I’ve always been a joiner. I like communities, groups, having a wide circle of friends – it’s in my nature to try to get to know the people around me. So, when I started my own business a few years ago, I was eager to join the club… and find a business group of my own.
I tried out a few different organizations, from the Chamber of Commerce, and Women in Business Council, to various female business owners networks. I met a lot of great people, but my goals for joining didn’t always align with the objectives of the groups. So, I took matters into my own hands, and started my own business advisors group. I’m a big believer in reaching out to people out of the blue – it’s not that hard to find someone’s email address, and it gives them a pretty easy out if they’re not interested in talking to you.
I started taking note of businesses around town that were interesting, looked successful, and had characteristics that I wanted to learn more about. For instance, I’ve always dreamed of opening my own storefront, so I reached out to someone who owns a gift shop, with the hope that I’d be able to pick her brain about the ins-and-outs of having a brick-and-mortar site. I wanted to invite people from a bunch of different industries to diversify the type of knowledge and experience in the group.
I sent a message to a number of these entrepreneurs, got a few affirmative responses, and my business advisors group was created.
What’s great about the group is that we all have different types of businesses, so we’re able to help each other in different ways. I can ask one member about graphic design pointers, and in turn offer guidance to another about social media strategy and marketing tips. It’s not a straight networking group – there’s only a handful of us in the group, and we plan to keep it pretty small. And, it’s not about finding new clients (though that topic comes up). What it really is about is building genuine relationships… and friendships!... with people whose careers have taken similar paths into entrepreneurship.
Before each meeting, each of us thinks about some specific questions that we have, or a problem that we’re facing. It can be about anything that involves business – finding the right CPA, what to do with a bad employee, legal issues, how to get more clients, etc. – and then everyone else in the group shares their suggestions, or offers their own experiences. Most of the time, someone in the group has some really great tips or advice. Sometimes someone just needs to vent, and that’s welcome, too.
What I love about this group – and why I’d encourage every small business owner to find their own business group – is that after each meeting, I feel really inspired to be better. When things are kind of sucking at HSM, and I feel like I made a huge mistake going out on my own, we can all get together, and I’m reminded why I do the back-breaking, never-ending work of building a business.
If you’re thinking about starting your own business advisors group, consider what it is you want to get out of it, and be upfront with any potential members. If you’re looking for leads, tell them. If you want a place where you can go for emotional support, let potential members know that. That way, you’ll find a group of people with the same goals, and everyone involved will get something out of it.