One thing many small-businesses owners soon learn is that going it alone is tough. Some of the most difficult aspects of operating a small business as a sole entrepreneur, partnership, or single private owner are growth and decision-making. Getting your name out there, establishing a satisfied customer base, and making the right decisions to fuel short- and long-term business growth can be difficult when your plate is already full with day-to-day operations.
Fortunately, there are several groups designed to help small businesses learn, grow, and make decisions by working with their peers. If your small business is at a crossroads or you simply want help growing your company, check out the following five groups your small business should join this year.
Business Network International is the largest business referral organization in the world, but its membership is populated by smaller, local chapters (around 30 members or so each). Each BNI chapter allows only one member from each type of business to eliminate competition within the group. The organization promotes a philosophy of “giver’s gain” in which the more referrals you pass to your fellow members, the more you’ll receive. In BNI, a referral isn’t a lead: It’s someone your fellow members have already talked to and who is likely to do business with you.
Vistage offers several different types of groups in more than 1,800 cities, one of which is its small-business group. Vistage groups meet to solve problems together so that each member may leverage the experience and expertise of the entire group to grow their own business. Vistage also offers in-person coaching with a chairperson, peer groups, and workshops.
3. Gold Star Referral Clubs
Where BNI is known for being strict in terms of agenda and attendance (which is purposeful), Gold Star Referral Clubs are more relaxed. The organization maintains that is a more user-friendly option than other referral-based small-business networking organizations. That isn’t to say it’s not just as effective; in fact, the more you enjoy attending meetings, the more likely you are to participate and gain new business from it.
LeTip is another referral-based small-business networking organization. It was founded in 1978 and has grown to more than 120,000 American members. LeTip expects regional directors to help train members in effective business networking practices, from attracting new membership to passing quality leads and referrals. It’s another great way to meet other business owners and grow your company.
Mastermind groups are everywhere, and each works to educate and provide peer support for its members. Mastermind groups focus on professional and personal growth. They’re not networking groups but rather brainstorming groups that offer problem solving, support, and opportunities. If there is not a Mastermind group in your area, it’s easy to start your own!
What’s your favorite small-business group? Leave a suggestion in a comment.