There’s a classic children’s book, Swimmy, where a school of little fish team up and swim as one big fish to avoid being eaten The story goes, as Swimmy was a little black fish that didn’t quite fit in the colony of gold fish. When Swimmy goes out and explores the sea alone, he returns to his school of fish and teaches them how they can work together to fight off the big fish that is going to eat them. Together the fish create an illusion of a bigger fish, and Swimmy serves as the eye.
If you’re a small business or startup, seek out symbiotic and collaborative relationships with other small businesses and startup’s whenever possible. There is power in the collective. Small businesses should look at each other as partners and harness the power of community to move forward.
Pay it Forward (Often)
Successful networkers understand that networking is a two-way street. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to help fellow small businesses. By consistently bringing value and opportunity to those in your network, you’ll be attracting others to your network. In short, by giving business to others, you will get business in return.
Adopt a “Support Small Business” Mindset
Several coalitions and movements, encourage consumers to support their local economies by shopping at independently owned brick-and-mortar businesses. On an informal level, you can adopt a similar mindset at your own business. If you’re encouraging others to support small businesses, make sure you’re also heeding your own words. After all, change does begin with you.
Build Informal Alliances with Like-Minded Companies
There’s a multitude of ways for businesses to reach out to other businesses who share similar views on customer service, business, product development, etc. This could be as simple as offering to swap guest posts for each company’s blog or introducing a business owner to your own Twitter or Facebook communities. You should think of alliances that could bring value to your own customers, as well as an opportunity for you to expand your visibility to new audiences. Insights – Are You Flatlining?
Join a Local Meet Up Group for Entrepreneurs
Whether the plumber recommends a carpenter or the web designer recommends a copywriter, business is driven by referrals and connections. Local groups — which may meet monthly in a café or hotel conference area — aim to tap into the power of collaboration, support, and most importantly, referrals. Use them to develop relationships and share advice with fellow entrepreneurs and small business owners. Check Meetup.com or your local chamber of commerce for a relevant group in your area. If you’ve built a strong Twitter network, organize a Tweet Up in order to parlay that network into an even more powerful experience through face-to-face networking.
Join a Virtual Community for Startups
Maybe structured, in-person Meet Ups aren’t your thing. Or your business doesn’t necessarily target local customers and clients. You can join a social network or virtual group for like-minded small business owners to exchange advice, get support, build partnerships, and find help and more.