Blog post by Whitney Harmel
Whitney Harmel is the director of strategic partnerships at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. Through her career history and past role as chair of the Emerging Leaders United Council, she has over a decade of sales, leadership, and relationship-building experience.
From Oakland to Ocean City
Having been raised in Maryland, I believe we live in an incredible state. Anyone who has grown up here knows that you can drive three hours and be in what feels like a completely different place. In the winter, you can be out skiing at Wisp, in the summer you can ride your bike, hike around Loch Raven Reservoir, or you can take a long weekend to Ocean City for some time at the beach.
I’ve met a lot of people in Baltimore who are new to the city and don’t know much about Maryland. They are always pleasantly surprised at how much there is to do, the variety of activities that are available, and the wide range of cultures that can be found. I’ll share with you a few key ways you can familiarize yourself with what this state has to offer and how “knowing the state” can help with your next business interaction!
Know your neighborhood
No matter where you live or travel, recognizing the personality of your destination is an important part of understanding the people and the businesses.
When I first started in sales, I travelled across the state. It wasn’t long before I discovered the difference between neighborhoods like Hampden and Locust Point, or towns like Annapolis and Baltimore. In some places people looked at me cross-eyed if I had on a suit and in other towns, a full suit was the norm, even on a soupy August afternoon.
Recognizing the many personalities in those neighborhoods has proven to be a great value to expanding my network. I’ve learned to appreciate the differences and formulate a tailored engagement approach.
“Where’d you go to high school?”
Let’s be honest, we’ve all heard this question or have asked it ourselves at a social or business function. In general, people like to connect with people similar to themselves. More often than not, Marylanders do so by connecting the dots between where someone went to high school and where they spent their childhood. We’re weird like that. But it says a lot about the weight we put on our neighborhoods.
We have a tendency to silo ourselves as a state and it’s important to get outside of the geographical box we put ourselves in. Don’t let city or county lines bind you personally or professionally, take the time to explore and see for yourself how each area distinguishes itself.
Be in the know
Business is done differently at a law firm in Harbor East versus a construction company in Bethesda or a trucking company in Hyattsville. At the same time, many areas of Maryland are home to specific vertical markets.
Know that the I-270 corridor is your Bio-Pharma hub. Know that Fort Meade is a government contracting space and a cybersecurity, technology focused area. Look at Baltimore, it’s ripe with young business owners ready to create something out of their passion. Get familiar with the big picture reasons certain areas have pulled in certain businesses—then go and see those places.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it
Let’s say your company is doing business with another company outside of Maryland and you’re bringing them in for the week—what better thing to do than to take them out for crabs? Or what about an O’s game? How great is that we get to work where we play?
Show off Maryland’s treasures and I bet next time you’ll believe me when I say, there is reason why people stay.