Editors Note: Caroline Horton Rockafellow is a member of the Research Triangle Park law firm of Daniels Daniels & Verdonik, P.A.For anyone who was a fan of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice,” you have to ask the question, why would such well educated and successful people fight so hard for a job?

This was not a lottery. It was a job, and for some of the contestants, a pay cut. The answer has to be that it was not the paycheck that was the prize, but the potential for fabulous business contacts and an inside track into the Trump network.

So for those of us who are not likely to end up rubbing elbows with Mr. Trump, what is the best way to make the appropriate contacts and tap into the network of useful business resources? More particularly, where does a new entrepreneur start? Surprisingly enough, for entrepreneurs in the Triangle, the local business network is relatively accessible. The trick is knowing what resources are available and then making the best possible use of those resources.

Local meetings

One of the best resources for entrepreneurs is the multitude of local meetings. These meeting take place throughout the Triangle and are both business and industry specific. Meetings often provide useful discussions with helpful information, but the true value of most local meetings is in the discussions that take place before and after the main event.

For the most part, business people in the Triangle are approachable and willing to share and discuss relevant experiences. Local meetings allow new entrepreneurs to tap into the business knowledge of seasoned professionals and also to make useful business contacts. One of the best places for a new entrepreneur to start is with the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) (www.cednc.org). The CED hosts numerous meetings and events throughout the year. In addition, the CED website provides a wealth of knowledge for local entrepreneurs.

If your business is electronics, information technology or software, the North Carolina Electronics and Information Technology Association (NCEITA)(www.nceita.org) provides an excellent resource through its lobbying efforts and its local and statewide meetings. For businesses with a biotechnology or pharmaceutical focus, the North Carolina Biotech Center hosts numerous industry related meetings (www.ncbiotech.org).

The RTP BioCom group (www.rtpbiocom.org) also holds periodic discussions for issues of relevance in the biosciences community.

For women entrepreneurs, there are many local networking events, including NCEITA’s Women in Information Science and Engineering (www.nceita.org/news/events-wise.asp), the newly formed Women’s Institute (www.womensinst.org), the triangle chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (www.NAWBO-raleigh.com), and the Triangle Business and Professional Women’s Group (www.trianglebpw.com).

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list of meeting resources, but then again, the Triangle offers so much to entrepreneurs that it would be impossible to list all local events. The key for any entrepreneur is to become involved in the local community. Once you are involved and participating in local meetings, let people know what types of groups are of interest to you, and you will certainly be directed to additional excellent network and meeting resources.

Business resources

In addition to networking and informational meetings, the Triangle is fortunate to be home to several business advisory organizations. These organizations provide many of their services free of charge. (Yes, I did say free of charge). The Triangle is home to three local chapters of the Service Core of Retired Executives (www.score.org). This organization which is primarily made of up of (surprisingly enough) retired executives, provides advice and counseling to start up and small businesses. The Triangle also has some excellent business development centers run through its community college system. For example, the small business center at Durham Tech provides numerous seminars and classes for entrepreneurs (www.durhamtech.org/smallbizcenter).

There are many other organizations that provide advice and counseling to entrepreneurs, but probably the best kept secret in the Triangle is the Small Business and Technology Development Centers (www.sbtdc.org). These centers are run through the North Carolina university system and provide advice and assistance to start-up, entrepreneurial and small business owners. In addition to the general business counselors, the Raleigh office of the SBTDC has counselors who specialize in technology, commercialization and international matters; the Chapel Hill office has a SBIR/grant specialist and expertise in the area of federal grant funding. The SBTDC is an excellent resource for anyone in need of general advice when starting a business, a review of a business plan, strategic planning and funding recommendations. As business become more established, the SBTDC also offers services aimed at growth management and commercialization plans.

Utilizing resources

One of the most useful, but commonly overlooked resources for new companies is the professional community. All business will require some form of both legal and accounting assistance. Far too often a new business will look to its lawyer or its accountant only for the most fundamental services, and will often seek those services from a neighbor, or someone they know from church/temple, a child’s school or similar non-business setting. Often people fail to realize that their lawyers and accountants can and should be a valuable resource. This is particularly true for firms that have a specialized practice in representing entrepreneurial or small businesses, as these professionals are generally well-connected within the Triangle business community. Every entrepreneur should recognize the value of these connections and take advantage of these opportunities.

If your company is looking to hire critical personnel, or seek additional sources of funding, your attorney or your accountant may be one of your best resources. Putting individuals and companies together is certainly not a part of an attorney’s job description, but it is common practice for entrepreneurial and technology business lawyers in the Triangle. The same is true when it comes to funding resources. Look to your lawyer or your accountant to help make the appropriate introductions and point you in the right direction. Keep in mind that for legal and accounting professionals active in the entrepreneurial community they will likely have some useful insights and recommendations when it comes to business relationships in general. Sometime, it is just a matter of asking the right questions and making your professional advisors aware of the needs of your growing company.

A great place to grow

The Triangle may very well be the best place in the country to start and grow a business. This has nothing to do with favorable tax rates, or salaries or even available office space. Rather, it is the best place for business because of the fabulous resources that exist in the Triangle business community. It takes a little effort to begin to tap into these resources, but the resources are here for anyone who is persistent. We may not have Donald Trump, but in many ways we have so much more.

Daniels Daniels & Verdonik, P.A. has been serving the legal needs of entrepreneurial and high technology clients for more than 20 years. Caroline Horton Rockafellow is a licensed patent attorney who works primarily in the areas of technology deals and licensing. Questions or Comments can be sent to crockafellow@d2vlaw.com