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Once a week, representatives of 65-70 Capital Region businesses gather together to take the lead—and raise networking to the next level. Their companies and professional services are members of Albany Executives Association, commonly known as AXA, a 58-year-old area organization with the purpose of sharing business opportunities and networking to develop each member’s business. Membership of a business, which is by application, provides category exclusivity, with only one company/firm in the particular field.
With the objective of gaining and giving business, AXA is one of the oldest organizations of its type in the Capital Region and two or three times in size, reports its executive director, John Graziano Jr. of Capitol Hill Management Services. The interactions at the Monday meetings build relationships, creating a confidence and comfort to make referrals, as well as provide information and leads, Graziano notes.
Mindful of members’ busy schedules, meetings begin promptly at 12:05 p.m. and conclude at 1 p.m. The agenda includes a brief discussion by one or two members and a Q&A on new services, product lines or ways in which the member network can be of help. “It can almost be guaranteed that someone will know someone and be glad to make the introduction,” Graziano observes. The persons designated as representative and alternate must have the authority within the business to make decisions that would benefit other AXA members.
Members also receive bulletins with leads or news, e.g., designation of a new purchase manager, plans for a new project. A special opportunity to see an AXA luncheon meeting in action is coming up on September 21. Contact Graziano if interested in attending. Special events also are planned during the year.
AXA has been a beneficial experience for Albany law firm member McNamee Lochner Titus & Williams, P.C., says attorney Vincent Valenza. “Our business is based on building relationships and trust with our clients,” he explains. “Through AXA, we get to know the members and they know us.” The firm has handled legal matters for many members, such as sales of businesses, acquisitions of businesses, business succession planning, lease review and general business matters and assisted with non-business matters, such as estate planning, litigation and traffic violations. The regular meetings and focus on providing information about the various members have allowed the firm to build connections. “This,” Valenza adds, “also has made the other members comfortable referring our firm to their contacts.”
Functional Communications Corporation, the local affiliate of Mood Media (formerly known as Muzak) has belonged to AXA since 1975. “AXA has been an integral part of our business networking and new business development strategy for 40 years,” Functional Communications’ Director of Sales Diane Montes Harris tells us. “Our members also work and live in the community, and know the ‘movers and shakers’ (if they’re not already members of AXA) and those personal introductions, advance notice of upcoming projects and partnerships among members are invaluable.”
At the time Functional joined, AXA was the first organization of its kind, with the mission of networking, category exclusivity, and organized lead sharing. ”It remains the most established group of this type in the area,” says Montes Harris.
She keeps AXA members up to date on Functional’s services and product lines, so that they know what kinds of leads are good for the company’s sales team and offer personal introductions in the opportunities they encounter–a practice Functional reciprocates. For example, she says, an AXA member was working with a new business that expressed a concern about atmosphere and noise, as well as eavesdropping potential within its offices. “He introduced the business owner to me, and we were able to design and install a system that solved their issues and improved their working environment.” Functional also has gained from leads announced to AXA’s members, including follow-up contact that resulted in a project at a new building.
“Many of the leads that we use to develop business come from AXA members,” Montes Harris says. “It’s like having a few dozen people on your team prospecting, seeing things or informing you about opportunities you might not have otherwise found.”
Montes Harris has been involved in AXA since she began work with Functional 18 years ago. “I consider some of its members not only business and networking partners, vendors and clients – but friends and mentors – and we have shared professional and personal connections at many levels.”
AXA has evolved with the changes in business environment and needs over the years, since the idea of the organization was discussed in 1955 and formed two years later with 14 charter members. Businesses today, for example, are more diversified with multiple product lines and services, says Graziano. Members recommend potential new member companies; inquiries about joining also can be made directly to AXA headquarters to apply, see if there is an opening for membership in the particular field, and arrange for a discussion. And as noted, AXA’s open house luncheon meeting is September 21.
Currently serving as officers for AXA are John Zongrone of the John R. Zongrone Agency – President; Paul Donnelly of Collaborations – Vice President; Jeanette Martin of The Mallozzi Family – Secretary; Joyce Weiler of Key Bank – Treasurer; and Jim Long of Coldwell Banker Prime Properties, Inc. – Chairman of the Board.
Visit www.albanyexecutives.com to learn more about AXA, members, membership application and more.
Albany Executives Association • 1450 Western Avenue, Suite 101, Albany • 462.8535 • www.albanyexecutives.com