Owning or working in a small business is not easy. There’s never enough time in the day, and it can be difficult to lift your head up from the day-to-day running of your business to think strategically about the long term. One of the best ways to gain inspiration, enhance wellbeing and learn new skills is by leveraging your network and building a community. In this blog, we’ll explore 4 ways communities can help small businesses.
Owning a small business can be stressful. You often wear many hats, and there never seems to be enough time or space to focus on strategic initiatives and growing the business.
Our research into the challenges facing small business owners in the UK found that lack of time, and in turn stress, is one of the greatest obstacles for growth. Stress can also affect SME employees’ health and motivation, as insight shows that they are more likely to work overtime than employees in large businesses.
So how can reaching out help?
Reaching out and working with others as a way to relax, prevent burnout, or use them as a sounding board is an effective way to put life’s challenges into perspective and can be a hugely valuable tool for both SME owners and employees. It’s proven that social connection can alleviate stress, help people focus on priorities and keep people healthier. Research shows social connection slows down cognitive decline, lowers the risks of anxiety and depression, and has a greater impact on health than even smoking and obesity.
For many people, networking can feel like another item on the to-do list. However, it is vital not only for building your business, but also to meet people to learn new skills, bounce ideas off, and support each other. Networking through a community, whether through your industry or specialism, can help you to find new business, build referrals, and connect the bigger picture together of your industry or market. Having a bank of trusted advisors who you can refer work to, and who, in turn, refer it back to you, can be a great way of building your business and establishing yourself to new customers. When speaking to your customer, even if you do not offer a specific service yourself, you will be able to recommend somebody that does, and understand how each service fits into the customer’s strategy.
As a small business owner or an employee in a small business, you might not get as many opportunities for ‘water-cooler’ chat with people who are different to you or have different opinions or outlooks on the world. Having a wider network of people who you interact with as a community can help alert you to new trends, bring you new ideas and creative inspiration, and breathe new life into your business. It can also be a fantastic way to improve skills. If a customer comes to you with a problem you’re unable to solve alone, you can join with other businesses and choose to collaborate or learn additional skills yourself. It can also be a great perk for employees to feel connected to a wider ecosystem and build their careers. As employee engagement is a key part of SME success, it’s worth considering how leveraging your network can benefit the whole team.
Nowadays, work-life balance is shifting towards a work-life blend, with millennials and generation Z looking to work on projects that feel meaningful and fit into their broader life purpose. Integrating into a community of people can not only bring ideas, build resilience, and give you support when the going gets tough, but also provide a source of friendship and connection to celebrate the wins!
Small businesses can be lonely sometimes, and having a group of people to blow off steam with can make business, and life, more enjoyable.
In summary, it is important for owners or employees to lift their heads up from under those many hats and connect with the world around them. Not only is it fantastic for wellbeing, stress reduction and employee engagement, it can also open opportunities to learn new skills and build your business. Humans are social creatures, and connection is critical to thrive in an increasingly remote world.
Looking for a community of SMEs? Check out our partners The Great British Entrepreneur Awards and Enterprise Nation, which run comprehensive programmes to bring Small Businesses together. To see a demo about how Salesforce solutions can help UK SMEs connect and build better relationships with their customers, check out our quick video.