How to Build a Support Network for Your Small Business
Regardless of how long you have been running your small business, a strong support network is an important resource to help you keep going.
Managing your own business can be tough work with long hours and very little appreciation. If you have a solid group of individuals around you who understand what you are going through, it’s easier to bear the hard work that’s required. These can be other business owners, mentors, peers, or colleagues who offer advice, share opportunities, and even just listen to you when needed.
If you do not have a core group of supporters, it’s not too late to build one up—but it can take time. You have to commit to cultivating the relationships and network, and that doesn’t happen overnight.
Building Your Network
Here are some tips when starting to build a support network:
- Take a chance. Don’t be afraid to extend a hand and ask a new contact to connect. It doesn’t have to be work-related. Do you both play tennis? Is there a new coffee place you’ve been meaning to check out? Building a support network is primarily about developing new business friendships. Finding creative ways to do so is a solid first step.
- Research social events. Look for networking opportunities, whether through a local business organization or an online platform like Meetup.com. Search for events you would enjoy attending that would help you meet other like-minded individuals.
- Reciprocity. Start by focusing on how you can help and support others, whether through networking opportunities or just a congratulatory drink after they have reached a goal or achievement. Be as good a support to them as you hope they will be for you.
- Host an event. Invite business associates, suppliers, employees, family, friends, relatives, and anyone else you know to an event. Better yet, tell them to bring someone with them. You can not only provide a fun social atmosphere for the people you’ve come to rely on but also meet new people who can join your support network as you grow.
Where to Reach Out
Where do you start when looking for new contacts? Here are some of the best places to begin if you’re at a loss for how to grow your network:
- College buddies. Chances are that if you studied the same thing, you are working in the same field. Why not reach out and see what they are doing now? Most universities or colleges offer regular alumni events where you can reconnect with your former classmates.
- Business associates. A great place to connect with others in business is through your local chamber of commerce. These organizations also hold regular meetings and activities that help members reach out and get to know one another. You may also want to look up local industry associations or chapters that can connect you to others in the same field of work. A lot of professional women’s groups can put you in touch with mentors or other small business owners.
- Past co-workers. Think of the people you’ve worked with in the past. If you can recall some that you enjoyed talking with or that you could bounce ideas off of, now is a good time to reach out and get back in touch.
A support network can be a combination of friends, family members, business associates, mentors, and colleagues. If you know someone who provides good advice or listens to your business ideas and offers feedback, draw them in because they can become a key part of your support system.
Whether you want to build a new group of supporters or just need another voice or two to help you along the way, building a solid support network is easier than you think.
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