By Meredith Wood, Fundera
It’s no secret that success in business has a lot to do with who you know. Relationships and partnerships with the right people are critical to growing your customer base and making your business succeed.
Despite the undisputed importance of networking, most small-business owners have no idea where to start. If you have decided to make building strategic relationships a priority for your business, these small business groups are great places to start. Here are seven of the best small business groups for networking.
1. Your Local Chamber of Commerce
To form business connections within your immediate community, the best place to start is often your local chamber of commerce. The quality and involvement of local chamber organizations can vary from city to city, but the best of them provide foundational training, professional development, and resources for local business owners.
Along with networking opportunities, many local chambers of commerce bring in guest speakers and provide mentoring opportunities at very affordable rates for new business owners. Contact your city’s commerce department to learn more about your local chamber.
For more than 50 years, this non-profit business association has provided opportunities for small-business owners to gain skills, grow their networks, and achieve their business goals. From free online learning opportunities to in-person mentor relationships, entrepreneurs across the country attribute their business success to the connections they’ve formed with veteran business owners through SCORE and its partner organizations. And because SCORE is supported by the US Small Business Administration as well as corporate donations, it is one of the most affordable avenues to grow your business network.
Through mentor relationships, online networks, and global networking events, Entrepreneurs’ Organization has cultivated a community of more than 10,000 business owners around the world who share knowledge and build their business networks through EO’s various programs. The demographics of Entrepreneurs’ Organization are vast, and each local chapter has a different set of offerings. Overwhelmingly, though, invested EO members cite the impact of this organization not just on their professional careers, but on their lives as a whole.
If your primary goal in business networking is to gain a large volume of referrals, Business Networking International may be a valuable resource for you. Rather than focusing particularly on community building, members of this organization take a more transactional approach to sharing contacts.
For entrepreneurs under 40, this invitation-only organization provides incredible concierge services, professional development, and networking opportunities. Along with the quality of connections and resources, millennial business owners remark on the fast-paced, heavily digital nature of this organization as compared with older and more traditional small business groups.
Regardless of whether you work specifically in the marketing industry, every small-business owner is involved in marketing. Along with the marketing education resources available from the national American Marketing Association, your local AMA chapter is a great place to form connections with and learn from fellow marketers and entrepreneurs in your community.
If you value using your business to do good within your community, you may find a like-minded network in your local Rotary Club chapter. Keep in mind that the Rotary Club isn’t specifically a small business group. Rather, it focuses more on community service and leadership development. That said, while demographics and quality of Rotary Club programs can vary widely between communities, many successful small-business owners cite their local Rotary Club as crucial to their own business success.
Now, a word to the wise. While each one of these organizations can provide amazing networking and learning opportunities for you, you absolutely should not join them all. Being a cursory member of a dozen small business groups will not provide nearly as much value as investing deeply in one or a few organizations.
Choose one to three small business groups to try at a time, see what resonates, and aim to invest significant time and energy into at least one. As with anything in life, when you decide to join one of these small business groups for networking, you will get out of it what you are willing to put in.
About the Author
Meredith Wood is the head of content and editor-in-chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business. Prior to Fundera, Meredith was the CCO at Funding Gates. Meredith is a resident finance advisor on American Express OPEN Forum and an avid business writer. Her advice consistently appears on such sites as Yahoo!, Fox Business, Amex OPEN, AllBusiness, and many more.