Top 2 requirements for a strong small business support network


With all the means of communication today, there are many different ways to network, but who should you include in your network?

I’m not going to get into your network of prospects. That’s different for every business. I want you to have a network that supports your business – a network where you can get advice, gather business intelligence, and find the support and encouragement you need as you work hard to grow your small business.

It’s almost like parenting

I want to start with an illustration. You, or someone close to you, has been a parent, so you probably know that parents of children around the same ages network and do things to support one another. In addition to that, the wise parents will turn to their parents or grandparents for advice and support from time to time.

This is basically the same model you should be striving for as you build your small business support network. You want to include other business owners who are in the same situation as you (more on this in just a bit) and more experienced businesspeople who have “been there, done that.”

Each of these groups in your network will be able to offer valuable advice and lots of support and encouragement. Further, because they have different perspectives and different networks themselves, it will enrich your position even more.

Your small business peer support network

There should be more than one element in your peer network. You should be networking with owners of businesses that are similar to yours, or at least in the same general industry, and you should also be networking with business owners in your geographic location. You can accomplish both of these by being active in state-wide or national trade groups along with being a member of one or more local business groups.

With professional or industry associations, you’ll stay on top of trends in your sector. Some of those will help you control costs and apply the latest technology to your business. With your local network, you’ll learn about deals from local suppliers, develop prospects, and promote increased commerce in your home area.

Generally speaking, peer group advice will help you out with the “nuts and bolts” of running your operation. Your connections to more experienced business leaders will help you understand what’s required for long-term growth and also be there for you when a major issue arises that you don’t know exactly how to deal with.

Finding experienced advisors

You may be able to find this kind of seasoned, sage advice with a local mentor, or through your work with a state-wide or national organization. However, you’ll probably have to work a little harder to really establish these kinds of relationships. For example, look at the former officers of national associations and see if any who live nearby or at least not too far for occasional lunches together.

Of course, you can always pick up the phone and talk to these individuals and send emails back and forth.

If you’re having trouble finding someone who fits the description of a seasoned veteran in your industry, contact the local branch of SCORE. They have a great membership of experienced executives who are willing to share their knowledge.

Finally, I want to stress the importance of getting support on both of these levels. If you only depend on your peer group, there will be times when your situation will be reduced to the “blind leading the blind.” You’ll lack the bigger perspective that is occasionally needed to take businesses to the next higher level of success.

And on the other hand, if you don’t network with locals, you are certain to miss out on some good opportunities.