By Harriet Tramer | Photo by Thomas Skernivitz
The fact that commerce is gravitating online these days has not detracted from his strong belief in the personal touch. By his accounting, virtually all businesses, and particularly small businesses, stand to gain more from ongoing networking than they would from a flashy web site. So, Sobolewski is very enthusiastic about the benefits that member companies can derive by networking through the Power of More, a collective that joins together chambers of commerce representing several western suburbs.
“If you go to a local chamber meeting, you will probably only meet people who you have known for a long time.” Sobolewski, who directs four chambers that belong to this organization, says. “There is nothing wrong with that, but you might gain more from the networking that you can take part in during meetings held by the Power of More, which has 1,600 members.”
Sobolewski maintains that enjoying this broader outreach benefits members in ways that might not be immediately recognizable. The contacts that give businesses the greatest boost are generally those they establish with firms in their own industry. And because of sheer numbers they are more likely to make these contacts at Power of More meetings than they would at local chamber gatherings.
Sobolewski also notes that these days it is hardly unusual for a community to slip into an economic downturn. And he maintains that networking through the Power of More can help a business coast through these hard times.
The Power of More hosts about 40 events a year; they include everything from luncheons to all-day excursions such as golf outings and are generally attended by between 100 and 150 people. These gatherings, which provide ample opportunity for networking, are free with business people who belong to any of the member chambers being eligible to participate. Hosting companies provide the food and beverages.
Local businesses donate prizes that are raffled off at these events; in exchange, these companies receive ongoing promotions throughout the year. Next September, for example, the group will be raffling off a 2015 Kia Optima, a big-screen TV plus mobile devices.
The Kia is being donated by the Montrose Auto Group. And John Allensworth, that company’s community relations director, expects this donation to pay off in big dividends. He notes that the goodwill this firm gained from donating a smaller vehicle earlier this year resulted in its selling several cars. He considers these impressive results to be an example of networking at its greatest potential.
The chamber is supported by local sponsors that include, among others, Crocker Park, First Federal of Lakewood, MAPFRE Insurance, Montrose Auto Group, Ohio Clinic for Aesthetic & Plastic Surgery, Great Lakes Publishing, Westlake/Bay Observer and the DJ company.
“The sponsors say that being a sponsor turned out to be the greatest advertising that they have ever enjoyed,” Sobolewski says. “They get placement on six web sites and on six newsletters. It is a sponsor’s dream and we have a waiting list for sponsors because we take only one sponsor for each category a year.”
Sobolewski says that the Power of More first began during 2010 as the Power of Four at which point member chambers included Fairview Park, North Coast, North Olmsted, and West Shore. Impressed by the organization, two more chambers — the North Ridgeville and the Olmsted Chambers — joined during 2012, prompting the group to rename itself the Power of More. Other communities can apply for membership in the future, with the stipulation that they must agree to keep all events free.
Sobolewski who has worked with various chambers since 1979 notes that Dayle Noll, President of the North Ridgeville Chamber, and Carrie Weiss who heads the Olmsted Chamber were instrumental in bringing these two chambers into the Power of More. Already the largest peer networking group in Northeast Ohio, Sobolewski predicts that this organization will have 2000 members within the next five years.
“When chambers join the Power of More they still enjoy their own autonomy,” Sobolewski says. “It is not as if they are in danger of being ‘eaten up’ by a larger entity. They enjoy the best of both words, being part of a smaller more intimate group but still having the advantages that being part of a larger group can bring them.“