BY SHARON GITTLEMAN
ROYAL OAK – Do you know what the man across the conference table thinks about gay people? Is the woman writing your home loan working against the LGBT community when 5 p.m. rolls around?
Thanks to Robert Lalicki and Reid Beyerlein, you won’t have to ask those questions.
Last fall, the pair created “Ties Like Me!” – a networking group for gay and lesbian professionals.
“It’s our opinion that people like to do business with people they know,” said Beyerlein, a financial planner with Edward Jones in Lathrup Village. “To make our community stronger, we’ve got to try to drive business amongst ourselves.”
On the third Wednesday of every month, Ties Like Me! sponsors a get-together to exchange business cards and build relationships.
The next meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., on April 19, at Cinq, located at 419 S. Main Street in Royal Oak.
There’s no charge to come to the networking meetings.
Beyerlein said there’s been a void in the LGBT community when it comes to hooking up with other gay businesses.
“If quality and price are the same, I will go with someone in our community,” he said. “I think most people are the same.”
Beyerlein said he hopes people will do more than just come to a meeting. Building future customers’ trust comes from getting involved in the group and the community.
“When you build a relationship you know the business will come,” he said.
At the networking meetings, you’ll find everyone from corporate executives, caterers and attorneys to florists, landscapers and police officers – even priests and rabbis.
Individuals from Royal Oak, Troy, St. Clair Shores, Grosse Pointe, Ferndale, Huntington Woods, Ann Arbor, Flint and Lansing have come to the gatherings.
“Last month, we had 150 people,” he said.
Meetings are restricted to members of the lesbian and gay community, said Lalicki, a home loan consultant for Flagstar Bank in Birmingham.
“You can find someone you trust that knows and understands our needs and lifestyle,” he said. “At other business groups, you don’t know if they’re gay-friendly. You don’t know their beliefs. Here, you can be sure we’re all from the same community.”
Lalicki said there’s a tremendous need for groups such as Ties Like Me! – especially in light of Michigan’s sagging economy.
“You have an audience of 150 people to get your business’ name out,” he said. “It won’t be hit or miss.”
Many LGBT-owned companies and gay workers would like to see their brothers and sisters succeed, he said.
“It goes beyond just the schmoozing,” said Lalicki. “It’s having a referral partner and a relationship with a person you know and trust and would feel comfortable giving a referral to.”
Lalicki said he and Beyerlein have seen their own businesses grow since they formed the group.
“We know it’s happening with other people if it’s happening for us,” he said.