Why Should You Build a Support Network?
Starting a small business in the US is easy; however, keeping that business afloat can leave wide-eyed entrepreneurs with their work cut out for them.
When you start a business, build a support network. You need to surround yourself with a network of people that can be counted on, whether it is in your personal life or in your business endeavors. “There are going to be times when you’re not sure which direction to turn, and having someone to turn to in times of need, whether they be friends, advisors, or other entrepreneurs, can be invaluable,” says Ken Collis, Founder and CEO of TLK Fusion Marketing.
Building a support network may seem like a daunting task if you’ve never had to do anything like it before, and doing so takes time and effort. Below are a few ways that can help move you forward in building your network.
Start with Your Social Network
Just because you’re building a support network with your business in mind doesn’t mean that the first step you take has to be any different than if you were trying to build personal relationships. As a matter of fact, the first recommendation that consultants at TLK Fusion Marketing suggest is to join one or more social clubs. “Joining a social club as an entrepreneur is great,” says Ken Collis. “You’ll get invited to events where you can meet potential clients, friends, or even employees.” When joining a social club, it’s important to keep in mind that people didn’t necessarily come here to network or here about your business, so don’t try too hard to sell. Instead, you can mention that you run a business in passing, and let any conversation that may lead that direction do so organically.
Join a Networking Group
Networking groups are just like social groups, but instead of a group of people getting together because of a shared interest in some hobby, movie genre or book, they’re getting together because they’re all business people. “In a social club, the focus is on meeting new people with one or more similar interests. In networking groups, the focus is the same but the mutual interest is in business and trying to get more of it,” says Ken Collis. “It’s here that you’ll put your business or professional foot forward.”
Consultants working with TLK Fusion Marketing like to tell their clients to make sure they’re ready to join a networking group before doing so. The reason these groups exist is for business people in the business community to give referrals to one another. If you don’t have much of a business or social network set up before joining, you may want to hold off on this step until you do, lest you look like a fraud hoping to gain the benefits of a networking group while bringing nothing to the table themselves.
Join the Local Chamber of Commerce
If you want to meet other people who are in business, joining the local Chamber of Commerce is a good place to start. Depending on how large of a city you live in, the Chamber of Commerce can potentially put hundreds of entrepreneurs just like you at your fingertips. Ken Collis and his staff at TLK Fusion Marketing suggest that if you join, be sure to attend all of their meetings and functions. “The Chamber of Commerce will differ from place-to-place in terms of what they do and when,” says Collis, “but joining and consistently attending events will not only help to ensconce you firmly in the local business community, but will also serve to put you face-to-face with many potential members of the support network you’re looking to build.”
Join Specialized Business Associations
Building a support network is all about getting out there and meeting the right kind of people. Depending on who you are as a person, you may be eligible to join specialized business associations that will put you in the presence of people with whom you share one or more characteristics. Many places have Latino, African-American, women’s and other business associations, which, if you’re eligible to join, can provide you with helpful resources. Organizations like these exist because people want to network and socialize with others in business with whom they share similar backgrounds, and you’ll be more likely to find potential members of your support network in these places.
If you do choose to join one or more specialized business associations, it’s of paramount importance that you present yourself honestly. There are no fraud laws on the books to punish someone who isn’t Latino, but looks it, from joining a Latino business community, but if your fraud is discovered your credibility is shot. Not only will these specialized associations close their doors to you, but your reputation as a businessperson will suffer in other places as well. You may find yourself ostracized from your networking group, at the Chamber of Commerce, and local business people will be hesitant to refer the people they know to you.
As you can see, there are a lot of things you can do as an entrepreneur to build a support network around yourself. Whether you’ve just started out for your business has been around for a little while, there’s no bad time to start building your support network and getting your name out there.