Community Buying Group expanding national presence

LS Journal Article –  Thursday, Nov. 29 2012  5:29PM   —  High-spirited – Community Buying Group expanding national presence , By Toriano Porter

Spend five minutes with Ben Rao and it becomes apparent as to why this entrepreneur’s vision is rapidly spreading.

Rao is energetic, articulate, and his business and technological know-how has morphed the downtown Lee’s Summit-based Community Buying Group from startup to a potential big-market player in not only Lee’s Summit or Eastern Jackson County but the entire country.

As president of the Community Buying Group – a membership-based company made up of contractors, property owners, investors, landlords and property management companies from all over the country – Rao is the face of a growing company that calls Lee’s Summit home.

“My background has been technology for 20 years,” Rao said in a recent interview with  the Journal. “I sold large computer systems to big companies and helped big companies to be in multiple locations and somehow use technology to streamline the business process. I really enjoyed that and did that for 15 years.

“I’ve always (owned) some rental properties, and when I moved here I started buying properties with another investor that’s here in town. We started buying and flipping as well as buying and keeping. We’ve got rental properties in Jackson County and I just kind of saw – and this is over an eight-year period – I saw a space that was really underserved and it was a really fragmented market.”

That market was a community of people within the real estate realm that Rao felt needed better pricing from major retailers to fix, repair or upgrade properties. Currently with 13,000 members nationwide and growing, CBG offers individuals and groups the ability to buy like larger companies.

“These are things that people are buying every day,” Rao said.

Taking advantage locally of the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce’s Boost Lee’s Summit initiative, Rao and CBG has had an opportunity to network with an endless supply of business-minded money makers and job creators.

In fact, CBG, Rao said, is in the beginning stages of rapid expansion that will allow the company to possibly create up to three or four new positions at the beginning of 2013 to add to the staff of three already at the company.

Boost Lee’s Summit is a community-wide effort to attract, create, support and accelerate new and existing businesses within Lee’s Summit and eastern Jackson County.

“Lee’s Summit has been great to us,” Rao said.

Mark Dickey, vice president of the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce, has had a chance to sit down and talk with Rao about his business. As a member of Boost Lee’s Summit, Rao’s company is provided coaches, community resources, mentors and access to the investment community to assist him in meeting business goals and objectives. The Chamber acts as a conduit to these entities through Boost Lee’s Summit, Dickey said, and as an advocate within the community to foster business success within the community. Rao – as CBG’s CEO – is the point of contact when operating in the Boost ecosystem.

“First and foremost, the Lee’s Summit Chamber is committed to assisting start-ups or existing businesses be successful and sustainable,” Dickey said in an email to  the Journal. “As an aspiring business concern within our community, we have a keen interest in helping CBG achieve success.

“The CBG is a great concept with exponential growth opportunities. CBG is attractive as its business model appears scalable and highly marketable. Ben has done an excellent job in developing a dynamic infrastructure that positions his company with a decisive competitive edge in the marketplace.”

That competitive edge is obviously a direct correlation to Rao’s personality, which has led directly to working relationships with major suppliers and vendors such as Sherwin Williams – a must have for CBG members who own and invest in property and real estate.

“We started and I was going to sign up you and you and you and all these individuals,” Rao said. “It turned into – about nine months ago we made a pivot as a business. The pivot was we can help more people and get in front of more people and we can help our suppliers; we pivoted to become an association membership benefits department.

“So, let’s say you are a landlord association in Chicago and you’ve got 100 members. I come to you and I say ‘if you’ll join us for an annual fee, we will extend all of our benefits to your members on your behalf.’ So now, everybody that’s paying you their annual dues, this is one more reason to have value of being a member. We do that all over the (country). We’ve been able to grow a lot quicker by doing that.”