Moreover those running these small / micro businesses are much more connected into our communities and spend much more time in the community often working from home or small serviced offices.
There is also a much larger percentage of women involved in these micro businesses too. With the advent of the Internet and the ability to create a business that fits around their lives instead of the other way around, we are seeing the 'business day' slowly but irreversibly being redefined.
What is fascinating though is that with the huge growth in people choosing to 'take the plunge' and start their own business there has not been the comparable growth in support services.
Nevertheless... Where do people go these days to connect and to obtain some impartial advice, guidance and signposting?
It's a difficult one to answer. We have seen the rise since the early 2000's of alternative business networking options to provide choice other than BNI which began in 1985. The majority are paid for membership networking but there are many that are independent and free ones too which does indicate a real need.
The main challenge still remains however which is that unbiased, impartial advice, guidance, and signposting is still wanting. Because business networking by its very nature is about promoting business, everyone is looking for an opportunity to find those elusive customers in an environment of 'low hanging fruit'. Advice and guidance is available... after a very 'light' assessment (normally short discussions)... but always at a price.
Free networking events are a good development which has meant more people can get out and network but the downside is that people tend to be less committed (it's free so no financial implications for not attending) and consequently it's difficult to build strong relationships, or establish the real capabilities of people.
These people starting on their new adventure have certain characteristics in common :-
- They have money to invest in their new life (but not a bottomless pit)
- The need to meet new people, this is a whole new world. Regardless of whether a refugee from corporate (most people we know are in the business we just left) or beginning a whole new exciting venture having been released from full time family commitments
- Many of these local businesses (and all community groups) provide services to local 'people'. Not local people who are in business, but anyone in the community that could benefit from what we offer. Becoming integrated as part of the local community is vital nowadays.
- Need to obtain support, signposting and guidance. This is very often the first time they've ever done anything like this. We all need help there is a lot to getting a business off the ground these days, even though it has never been easier to start a business
- Improve technology skills. There is a real need to both know what technology is available and to be effective with it too! ... There are just not enough hours in a day (one person) or surplus money (to pay others to do everything) so new skills will be needed.
- Flexibility and openness to new ideas and possibilities... we only know what we know... how can we innovate when we have no idea what is possible
We need to meet people, pick up a lot of new skills, learn from other people's experience, get support and signposting, run our business and... find trusted fair suppliers who will work with us.
At the same time... we've got to learn about running a business (where we have to learn what needs doing and take responsibility for it all as well), discover and adopt the right tools for our business... AND... bearing all that in mind... we have time constraints in that we do have to get this to work in a short to medium timescale and... we have to survive with the money we have put aside until it works so we can't keep throwing it at other people...
There is no doubt that there are already places to meet other business owners. Business networking continues to evolve and grow. Although 'cost' is often used as the primary show stopper with traditional networking, this is actually a minor issue.
A criteria offered up for a great networking event is often, one with a large attendance and where there is a great buzz in the room. The more people attending traditionally means more revenue and therefore more sustainable; the buzz provides a 'feel good factor' fix and motivation to ensure that attendance becomes regular.
In reality this helps the networking group but isn't enough on its own to really help the small / micro business owner move forward. Because most events have a predefined format (script) there is little time at meetings to have really good deep conversations and get to know people. This then requires significant additional 1-1 time (a lot of it it too!) to develop those important relationships.
With huge numbers already travelling this path (7 million) pretty much unsupported, and the likelihood many more will be joining them soon (jobs in all sectors are under threat from automation) there is a real need to innovate something new in this arena that works for the Business owner.
What we could do with is almost a self help group of enormous proportions where :-
- Everyone brings their skills and strengths to the table
- We come together with a 'go to give' supportive attitude
- Openmindness to new ideas prevails and creating innovative ways to get things done that don't require us always reaching for our wallets
- People can meet in a non sales, non pressured environment, where we can be ourselves
- No expectations placed on anyone to perform, just be part of the solution
- Wide variety of opportunities to meet at different times and places throughout the month
- Meetings are a place to do productive, useful business development and get help
- Not for profit, so focus is on people and relationships not money
As part of the Link4Growth organisation a whole sector is devoted to bringing together the different elements to provide a holistic solution for business. Link4Business is.... your Business Development Network
Grow your personal community with like minded people. There are plenty of local opportunities to...
- Meetup, build relationships, connect with your local community (Link4Community)
- Get help, support, advice, guidance, signposting (Link4Business) ...
- Develop collaboration skills and ideas (Unions)...
- Mentoring and peer support (OMG - Mentoring)
- Grow yourself through learning new skills (Link4Skills), and how to effectively apply technology and online tools to your business.
- Take up the chance to develop your leadership skills and grow influence locally (Link4Growth Team)...
- Finally... make some incredible new friends...
What's not to like?
It's a whole new support eco-system that has been created for the 21st century. Focused on enabling every one to follow their passion and succeed... innovate, share what you love and become an important participant in your local community... everyone wins... the best bit? ... We the people own it... it can't be taken from us... put on ice... sold to the highest bidder... this is our chance!