There is no shortage of clichés in business. Sometimes, they can be helpful. But more often than not, they come up short.
In a fast-paced business world, making big and small decisions can feel overwhelming. No business operates in a bubble, whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or an aspiring founder. Community is an essential key to navigating the complexities and challenges of the dynamic business landscape.
Here are five practical ways to uncover honest business advice by networking and building community.
1. Reach Out to Leaders You Admire
Being a business owner can feel isolating, especially when you’re launching your new venture and big decisions are on the line. Networking can give you mentorships, valuable insights, and potential new opportunities in your enterprise.
Brent Donner, owner of DLC Manufacturing in New Ulm, Minnesota, says tapping into leaders in the fabrication industry across the country helped him build his consulting business – many became his clients. (Hear how Brent built his exceptional company by making tough choices and mentoring his team here.)
You may already know someone whose career you look up to. They don’t have to be in the same industry as you. They may have an outstanding work ethic or an exciting business model.
But maybe you’re thinking of someone you don’t personally know. Cold contacting (reaching out to someone you don’t know) can be intimidating, but put yourself in their shoes. Wouldn’t you feel flattered if someone emailed you saying they admire your work and wanted to connect?
Keep the message short by introducing yourself and your business, explaining why you love their work, and making a concrete request to connect over the phone.
It’s understandable to be afraid of rejection or feel like you can’t offer something to the relationship. But remember that networking is mutually beneficial. It fosters collaboration and showcases that genuine admiration is valuable.
2. Join Your Local Chamber of Commerce
A Chamber of Commerce promotes economic development for areas and neighborhoods by supporting local businesses. There are a lot of ways to get involved, depending on where you live.
You can attend networking events and sign up for education programs, like a Lunch and Learn or a panel conversation with area experts. Chambers of Commerce usually have member directories available to the public so that you can find recommendations for local services and partnerships.
You can also learn more about specific business changes in your community, like new commercial buildings or opportunities to promote your business.
You can explore membership levels that fit your business’s needs, like exclusive events or more visibility for the company. However you engage, becoming a local chamber of commerce member is an investment to connect with your community and advocate for businesses.
3. Tap Into Expert Resources
There are endless books, blogs, and podcasts for influential business advice. But instead of finding blanket advice, it can be more valuable to listen to stories from business owners about their successes and failures. You can also look for how-to guides and game-changing philosophies to ensure your business thrives.
If you’re looking for general news, tips, and business guides, the U.S. Small Business Administration has thousands of reliable articles for small business owners. You can also find books and online publications that focus on your specific industry – but remember to research the qualifications and background of everything you read.
Taking on loads of new information can be overwhelming. Set aside dedicated learning time for your business and bring specific questions. It will also help you to take notes while reading or listening and create action plans based on your learning.
4. Find Business Communities Online You Align With
Cultivating communities online can also be a great way to connect with people in your industry, collaborate with people worldwide, and grow your business. Creating behind-the-scenes and “Day in the Life” content on TikTok, Facebook, and LinkedIn can also put your business in the spotlight. You should also watch for webinars or virtual events within your industry.
You can also look on industry-specific platforms for links to Facebook groups, Discords, and forums. You’ll be able to engage in conversations and share resources with a community that understands your business’s unique challenges. Remember: these are collaborative, community spaces where you need to ask questions and give advice.
5. Cultivate Outstanding Business Partnerships
Every business owner needs partners to get your new enterprise off the ground. Tax advisors, lawyers, insurance partners, and banks are a part of your core team that sets you up for success.
Choose partners that will support the entire health of your business. Find people you feel comfortable asking questions with and have a business-minded approach to their work.
Jackie Thorson, owner of Thorson Heating in Sioux Falls, says choosing Bank Midwest as her finance partner meant she partnered with financial experts who think outside the box and root for her success.
Remember: this is a long-term relationship for your business. Relationships, from your community network to your business team, help set you up for many years of success.
Stories from business owners like you can give you valuable insight into your own enterprise. Listen to Dream, Plan, Live: the Bank Midwest podcast for stories, how-to guides, and advice from the experts Bank Midwest.