If you are an entrepreneur or struggling to start a business, you want access to as many resources as possible - especially if free or at minor cost. It is accepted business practice to meet with other professionals to get to know them and their service or product offerings.

I recently read an article that struck home and started me thinking - about business newbies expecting to get advice for free from professionals in exchange for a cup of coffee or a meal.

The purpose of one-on-one sessions is mutual exploration as professionals, branding development and exploration of opportunities for strategic alliances. For instance, John sells screen-printed T-shirts to groups, clubs and schools. He meets with Sally, who sells life insurance policies. Neither is interested in purchasing the other's services. But Sally knows a school PTA president and John may have an employee who expressed an interest in life insurance.

Because each knows someone else with an interest in a service or product, they trade referrals. If other mutual interests develop from the conversation - business networking events, trade organization meetings or knowledge of a third-party company - even better.

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