Nellie Akalp is CEO of CorpNet.com, her second incorporation filing service based on her strong passion to assist small business owners and entrepreneurs in starting and protecting their business. She has formed more than 100,000 corporations and LLCs across the U.S. To learn more about Nellie and see how she can help your business get off the ground quickly and affordably, please visit here.
There’s a classic children’s book, Swimmy, where a school of little fish team up and swim as one big fish to avoid being eaten. I often read this story at bedtime to my children and when I do I often realize the story line is so close to my heart as I consider the challenges facing small businesses and startups today. Because frankly (and I don’t mean to carry this metaphor too far … ), the small business is swimming in an ocean that’s far more dangerous than ever before.
Accessing business capital and credit has been particularly difficult over the past years. Consumer and business purse strings have been tight. Now we’re facing sky-rocketing fuel prices and worries over potential inflation. And large corporations grow larger and more powerful with every passing day (even “too big to fail” companies just seem to get bigger).
Now more than ever, small businesses need to band together in order to compete with their larger counterparts. It’s only by joining forces that small businesses can achieve economies of scale and have a voice that can compete with larger corporations. There is power in the collective, and businesses can harness the power of community to move forward.
So what does this mean? If you’re a small business, seek out symbiotic and collaborative relationships with other small businesses whenever possible. Whether formally or informally, build a collective co-op of like-minded businesses and individuals. Small businesses need to look at each other as partners, not competitors. Here are just a few tangible examples of how to join forces in the small business market.
1. Join a Local Meetup Group for Entrepreneurs
Whether the plumber recommends a carpenter or the web designer recommends a copywriter, business is driven by referrals and connections. Local groups — which may meet monthly in a café or hotel conference area — aim to tap into the power of collaboration, support, and most importantly, referrals. Use them to develop relationships and share advice with fellow entrepreneurs and small business owners. Check Meetup.com or your local chamber of commerce for a relevant group in your area.
If you’ve built a strong Twitter network, organize a Tweetup in order to parlay that network into an even more powerful experience through face-to-face networking. And if referrals are very important to your business, you can also consider the word of mouth referral group BNI. These groups are more structured (and have a modest fee) where local professionals meet (each chapter allows one person from each profession to join) for the sole purpose of sharing referrals, marketing tips and testimonials.
2. Join a Virtual Community for Startups
Maybe structured, in-person meetups aren’t your thing. Or your business doesn’t necessarily target local customers and clients. You can join a social network or virtual group for like-minded small business owners to exchange advice, get support, build partnerships, find help and more.
For example, Entrepreneur Connect (which is part of the Entrepreneur Network and Entrepreneur.com) bills itself as “a dynamic business-to-business marketplace that will help everyone grow.”
3. Join the Small Business Web