Small Business CommunityMany small business owners tell me they often feel isolated. Solo owners or those without a group of more senior level peers often describe being drained from the responsibly of making all the decisions and shouldering all of the risk. They can be confused about whether the decisions they make are best for them, their industry, the marketplace, or their clients. My first and best advice is always, build a community that serves you.

Every small business owner can benefit from having a group of other small business owners as resources. Such a group can contribute greatly to any small business owner’s success and with the right development can serve as an advisory council that relieves the day-to-day stress of “wearing all the hats.”

Not just anyone will do. It takes careful selection and relationship building to get the right group of community members. It starts with knowing what you need most.

Fill your community with resources

Your community should be comprised of resources that can fill gaps in your knowledge, experience and expertise. If you are new to a business, market or client type, find someone that has worked in your business, that area or with that group for a longer period. If you are new to a profession, find a mentor.

Seek resources that have education or professional services that you can rely on to keep you and your business safe. All small business owners can use an experienced accountant, attorney and insurance professional.  You will also want to include a marketing expert (social media, digital and more traditional), a human resources expert, a public relations professional and a business broker.

What to look for

As you probably learned from your parents, we are judged by the company we keep. Make sure you choose wisely. Do your homework. Be sure the resources you invite into your community share your values. Check their references to determine that they have a stellar reputation in the community. Check their credentials. More times than we like to admit, people are not who they say they are. Check the internet or contact references to see what others have had to say about whether they are easy to work with.

Take your time

One of the biggest mistakes business owners make in building community is to try to build it too quickly. Take your time. Let the relationships unfold. Be slow to commit to anything long term. Be sure your resources earn your business and your loyalty.

Do your part

Be good community to have good community.  If you want to build a strong group of professional peers you have to make time to reciprocate for the contributions they make in time and effort outside any services you pay them for. As relationships grow your professional community will most likely ask you to participate in events, gatherings, or entertaining new members to your group. Be sure you are willing to do your part to serve them as they serve you.