Finding a supportive community in tough times

CommunityCategory
5 min read
Brenda Barron

In light of health officials’ recommendation for social distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the idea of community has become more important than ever. For an unknown period of time, physical distance is going to separate us all — but that doesn’t mean we can’t find the support we need in other ways.

Related: 10 tactics to adapt your business for social distancing

Find the support your small business needs

Running your own venture is challenging in the best of times. Take a few minutes away from calling suppliers and reassuring stressed-out workers to take care of yourself in one or more of these ways:

  1. Join your local chamber of commerce.
  2. Get active in professional organizations and groups.
  3. Participate in online forums and meetups.
  4. Call out the wins for your group or community.
  5. Whip up support for other small businesses.
  6. Find a mentor.

There’s no shame in asking for help — right now, it could mean the difference between surviving and throwing in the towel.

1. Join your local chamber of commerce

One reliable source of support during the COVID-19 pandemic is your local chamber of commerce.

Connecting with your local chamber will give you reliable information on:

  • Best practices for surviving a crisis
  • Provincial programs available to SMBs
  • Private sources of financial relief or support
  • Urgent needs in your community

Since the chamber is a credible source of information, you can share their links in messages you send out to your customers, suppliers and partners.

Find a chamber of commerce near you.

2. Get active in professional organizations

A second thing you can do is join or get active in professional organizations and online communities related to your industry or occupation.

Learning how others are coping will reduce your sense of isolation.

You’ll not only get ideas on how to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic, but connect with grassroots efforts in your area.

Here are just a few groups to check out:

The National Institute for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development

Administered by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, NIESBD offers workshops and training programmes in import-export, IT and entrepreneurship.

SME Chamber of India

This national chamber provides support and networking opportunities for manufacturing, service and allied industrial/business sectors. SME Chamber of India holds networking events and publishes a bi-monthly magazine.

Facebook Groups

As you likely already know, Facebook Groups are a fantastic way to connect with like-minded people within a given niche or industry.

There are groups centered around small business owners, startups, eCommerce — you name it.

They can be location-based or not. They can be general or specific. What matters is these groups are a means of connecting with other business owners during this difficult time (and beyond).

Here is a list of small business associations and networking groups.

3. Participate in online forums and meetups

This is another excellent resource for building strategic relationships that can help you:

  • Adapt to the new business reality
  • Pivot quickly to continue serving customers
  • Tap into a supportive community online

Meetup.com

Check out the small business section of Meetup.com to connect with other business owners.

BNI

BNI is short for Business Network International and it is an organization that connects business leaders through a robust referral marketing program. Connect with other local businesses by using their easy online chapter locator to find the nearest chapter.

4. Call out the wins for your group or community

Whether you create your own community or join an existing one, it’s important to recognize members when they go above and beyond.

To do this, you can:

  • Call out exemplary employees/volunteers
  • Share innovative ideas local businesses are using to adapt their delivery models
  • Celebrate philanthropy or charitable acts when they occur

Cheerleading has never been more important — if you see something laudable, make a big deal!

5. Whip up support for other small businesses

Now more than ever it’s important to spend a little extra time supporting others. A few suggestions:

  • Promote other small businesses doing great things
  • Send business to other companies when you can
  • Support fundraising drives for small businesses hard hit by COVOID-19
  • Announce partnerships, especially if it involves a service discount or deal

Remember, there is strength in numbers.

6. Find a mentor

If you’ve put off finding a mentor or lost touch with one, now is the time to start or renew contact with a trusted other.

A mentor in your field can provide the perspective you need.

Mentors can be guiding lights through these challenging times, offering tips and best practices based on years of experience. And if your mentor offers consultancy services, you should make every effort to recruit their services and to promote their services within your business community as well.

You’re not on an island alone

For most of us, this crisis is unprecedented. Defeating the coronavirus requires isolation, a state that requires business owners to invent new ways of serving their customers.

Reach out virtually with your fears and questions, stepping in with answers when you have them. Our combined knowledge far outstrips the wisdom or experience of any one of us — so pool your resources! We will triumph over this latest challenge the way we always do: together.