Eagle County ‘leads group’ members rely on each other | VailDaily.com

Eagle County ‘leads group’ members rely on each other

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – The Top Shelf leads group wouldn’t have started three years ago, when businesses were turning down work and couldn’t find employees. But this is a different day.

The Top Shelf idea started a couple of years ago, when Vail Electronics owner Don Anderson got together with the owners of A-Phase Electric and Castle Fire Sprinklers to share information about what work was out there. For the last year or so, the group has expanded to a dozen members in just about every business you’d need to build or finish a home. The group now meets every other Thursday in the conference room at Evans Chaffee Construction’s office in Avon to trade information.

“Everybody brings leads, who they’ve talked to,” A-Phase owner John Ricca said. “We’ll update our leads from previous sessions, and talk about who got those jobs and at what price.”

Sometimes leads pan out and one of the members will get a job. But even times when a company only submits a bid is useful, Ricca said, because it creates more chances to make connections.

“Just the opportunity to bid gets your name out there,” he said.

And those connections are crucial.

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“Everybody knows somebody else,” Anderson said. “And business has never been about companies, but about people connecting.”

And these days, any connection, that leads to any job is welcome.

“Every job is crucial,” Vernon said. “Little jobs are keeping you alive.”

Besides sharing leads collected in everyday business, the Top Shelf group is also seeking out new people and opportunities. The group has already hosted a couple of mixers next door at Ruggs Benedict. The last one, in the spring, drew more than 50 people, who came to talk to each other about what they know.

And, while all the members are still scrambling, Ricca and Anderson both said their companies have gotten work from the Top Shelf group they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Beyond looking for any chance to work, the connections and relationships built in and out of the leads group can help on the job site.

“If there’s a potential problem on a job, you’ll know about it,” Ricca said. “At least you’ll know, instead of going in alone and not knowing.”

Jack Taylor runs the Colorado Small Business Development Center through Colorado Mountain College in Summit County. Taylor works with businesses throughout the college’s district, and agreed that business-to-business connections are essential these days.

“It’s how an awful lot of business gets conducted,” Taylor said. “The value comes from sharing potential customers, and accessing information through means that aren’t available through newspapers or radio.”

Taylor said the old-fashioned need to make connections is seen in the growing popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Leads groups make those connections more personal.

Beyond sharing information every couple of weeks, the Top Shelf group has also started some dedicated marketing. The group’s businesses have combined their customer databases, and the group advertised its last mixer in this newspaper.

Group members say they’re going to continue to work on joint marketing efforts.

“It increases our odds as opposed to individual marketing,” Ricca said. “And we’re all reputable companies.”

Taylor said businesses are going to have to keep looking at creative ways to get their names and products out in front of other businesses and the public.

“People who are smart about marketing are making every connection they can,” he said. “Leads groups are one way to do that.”