The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything. From the way we interact with customers to how we conduct business, our day-to-day operations must adapt to a new normal.

Not too long ago, when creating your business plan, you probably wouldn't include your community as an integral part. But now, more than ever, we need our communities to thrive. It's the glue that's holding the world together in the middle of a global pandemic. So before branching out on your own, consider all the times you were a part of a team. A company. A tribe. Surrounded by people to let off steam and generate ideas with. For some members of our Ohana, workmates become lifelong friends.

Our Small to Medium Business Trends report found that SMB leaders are hard-working, passionate entrepreneurs. This global crisis presents unique challenges for small business leaders that must revolve around these new changes. But they're not alone.

Around the world, business leaders are coming together to share their experiences, how they're managing a team in crisis, and the necessary steps to stabilise a business. A problem shared is a problem halved.

 

Now, let’s look at why a community is vital for small business growth.

 

1. Communities foster wellbeing for you and your business

 

Small businesses play a critical role in driving the world’s economies; the numbers say it all. In the EU alone, businesses of 250 employees or less make up 99.8% of all nonfinancial enterprises. They also account for 66% of employment and contribute 57% of the economic value, amounting to more than €4 trillion. 

From any perspective, these small businesses – commonly known as SMBs or SMEs – are true powerhouses of the global economy. They form the underlying fabric for businesses across a huge diversity of sectors. Keeping them healthy and productive is clearly a critical priority for economies everywhere. 

At Salesforce, we believe health and happiness set you up for success. What if you could positively impact your wellbeing with strong social connections? With the help of a community, you can. Research shows strong social connections keep you healthier and more upbeat. It can even strengthen your immune system and lengthen your lifespan. 

Lack of time is one of the greatest challenges facing the small business community today. It can easily lead to an always-on working culture. In fact, more than 60% of SMB owners believe that a so-called “hustle and grind” overtime-driven culture is unhealthy. While technology can help alleviate some of this pressure, using a community as a sounding board can be a great advantage. 

 

2. Communities help you build lifelong relationships

 

Networking is a great growth tool, especially for small business owners, who can use it as a means to form relationships with others in similar fields. However, due to social distancing, we must use contactless forms of communication.

 

Here are a few digital solutions for you to engage with your community:

  1. Set up a remote call center to answer questions about your business.
  2. Increase your performance on existing digital channels and expand your outreach.
  3. Use one of the many free video conferencing apps to connect remotely.
  4. Keep track of all of your community engagements with a CRM system

 

These digital solutions improve a business's ability to find new customers, partners, and grow. The relationships that you cultivate with your customers and partners will determine your company’s level of success. And, as with any important relationship, its level of success will depend upon how well you know one another. A consistent meeting of a community, even virtually, can help you find your tribe. Your community can become customers, a source of referral business, or simply friends. 

 

3. Communities help you develop skills

 

Managing a small business is no small feat. Small business owners frequently handle the marketing, sales, accounting, training, customer service, purchasing, and product development parts of the business. So there’s always plenty to do, to say the least. 

To grow your business, you need to constantly adapt and develop your skills. Fortunately, communities can offer diverse networks full of people with varied skills and experiences. At Salesforce, we learn from each other and connect with partners around the world through our Trailhead community.

 

4. Communities can serve as a sounding board

 

As we come up with new and adaptive solutions in the midst of a pandemic, it’s important to run them by other business owners. When you do, it’s easier to get feedback, locate blindspots, think more critically, and make the right choices about your business.

As a small business owner, you likely wear many hats. There is always too much to do and you rely on a small team and a tight budget to do it. Every day is a challenge, especially with the impact of COVID-19. But with these challenges comes opportunity. The chance to build something from the ground up and be part of something bigger. We know a little something about being a small business—in 1999 we were a startup in a one-bedroom apartment.

We’ve let our global think leaders and dedicated Trailblazers take charge of preparing businesses for the future. Thanks to our community efforts, we’ve been able to provide resources for small businesses in the EU facing the COVID-19 pandemic. Make sure to check out our Leading Through Change series for insights into how our community can support your business growth. 

 

Salesforce didn’t do it alone, and nor should you!