There’s a small business association in my local town. For the first few years I was in business, I largely ignored it. After all, most of my business effort focused on reaching people outside of my community. What did I really have in common with these people?
When I finally took the initiative to get involved, instead of finding a bunch of people who were just content to put out their shingles in the community, I found a lot of people with a lot of entrepreneurial spirit that was focused in a lot of different directions.
I also found countless opportunities to help my own business, some of which already existed and some of which I invented myself.
Here are some simple ways to utilize the local business community in your town, regardless of what kind of business you operate.
Build promotional relationships. I write a personal finance site called The Simple Dollar - purely online enterprise that would seemingly have little relation to the local community. Yet, through my local small business community, I’ve met people running local banks and local investment consultants, many of which have mentioned the site to their readers. This has added many new regular visitors, plus it’s added to my potential for speaking engagements in the area. There are countless relationships like this that can be forged between people with businesses that intersect but don’t compete.
Share equipment and resources. Printers. Fax machines. Computers. Vehicles. There are countless pieces of business equipment that you might need to invest in for your own use, but you won’t be using every single day. So why not find another local business with a similar need and agree to share the equipment? A small business association is a perfect place to set up such a relationship.
Share opportunities. By getting involved and building relationships, you’ll find that your horizons are much more open to opportunities of all kinds – new sources of customers, new sources for good employees, new avenues for promotions, and so on. Each of these provide great value for your business.
Share ideas. More than anything, I’ve found value in the sharing of ideas. Surrounding yourself with self-motivated, creative people means you’re surrounding yourself with great sources for ideas of all kinds. Take every opportunity you can to share your story with others in the association and you’ll find that, time and time again, others come up with great little ideas for you to use.
All of these tactics can directly drive more business to you or reduce your expenses with very little cost, freeing up your own resources to build the infrastructure in other areas. After all, $100 worth of free promotion might mean $100 that can be spent on new equipment, and one great new idea might just transform your business.