Small Business Associations: Investing in Your Success
When you think about the future of your small business, what wakes you up in the middle of the night?
Small business associations are interested in your success, and they’ve probably considered the scenarios that result in you feeling sleep-deprived. Becoming a member of a small business association means joining forces with an organization that is interested in protecting and advancing your needs. And it is likely that they’ve found ways to overcome many of the obstacles that small business owners face.
Most people, regardless of the field or industry they work in, will reach a point where they think: “I have no idea what I’m doing.” If this has ever happened to you, you know that it is better to have lots of resources at your fingertips before you get to this point.
Successful people aren’t afraid to ask for help, and see value in working with other people to come up with the smartest solutions. When you have the resources you need to be successful, an obstacle isn’t an emergency. It’s an opportunity to innovate and learn something new.
Invest in your success
The most obvious reason to be part of a small business association is they connect you to partners, networks and customers, and these connections help grow your business. Only you know the best solutions for your business: an opportunity to learn new skills, while also expanding the reach of your small business, is an investment in yourself.
While small business associations in various towns, cities, regions and states focus on different things and operate in different ways, one thing they have in common is seeking to further their collective interests, while advancing their community, region, state or nation.
Small business associations provide everything from tangible benefits, to a metaphorical mirror for professionals who work alone to bounce ideas off of. Here are four advantages of joining a business association that are particularly relevant right now:
A group presence on social media channels
Social media channels that are operated by groups you are a member of can push ideas and information to you; they also provide a different outlet, a virtual venue, for members to network, connect and share insights with each other. It is likely that the followers that you’ve accrued on your social media accounts are already a part of your network. They are your friends, colleagues and former clients. But social media allows you to access the networks of the people you are virtually connected with. A group presence on social networks multiplies the reach of member small businesses. Last, there is simply no avoiding the fact that a major audience exists online. And sometimes that’s the only place you can find them. The increased visibility of social media means that consumers who are unfamiliar with your business can see that you are connected to New York’s Manhattan Chamber of Commerce through a social media channel. That might make them see you in a different way.
Conducting useful research
While an increased focus on the way that businesses use data metrics and analytics to make strategic decisions represents a new trend in business processes, many small business professionals cannot afford to hire their own data analyst. If you are joining an association related to your specific field, like the National Restaurant Association, many times they’ve conducted their own market research and analysis. Small business associations can pool resources from members that allows them to provide materials and resources that benefit everyone is the group, whereas it’s possible that that individual members could not afford those materials or resources on their own. Joining a small business association related to certain industries and trades is a great way to stay up-to-date with what’s going on in your field.
A conduit for conversations no one wants to have
Conversations about labor laws, equality, safety and community response to crises can quickly become political. While these topics can affect small business owners in marked ways, they also reveal deeply-held beliefs and values. Sometimes there is a great disparity between the values and beliefs of individual business owners, even though they share many of the same interests, including finding ways for their business to succeed. A small business association is tasked with identifying and addressing the issues that are impacting the climate of the small business community, whether it’s advocating to city officials or monitoring political activity. They also facilitate those conversations that no one wants to have, and create a safe and constructive place for small business owners to share their concerns and opinions. Townsquared member Wendy Gillihan, owner of Gryffin Consulting, is on the board of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Over the years, the Chamber has been a place where she can contribute to conversations about policy, such as labor standards, that impact her clients.
Providing training and support from outside sources
The cost of membership to join a small business association is an investment in your success. The tangible benefits of membership include everything from a qualified referral, new leads or a discount on some program or service. It is harder to put a price tag on the knowledge you will acquire. Ideally, you will take advantage of all the educational events offered as a benefit of membership. Not only can a small business association provide training from outside experts in their field, there is the dual benefit of learning best practices from your business peers who have more experience than you. There might never be another occasion, apart from a meeting or networking event hosted by your small business association, where so many different seasoned small business owners and experts will be in the same room.
Before you join a small business association
Given the sheer number of associations and organizations for small business professionals, it would be impossible to mention them all here. When considering which small business association you are going to join, the best resource to consult is other people who work in the same field as you. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, contact professionals who are current members of that small business association and ask them what their experience has been.
Small business associations have existed in the US for more than two centuries, with many having been established before the jurisdictions they represent. While they are called a number of things, a small business association is a business-led civic and economic advancement entity operating in a specific space.
If you’re ready to learn new skills and grow your small business, one of the smartest moves you can make is to join a small business association. Townsquared has partnered with small business organizations in cities across the U.S., from New York City to Seattle to East Bay, and more. If you are looking for someplace to start, we recommend The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Oakland Grown, Seattle Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, Portland Pearl District Business Association, Seattle Ballard Chamber of Commerce, New York Fifth Avenue Park Slope North, North Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Portland Built Oregon, Seattle South Lake Union Chamber of Commerce, Seattle Beacon Hill Merchants Association, Seattle Fremont Chamber of Commerce, New York Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, New York Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber, The Junction West Seattle, New York Carroll Gardens Association, Portland Made: Local Goods Collective.