Networking in the Age of COVID-19

We’ve seen the art of navigating a crowded room to establish a rapport with a total stranger come to a grinding halt. Learn how to build connections from the comfort of your home through virtual networking.


Sure, it’s much harder to network when most business events are cancelled and we need social distancing. So, let’s look in the rear-view mirror for a change and get back to old-school basics.

Networking is all about sharing information. In 1982, John Naisbitt defined it in MegaTrends as the “exchange of ideas, information and resources.” That's where it all starts. Nothing new, trendy, high-tech or sexy. 

That information exchange can be a means to an end or an end in itself. As an end in itself, Joe might be looking for a new accountant specializing in small businesses in his area and Gina might provide contact information for her accountant. The networking process can stop at this information exchange level, as Joe has accomplished his specific information objective.

RELATED: Coping With COVID-19: A Pandemic Strategy for Your Small Business.

As a means to an end, that exchange of information could grow into a viable business relationship over time. That relationship could, in turn, lead to referrals, recommendations and new business for both Joe and Gina.

Networking is also about helping other people or asking other people for help. The two are separate concepts—meeting people who can help you with your goals to learn something to help you work faster, smarter or cheaper. Or, meeting people who you can help to accomplish their goals. It's an “or,” not an “and.”

That all said, the current pandemic generates a huge amount of information you can seek or share regarding surviving this crisis—best practices for working from home, local and national sources of relief and funding, office sanitizing firms, creative ideas for refocusing your business, and more. 

Instead of networking with strangers you meet at business events, which we generally recommend, the pandemic suggests you network with people you already know by phone, email, text or virtual meeting. These interactions should be simpler, easier and shorter. You can start with a brief “how’re ya doin” and then seek the information you need. For example, you could ask if they know of business interruption insurance policies that don’t exclude pandemics. A simple exchange of information can follow and end with a suggestion to get together when life is back to normal-ish.

RELATED: Read more by Phil Stella.

The longer you practice “virtual networking” the more you might realize that it’s faster, easier, cheaper and potentially better than conventional schmoozing. And the “only network with strangers” concept can come into play virtually by asking people in your network to recommend others they know who you could talk to.

So, with a little refocused effort, you can successfully network through the pandemic and live to tell about it. 

Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication,, 440-449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.   

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  • Next up: Month in Review: October 2020

    Month in Review: October 2020

    From tricks and treats from COSE member businesses to how to create a work-life balance for your team, check out some of our favorite Mind Your Business blog articles from October.


    ICYMI, here is a roundup of some of the most popular articles on the blog from last month. 

    Tricks and Treats for YOU! From our Small Business Members
    The candy coma may be over but COSE still has a lot of tricks and treats for our readers. In this Halloween article, our small business experts share their secrets to handling the COVID crisis. And—from COVID antibody test results in 10 minutes for your employees to $100 off AI & Data for Beginners course—they are sharing some special offers from their small businesses to you. Read on for your tricks and treats.

    FAQs About FAQs: How to Effectively Handle Customer Questions
    Being responsive to your customers' questions is one of the most important parts of the job. Here are some FAQs from small business owners about the FAQs they receive, and tips on how to effectively handle them. And be sure to let us know what other questions you have for our experts!

    National Work and Family Month
    October was National Work and Family Month, but anytime is a good time to recognize the importance for a healthy work-life balance with your team. In the time of COVID and widespread remote working, it's important for all workers to reach an effective work-life balance. 

    The Mind Your Business team shared a lot of information last month on how to celebrate and recognize National Work and Family Month, which you can implement any time in your business. From forming a work-life balance committee to creating a family-focus challenge, here are 10 tips to helping your team improve work and family balance.

    What was your favorite Mind Your Business article or webinar from October? Let us know on Twitter!

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  • Next up: Governor Signs Budget Correction Bill, Ohio’s Business Tax Deduction Restored

    Governor Signs Budget Correction Bill, Ohio’s Business Tax Deduction Restored


    Among the key issues GCP was engaged in throughout the Ohio budget bill process and over the course of the last several years was our members’ intent to preserve Ohio’s small business tax deduction, which is utilized by our members for reinvestment back into their companies, workforces, and communities.  Ensuring the proper treatment for a variety of business types, expenses, and investments made by business owners—to support the growth of their businesses—is a crucial focus in deliberations on tax policy.

    On November 6, the Governor signed SB 26 which, in part, reverses provisions that policymakers made in the operating budget bill that required lawyers and lobbyists to pay taxes on all levels of business income, even though all other businesses are exempt on the first $250,000 of income.  SB 26 restores the deduction for those industries reportedly because Ohio tax forms do not require one’s occupation to be listed in the same way that federal tax documents do.  Therefore, SB 26 would also require all taxpayers claiming the business income deduction to indicate on their tax returns the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes associated with each source of their business income.

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  • Next up: Ohio’s Congressional Reps Introduce GLRI Act of 2019

    Ohio’s Congressional Reps Introduce GLRI Act of 2019


    Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) and Senator Rob Portman introduced identical bills in both chambers of Congress in late July to address the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Act of 2019, which would reauthorize and increase federal funding to protect the lakes, includes nearly 40 bipartisan sponsors from the Great Lakes region.

    The bill extends funding for the GLRI through 2026 and increases funds to $375 million in 2022. The bill also raises funding by $25 million every year until 2026, when it reaches $475 million.

    GCP has led advocacy work of the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition (GLMCC) since 2018—advocating for renewed GLRI funding to protect the lakes, which serve as a major economic force. You can learn more about the work of the GLMCC here.

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  • Next up: Ohio House Speaker and Senate Minority Leader Discuss State Priorities with Small Business Members

    Ohio House Speaker and Senate Minority Leader Discuss State Priorities with Small Business Members

    Last week, Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives Bob Cupp and Ohio Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko joined COSE small business members for a conversation about state priorities. 

    Speaker Cupp was elected Speaker of the Ohio House of Representative in July and he is currently serving his third term in the House. He has served as an elected official in all three branches of government and at both the local and state levels. 
    Leader Yuko represents part of both Cuyahoga and Lake Counties and was first elected to serve as a state representative in 2004.

    COSE small business members stressed the importance of advocacy priorities like digital inclusion, unemployment compensation reform, and GCP’s recent position on House Bill 6 repeal efforts

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  • Next up: Ohio Senate Passes CARES Funds Distribution Bill

    Ohio Senate Passes CARES Funds Distribution Bill


    The Ohio Senate on unanimously passed legislation that would send $650 million in federal funds to local government entities to help in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

    The bill would distribute millions of CARES Act funds to local entities, bringing the total amount of the federal coronavirus response bill distributed through the General Assembly to more than $1.2 billion.

    The funds are to be spent on direct coronavirus-related expenses and not to be used to cover lost tax revenues.  

    This will be the fourth time money from the federal bill has been distributed, and the second time through legislation. 

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