Integrating your organisation into the local business community can have significant benefits. You’ll rub shoulders with savvy entrepreneurs who can offer valuable advice and guidance, stay in the loop about any regional changes and boost your reputation.
As a business owner, it’s always been desirable to be part of a thriving local hub - but now it may be more important than ever. In previous years, entrepreneurs have been focused on building global networks. Today, the spotlight has shifted towards small businesses and community-focused mindsets.
Where ‘supporting local communities’ used to inspire nostalgia and a feel-good attitude in shoppers, it’s now crucial to the survival of many businesses. By becoming a valued organisation in your local area, you can be a part of a real support system and take steps to safeguard your business’s future.
Having a greater purpose and embedding it into the DNA of your business is critical to developing deeper relationships with customers in an age when creating meaningful connections is getting harder and harder.
– Trisa Thompson, Chief Responsibility Officer at Dell
How to integrate into your local business community
1. Attend local business events
The number one way to get involved in your local business community is to take part in commercial events and exhibitions. You’ll have the chance to network with like-minded entrepreneurs and form partnerships with local businesses.
But remember, community is all about give and take, so make sure you go with a can-do attitude. Think about what you can do for other businesses, as well as what they can do for you.
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2. Join your local Chamber of Commerce
You can join a business network straight away by becoming a member of your local Chamber of Commerce. You’ll stand alongside other entrepreneurs to support commerce in the region, while developing your reputation as a local business owner. You can also use your membership as an opportunity to build partnerships with other organisations.
3. Take part in community events
As well as business-focused events, you should consider attending more general occasions in the community calendar. Setting up a stall at the summer fete or opening a cabin at the Christmas markets will give you the chance to meet other local businesses. Plus, it’ll boost your brand recognition.
4. Sponsor a local sports team or charity
This approach offers a real win-win situation. Locals will be happy to hear you’ve put money towards a cause they value, and more likely to shop at your business in the future. At the same time, you’ll be making a significant difference to an organisation at the heart of the community.
Offering sponsorships for local groups or events is a great way to show support for the surrounding community. You can sponsor Little League teams, or support your employees who are involved in marathons, races, etc.
– Rob Rae, Vice President of Business Development at Datto
5. Offer free products and services to local businesses
It’s not just money you can give away - why not consider donating resources to local organisations? You could support schools, libraries or non-profit groups. The type of help you can offer will depend on the business you run, but most companies should be able to give something worthwhile.
6. Run business workshops
Take some time to think about the expertise you and your employees have built up and how you might transfer your knowledge to other organisations. You don’t necessarily have to offer workshops free of charge; just treat them as another income stream. You could boost your revenue and reputation, and get the satisfaction of knowing you’re enriching the local business community.
7. Welcome others into your premises
If you’re operating a ‘brick and mortar’ business rather than an online one, you can take advantage of having a physical property to support others in the community. You might choose to host social events, book clubs or games nights. You could even open up your premises to give local artists or freelancers a secure space to work.
8. Allow employees to volunteer
Incorporating volunteer time off (VTO) into your schedule will give staff members the chance to take time away from their usual work and make a meaningful difference to local organisations. Not only will this improve your reputation in the community, but it should also help workers take a step back and return to their tasks with fresh enthusiasm and energy.
Studies prove the positive impact of VTO: employees are 36 percent more likely to have strong company loyalty, and 81 percent of workers say volunteering strengthens their relationships with colleagues (Cone Communications, UnitedHealth Group).
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As you can see, there are many ways to become a bigger part of your local business community. Ultimately, anything you can do to support other people and nearby organisations will help you earn a warmer reception. If locals can see you’re keen to give something back to the community, they’ll be more likely to want to put their money towards your business.
If you’ve not yet launched your start-up and are still on the lookout for potential locations, it’s worth putting some thought into the local business ecosystem in your shortlisted sites. Take a look at the 6 Signs Your Local Area Is Ready to Welcome Your Franchise Business for more information on how to choose the ideal spot.
You can also find hundreds of handy guides right here at Point Franchise. Our articles cover all aspects of running your own business, from site selection and drafting business plans, to franchise exit strategies and retirement. Use the search box to find information on a specific subject.
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©