“The reason I am where I am with my business is because of business networking. One-hundred percent of my business comes through networking. I don’t do cold-calling,” said Kathleen Lapekas, a local human resources consultant.
Before Lapekas began her business three years ago, she worked up the ranks as a human resource manager for Fortune 100 companies including Slim-Fast Foods, Eaton Corp. and Coca-Cola. When she was hired as the human resources manager by SRG Global Inc. in 2005, she moved to the Evansville area. Then, in 2009, she moved to Texas to work as the human resources manager for a startup plant and planned to move her family to Texas at the end of the school year. However, her son became sick, and she chose to return to Evansville because the local community was a better fit for her family.
She formed a new company, Action H.R. Consulting, which was affiliated with Action Staffing. With her 18-year background in human resource management, Lapekas worked to help small businesses with their human resource issues, in effect working as a human resource manager for hire.
Lapekas realized that as a local entrepreneur who was relatively new to the Evansville area, she would need to develop a strong business network. She joined the Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Indiana and regularly participates in its Friday CNN (Chamber Networking and News). Members meet on Friday morning for “speed networking,” where participants sit with a table of seven other people. Each person makes a two-minute introduction. When everyone in the group has been introduced, participants switch tables to meet seven new people.
“The Chamber taught me to get out of my shell and feel more comfortable meeting new people,” Lapekas said.
At one of her first Chamber CNN meetings, Lapekas met Rick Franz, president of Optimal Business Solutions.
Franz said: “As a business coach, I could see synergies between what I do and Kathleen does for our clients. We have been friends and referral partners ever since.
“Often my clients’ needs require a higher level of human resource expertise than I can offer and at that point I call Kathleen in to help,” Franz said. “Similarly, when her clients have a need outside of her area of expertise, she gives me a call. Knowing each other’s strengths not only helps us cross-refer when the need arises, it ensures both of our clients receive the support they need to be successful.”
Franz invited her to visit the Professional Partners BNI, which Lapekas then joined. Originally founded in California in 1985, BNI (Business Networking International) has grown to more than 145,000 members worldwide. There are 13 BNI chapters in Southern Indiana. Half of Lapekas’ business comes from referrals from BNI.
BNI chapters are organized with a framework — weekly meetings last for 90 minutes, and only one person in each profession is allowed in a chapter. Members must represent their primary occupation, and attendance is mandatory (members can arrange a substitute to visit if they cannot attend a meeting). Then, members make business referrals to one another — reflecting the BNI philosophy that “Givers Gain.” Globally, BNI chapters referred more than $3.3 billion in business in 2012.
The Evansville area includes other business networking opportunities, including a group called Networked for Growth and the Professional Referral Organization. In addition, there are local groups that meet to discuss common areas of interest, including Tech on Tap, to discuss technology business opportunities.
Lapekas shares her expertise, not only as a human resource consultant but also as a trainer of leadership and human resource compliance issues. Henderson Community College and the Northwestern Kentucky Training Consortium contract Lapekas to provide training to area businesses.
In the three years since Lapekas began her company, she has grown more than she originally anticipated. On July 1 of this year, her company grew beyond its original affiliation and went solo, changing its name to Lapekas H.R. Consulting.
“The only reason I find myself successful in a new community is through building relationships,” Lapekas said. “You have to work to build trust. The trust curve shortens considerably with networking. When people trust you and recommend you, it helps.”
Source Article from http://www.courierpress.com/news/2013/aug/05/establishing-a-strong-connection/?partner=yahoo_feeds
Human resources consultant Kathleen Lapekas credits networking for her success locally
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