a graphic designer or Web master. Be picky; choose partners who are savvy marketers and come with a contact list full of potential clients. To find candidates, explore existing relationships, ask trusted allies for references, attend trade group meetings and the like.

Van Valkenburgh says the premise for his professional networking group – as well as Vantiis – mirrors a concept from the 1993 book, “Networking with the Affluent and Their Advisors” by Thomas J. Stanley. A corporate accountant, for example, can steer a client’s Web site or computer database work to someone on the accountant’s network, with the expectation that the favor will be returned down the road.

“It’s about doing favors,” Van Valkenburgh says. “If you do someone a favor, they’ll bring it back.”