Balaban is a business matchmaker who takes as much care teaming up companies to do business as traditional matchmakers take in pairing up Mr. and Ms. Right.
“On a gut level, I can look at people in two businesses and know within 30 seconds whether they’ll be able to work together,” Balaban said.
It’s an unusual gig that has evolved through an unusual career path.
Balaban, 44, cut short her studies in psychology at McGill University when an acquaintance asked her to work for him at a clothing maker Esprit.
“I think this all started for me when I was working as a merchandiser in the garment industry,” she said. “I was selling garments to various retailers and I used to match the garments with the clients. I had a visual sense of how clothes worked and who needed what. I also took this skill to a lingerie company.”
But Balaban had an epiphany when she saw U.S. motivational speaker Anthony Robbins address a Montreal audience 14 years ago.
When I left his seminar, I wanted to be a motivational speaker too,” she said.
So I joined Toastmasters and learned public speaking.”
She also educated herself by reading (400 books to date) about business and human behaviour.
A year later, she founded let’s Get Going, which she kickstarted by making cold calls to various businesses.
“I wanted to create a company that would help businesses do well. So I’d invite businesses to seminars on various topics, including business goals, sales, and networking.”
A couple of years ago, Balaban decided to focus her efforts on matchmaking.
“I had acquired intelligence on various businesses and had become an encryclopedia of marketing skills. I’m also a feeler and am very intuitive.”
Balaban would encounter business people and know intuitively how they might work with other firms she knew.
She charges each business, most of them entrepreneurs, an annual consing fee of $975 and during that 12-mont period, matchmakes it with other companies that would be an obvious fit.
A case in point is real-estate agent Caroline Dorey and general contractor Mike Tustin. Dorey, an interior decorator and real-estate agent with Royal Lepage in Town of Mount Royal, worked with Balaban when she was 18 years old and they reconnected recently when she moved back to Montreal. After working as a sales agent on new residential projects in Whistler and Toronto, Dorey got her Quebec real-estate licence and now specializes in the resale market.
“I joined Marcie’s group to extend my business network,” Dorey said.
Aalaban figured one person Dorey should be matched with is Mike Tustin, a general contractor who owns MRT Renovations.
“Marcie’s like a really net Yellow Pages,” Tustin said. “It’s like networking, but it’s personal because she vets everyone she wants you to meet.”
Dorey says although she knows renovators, she now has access to Tustin, who has been in the business since 1973 and receives 80 percent of his work through referrals. Likewise, when Tustin’s clients need an interior decorator, he can recommend Dorey.
“Sometimes, people are renovating their homes to sell and I can refer them to Caroline,” he said.
Balaban says her intuition rarely steers her wrong.
“The difference between matchmaking and conventional networking is that I have a sixth sense about putting people together that enables them to build relationships they might not build on their own,” she said. “I make it apparent to them why they’ll be able to work together. And I’ll go to meetings with them and act as the glue in the relationship.”
To make the match, she looks for people with similar backgrounds and companies with similar corporate cultures.
By contrast, Balaban also knows when a relationship might not click.
“Sometimes, a client may want to meet someone through me, but if I don’t think it’ll work, I’ll say ‘no’ to the match.”
Some matchmaking proves serendipitous. When Balaban was recently looking for a notary for her own company, she contacted notary Jean Lambert, who mentioned coincidentally that he also brokers mortgagees. She knew one of her clients, Karen Quinn, the owner of a concierge service, was looking for a mortgage broker for her clients, and realized they’d be a fit. The two now work together.
When Balaban sets up a match, she orchestrates a raft of details.
“I set up the meeting and tell the participants what to wear based on the corporate culture,” she said. “I tell them where the meeting will take place and how to get to the location. Often, I’ll be at the meeting, too.”When she doesn’t attend the meetings, Balaban phones the participants afterward to see how they fared.
“I like to take a company and over a period of six weeks, for instance, I’ll set up a series of meetings with fvvarious potential matches. If I sent you a particular match last month, we analyze how it went and decide where you should go this month.”
Peter Sas, one of Balaban’s clients who owns office equipment company Admaco, says he likes Balaban’s targeted networking.
“With regular networking, you talk to a group of people about your services. Matchmaking is more direct. I’ve been match-made with about 25 or 30 other businesspeople, and it’s brought me quite a lot of customers. One of them sells corrugated boxes, and I was able to recommend him to another business person.”
Balaban intends to take her match-making formula to a wider market in September by organizing a matchmaking seminar for any company looking for a business date. A great first date, as any matchmaker can attest, can lead to a long and happy marriage.
Marci Balaban’s Website is: /www.letsgetgoing.ca