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Businesswoman the impetus behind networking event

“Being an (electric) engineer, when somebody said network for the first time (in a business sense), I thought they were talking about two computers talking to each other,” said Susan Smith, a native Las Vegan who began working for LegalShield in 2011 as an independent associate.

Schmoozing with Smith today, you’d think she invented networking.

Every second and fourth Thursday of the month, between 30 and 50 business owners and others in the Henderson business community file into Joe’s Crab Shack, to attend an informal networking event called Meet and Eat formed and run by Smith.

“I was kind of secluded (from the business world) until about 2011. Everything was my kids, so I was out of the business world for a long time.”

When Smith decided to work for LegalShield, she said she realized she needed to learn how to talk to business owners.

ALL ABOUT PEOPLE

“Unless you have a brick-and-mortar store where people can walk into your business,” she said, “all of us out there — especially those in marketing services and stuff like that, like insurance and realty — it’s about relationships, because people only do that business with people they know they can trust.”

As an independent associate for LegalShield, Smith looks for small-business owners who may be interested in LegalShield services, including legal consultations, contract reviews and debt collection.

Smith, 54, said she felt shy about cold-calling clients, and she wanted a more personal way of connecting with possible clients.

“The company I work for offers something that is really helpful and a resource for businesses, but the only way for me to know if I can help them or not is to get to know them,” Smith said.

OUT FOR LUNCH

So, she started meeting with people for coffee or lunch.

“But I wanted to have lunch with more than one person, so we could all help each other, and there are only five lunches in the week,” said Smith, a native Las Vegan who attended the College of Southern Nevada and UNLV.

Last summer, Smith decided to take action. She invited about eight people every week to lunch.

“From that, I started inviting more people, they started inviting more people, and it kind of grew into what it is now,” she said, “which is still just a huge group lunch, where people are just introducing themselves and getting to know each other, and then hopefully setting up appointments with each other outside of the lunch.”

The dozens of people Smith meets at Meet and Eat have nearly replaced her need for cold-calling.

“When I call them back (after Meet and Eat), it doesn’t feel like a cold call,” she said. “You kind of made a friend.”

Contact Nicole Raz at nraz@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512. Find @JournalistNikki on Twitter.

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