How Supporting Fellow SMBs Can Help You Grow Your Business3 easy ways to connect and partner up.
No man (or woman) is an island if you believe the English poet John Donne, but you might feel like one if you own a small business. It’s a huge responsibility to bear solo. Are you really as alone as you think, though? If so, you don’t need to be.
By fostering relationships with other entrepreneurs you can build a powerful collective of colleagues to collaborate and grow with.
“Building relationships is critically important to business growth,” said Diane Helbig, president of Seize This Day, a business and leadership consultancy. Helbig is also author of “Lemonade Stand Selling.” “When small business owners focus on just themselves, they miss a lot of opportunity out there.”
If you want to compete with your larger counterparts or simply find a sounding board, it’s time to reach out and get connected. Here are three ways to start.
Network in person with other small business owners
In the day-to-day of operating your business, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. But when you join with a group of fellow business owners, your scope becomes widescreen.
“Businesses need to find out what’s going on where they are, in their local area,” said Helbig. “Getting involved is the best way to start building relationships.”
Start by connecting with your local chamber of commerce and investigating industry-specific networking groups through organizations such as meetup.com or BNI International, Helbig advised. Be prepared to invest some time and energy into your networking efforts. “One meeting isn’t going to build relationships. Give it time, try out several groups and events and, most importantly, be consistent.”
Follow up with other owners you have a connection with — offer to take them for coffee, for instance. This gives you the opportunity to learn about their business and audience and maybe even explore partnership possibilities while establishing trust.
Co-sponsor a local event
Charity fun runs, pet adoption days, art fundraisers — there’s no shortage of community events happening year round. Why not find a non-profit that aligns with your business’ values and co-sponsor an event? GuideStar.org can give you insight into individual NPOs.
By getting involved with the community and its leaders you gain exposure for your business and also set yourself apart from your competitors.
“You can use these co-sponsored events to promote on social media, in your newsletter and on your site,” said Helbig. “It shows your commitment to the community.”
Before committing to a sponsorship, thoroughly vet the events you and your partner business are considering. Once you’ve both settled on an event to sponsor, develop a document that clearly outlines expectations.
“It’s extremely important to have an agreement up front about how you’re going to represent each other and what each business’ responsibilities are, especially when money is involved,” said Helbig.
Forge digital partnerships
When you’re running a fledgling business, spare time and money are in extremely short supply. One way to connect with other local businesses without spending too much of either is social media networking.
“Small business owners should spend time participating in communities online that have no cost,” recommended Helbig. “LinkedIn groups are a great place to connect with other professionals in your industry and reach out to learn more about their business.”
In addition to joining business-centric networking groups online, connect with like-minded small businesses on social media and propose a share agreement. “Promote each other’s events, articles and videos,” said Helbig. “It puts you in front of their audience and vice versa.”
You can also work with a partner business to grow both of your social media audiences by co-writing blog posts, co-sponsoring a webinar or co-promoting a hashtag.
“The more involved you are in communities where it makes sense, the more relationships you are building, that will serve your business over the long term,” said Helbig. “That value lasts a long time.”