Did you know that the chance of survival for small businesses increases with age? In 2012, the U.S. Small Business Administration said that at least 10 percent of small businesses — those that have 500 or fewer employees — are created each year, and of those, about half survive for the first five years. About one-third last a decade or more, it said.
As a small business owner, you’re probably wondering how to get into that seemingly exclusive group of one-third. One of the easiest ways to find that in? Networking and mentorships.
Networking is more than just going to events, like luncheons or fundraisers. It’s about creating and sustaining relationships, ones that can help your small business grow. Our Windstream Small Business team has put together some ways to help you make the most out of those networking events.
1. Find Groups That Fit Your Small Business Needs
Every small business has a unique set of needs that depend on location, industry and other factors. Look to local chambers of commerce or economic development organizations for location-specific pointers. Volunteer in community events to get to know your neighbors. Join trade associations, attend conferences or get together with indirect competitors for product-specific or industry-specific advice.
2. Do Your Homework
When you’re networking, you’re not giving up anything but your time. It’s the same for everyone else. So, don’t go to these events without your pitch. Know what you’re going to say about you and your small business in a quick summary. But remember, these events aren’t just about you. Give others an opportunity to talk about themselves, their businesses, their products and their problems — and really listen. For all you know, you may be facing the same dilemmas!
3. Follow up
So you’ve been to a few networking events, you’ve met other, like-minded business owners, you’ve exchanged contact information. What’s next? Follow up! Send a personal note or email, give him or her a ring or schedule a time to see each other again. Don’t wait too long to reach out, and remember that the scales will tip toward you giving before you start receiving.
Once you establish relationships — especially if they’re with other small business owners — cross-promote. What exactly does that mean? Cross-promotion can include stocking someone else’s products in your store, having your advertisements on another small business’ materials or even pitching in for shared resources. Read how one small business owner and her contacts started a consortium of area companies providing professional services that complemented her work.
There’s no question that networking and mentoring can help small businesses succeed. The UPS Store found in a 2014 survey that 70 percent of the small businesses owners who had mentors survived for at least five years.
Having a mentor will give you someone to turn to for advice, someone who can help you strengthen your small business and ultimately, help it grow. How do you go about finding that experienced hand? Besides SCORE — a nonprofit organization that helps small business owners start and grow companies — here are some other places where you can find a mentor.
Now that you’re on the road to success, we’d like to help you augment the technologies that make your small business run smoothly. Windstream Small Business can help support your company with phone, high-speed internet and cloud-based services that are designed to meet the needs of the ever-changing business environment.
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