Ascension business group ‘not about quantity, it’s about quality’

Advocate staff photo by Darlene Denstorff -- Gathering July 15 for the weekly meeting of the Ascension Business Connection are, seated from left, Angela Lambert and Susana Zarazua-Gradine; and standing, Jon Hirsch, Allen Esterly, Pat Richardson, Jamie Higgins and Justin Arnold. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by Darlene Denstorff -- Gathering July 15 for the weekly meeting of the Ascension Business Connection are, seated from left, Angela Lambert and Susana Zarazua-Gradine; and standing, Jon Hirsch, Allen Esterly, Pat Richardson, Jamie Higgins and Justin Arnold.

“Business is stressful enough. So, we don’t need stressful rules.” Justin Arnold, Ascension Business Connection president

Sometimes, small is better.

That’s the philosophy of the Ascension Business Connection, a group that meets every Thursday morning at St. Elizabeth Hospital to foster business relationships.

ABC President Justin Arnold, who owns Auto Docs, a mobile vehicle services and repair business, said the group is small, 12 members, but gets results.

Arnold said he’s received at least 1,000 business referrals from the connections he’s made as an eight-year member.

The group, which was started in the early 1990s as the Gonzales Business Network, has had memberships of between 40 and 12 through the years.

ABC’s membership rules allow only one type of business on the rolls at a time. So, members don’t compete with each other for referrals.

The group’s size allows members to get to know each other “and form closer knit relationships that you can’t get at other larger groups,” Arnold said.

“It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality,” said member Angela Lambert, who works for St. Elizabeth Hospital.

The group doesn’t require members to provide a set number of referrals or to make up missed meetings, Arnold said.

“Business is stressful enough,” he said. “So, we don’t need stressful rules.”

Member Allen Esterly said members “concentrate on helping each other.”

Members, Jamie Higgins said, get to know each other before they start recommending other members to friends and family.

The group starts each meeting by thanking other members for business referrals or assistant.

Guest speakers are invited to inform the group about issues impacting local business, member Susana Zarazua-Gradine said.

The Ascension Business Connection is dedicated to supporting client retention and growth in local businesses through friendship and knowledge sharing, Zarazua-Gradine said.

In addition to weekly meetings, the group gets together a few times a year for family-style gatherings, she said.

The group’s annual Christmas party includes fun awards to recognize the members’ efforts, Arnold said.

ABC members also donate to local charities and take part in community service project, he said.

“We’re all members of the community and we all want to give back,” Arnold said.

Any business owner interested in joining is encouraged to visit the group’s Facebook page, facebook.com/Ascension
BusinessConnection
, and leave a message.