Networking to Grow Your Business
One of the best things about the digital era is the amount of help available for businesses online. From books and Ted Talks to government departments, financial institutions, business associations and non-profit organizations, access to data makes it easier to find the advice and support you need to grow.
Be sure to explore a variety of resources and ask other business owners for their recommendations to support your business' growth at every stage.
It helps to surround yourself with good people. That's the reason many of the best business minds serve on corporate boards and advise companies on everything from raising capital to expansion plans. If possible, choose advisors who have several clients in your industry because they can often pass along valuable experience that will benefit your company.
Professionals who can help your business include:
- Accountant. A good accountant can save you time and money by creating an overall tax strategy that can be invaluable for your business. This is your go-to person for advice regarding tax filing, tax planning, and, eventually, preparing for business succession.
- Lawyer. A good lawyer protects your company's interests and advises on important business decisions. Your lawyer can help you set up a company, draft a sales agreement to use with customers, review your website for legal issues, create contracts for your employees and protect your intellectual property.
- Business advisors and coaches. A business advisor is someone who will answer general business questions for you. A business coach will work with you to set business goals and encourage you to achieve them. Ask your colleagues for a recommendation.
- Industry groups. You may want to join an association that represents your industry to stay on top of industry news and regulations and connect with your peers. Industry groups also provide professional development and learning opportunities for members.
- Chamber of Commerce. Your local Chamber will host business networking events, seminars, workshops, award dinners and other activities designed to help business owners learn and connect with each other.
- Management consultants. These are typically category-specific advisors brought in to help you address a challenge.
- Business Mentors. A business mentor may be an experienced businessperson you've recruited to guide you through the process of starting and growing your business. You may find a business mentor through your local business media, Chamber of Commerce, business support group or professional network. Consider signing a mentor agreement to commit both parties to the process, establish the time commitment and define responsibilities.
- The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). This member organization offers a wide range of business services including advice, financial expertise, support and a powerful voice in government.
- Business banker. Remember that your banker will have a wide range of business experience you can call on to help your business through a variety of situations.
Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)
A helpful resource for business owners, your local Small Business Development Center provides business support. Key support elements include:
- Advice from business advisors on various business topics including: marketing, finance, human resources and operations.
- Research and analysis services to help you conduct market research, feasibility studies, business development strategies and industry studies.
- Workshops and seminars - The SBDC offers a regular schedule of affordable workshops, conferences and special events designed to teach practical, hands-on business management skills.
There are hundreds of SBDC locations throughout the U.S.
Funded by the U.S. Government, SCORE is a nonprofit dedicated to helping businesses by offering free mentoring, workshops, events and content to help you start and grow your business. Other resources include:
- A resource library full of great links to content rich websites.
- SCORE Women which provides education and support for female entrepreneurs.
- A range of success stories profiling local businesses that have succeeded.
Using this data can help you determine if investing the extra cash will pay off and when is the best time to invest in the new equipment.
Useful business websites
There is plenty of support online for your business.
- The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers business counseling, learning opportunities, business resources and funding programs to support businesses.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website provides tax information for businesses, including information on filing taxes, record keeping responsibilities, hiring employees and opening business tax accounts.
Whether you're starting a business in 2019 or looking to grow your business, the world is literally at your fingertips. Spend some time online to research these resources and discover others. Check out local business organizations and services available to help your enterprise grow. Read trusted business publications for a source of growth strategies, business tips and inspiration.
Before you join any association or group, ask to attend as a guest to see if the organization can bring value to you and your business. Ask experienced business owners to recommend resources they used to get started. Attend local business conferences, trade shows and franchise shows to discover additional resources to support your business journey and build your business network.
Finally use social media to follow trusted business advisors, organizations and associations.