Friday, February 18, 2011

Network, network, network

This column originally appeared in Capital Business, the Washington Post's new local business weekly.

By Dan Beyers
Monday, February 7, 2011; 21 

When building a business, it's good to get around.

If there's one thing I've learned in the nine months or so since we launched Capital Business, it is the value of networking.

There's something invigorating about mixing with other people who are trying to make a dollar. It's cathartic. I often come away with a sense we are all in this together.

Last week, I was invited to watch a Georgetown basketball game with a group of local business leaders over at the Verizon Center. Now, I happen to be a big fan of the college game, much more so than the pro version, and the contest was a promising one, against Big East rival Louisville. But I honestly didn't watch more than two minutes because I was having such a busy time gabbing in the back of our suite.

These were all successful business people, folks who didn't mind talking about a past failure or two and the lessons they learned. Many of them have been through the ups and downs of a business cycle once or twice before, and I was eager to get their take on the current economic climate.

In the main, I got the feeling people are more optimistic than they were just a few months ago. Business has stabilized.

They are exhaling a bit.

But only a bit.

More than one person told me they thought 2011 would turn out okay, but they were less sure about 2012, when the federal stimulus program would in all likelihood have run its course and potential cuts in government spending might begin to bite.

Perhaps the larger economy would pick up speed and make up for any pullback here in the nation's capital. But no one I spoke with is ready to count on that, quite yet.

Meanwhile, down on the court, a buzzer sounded as the players returned from a timeout.

The Hoyas held on to a thin lead in the game's waning moments, but could not celebrate until a final three-point try by Louisville clanged off the rim.

The margin between success and failure is often very small.

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