As a small-business owner, you may read a lot of advice about how to grow your business using strategies like sales and marketing techniques. But don’t overlook an important role for small businesses — community involvement.
The lifeblood of a small business is its community. The people who live in your community are your customers, and the more they know and like you, the better your small business will do.
Some examples of small businesses getting involved in their community include sponsoring a youth sports team, a road race or local festival. Just getting your company’s name on the backs of the T-shirts people will wear all the time is huge, but if you can provide a service as well, even better. For instance, if you have a graphic arts firm, offer to design the logo for the event.
Networking in the Small Business Community
Business News Daily suggests joining your local Chamber of Commerce as well. This gives you a golden opportunity to rub elbows with local business people. Not only will you network with others who may be better established than your company, your connections can provide valuable advice.
Networking is important for any business, but especially for small businesses and startups. Well-established small businesses have the advantage because they likely have a wider customer base, better recognition, and a solid reputation.
But what too many small businesses do when they achieve this is to assume they’ve “made it” and rest on their laurels. This may work for a time, but in almost every industry you can expect to see a steady influx of fresh-faced interlopers looking to steal your customers. They’re younger, they have tons of energy and lots of new ideas. Many will crash and burn, but some will not, and either way, they can take money out of your pocket as long as their shingle is out.
So always put effort into getting your company’s name out there. Never think everyone knows it already. Be the example to the others.
Take Every Opportunity as a Small Business Owner
When you’re just starting out, networking with the “big kids” is an invaluable learning experience. But what’s equally important is networking outside of your industry.
For example, if you are a small business renting shared office space, make yourself known to all the other tenants — even those only staying for a day. Let’s say you’re in sales and marketing. You worked for a few big firms, now you’ve started your own company. Everyone needs sales and marketing help. Get to know the other people in the shared office environment.
Start by introducing yourself at the water cooler or another shared space and make some small talk. After you learn someone’s name, maybe stop at their open door to say hi. (It’s easy to take this too far and become annoying. Don’t overdo it. Be brief.) Once you’ve gained their trust and there is less danger that you’ll come off as a huckster looking for more business, offer some free advice. Something along the lines of, “Wow, nice business cards. Have you thought about getting a professional headshot taken and including that on the card? In your industry, that can really help people remember who you are.”
This type of networking can help you gain favor, establish a good reputation and stick in the minds of other business owners who may want to hire you or recommend you to a friend.
Get Out of the Office and Volunteer
Small businesses that use shared office space often do not have a lot of employees. But even if you only have three or four (or more working from home), another way to get your business involved in the community is to volunteer. Whether it’s cleaning up a park, painting over graffiti or sorting donated clothing or canned goods, sending a team from your business establishes your reputation as a local, small business that cares about the community.
Remember when you’re participating in these types of events that being humble won’t help you. Wear matching company T-shirts to the event, take pictures and post them on your Facebook page.
Depending on what type of small business you run, consider donating part of every workweek to providing free services to those in need. Are you a party planner? Help plan a fund-raiser for a family who has a child with cancer. Are you a lawyer? Volunteer your services through a domestic violence prevention group. Are you an accountant or financial planner? Help a charity with their books.
National Small Business Week was April 29-May 5. The Small Business Administration selected the best and brightest among small businesses and entrepreneurs for top awards such as outstanding contribution to disaster recovery and contractor of the year. Take a look at who received awards and make it your goal to get your business’s name in that spot next year.
When your small business is growing — or when you want it to grow — expanding to shared office space might be the answer. Access to a professional space impresses clients by bringing a higher level of credibility to your company. And the best part of renting temporary office space? There’s no commitment! Rent for a year, a month, a week or even a day. Contact Metro Offices to learn more.