Business is changing... Business Networking is evolving too...
The first is about a local business and how that enterprise has become an important component in the local community and the second is thoughts on a business networking group I attend and why people actually go along. Both of course are indicators about the 'mood' of doing business and perhaps how things are changing as we edge further into the 21st century.
First up the +The Kitchen Croxley and the proprietor +linda anderson. A locally based bakery and coffee shop just outside #Watford in the small village of Croxley. Linda has been running her business for a few years but took the step to take on premises just over a year ago. Linda had the vision that the shop was to become a local hub of community a bit like a village pub would have been in years gone by or even a community centre.
In that year Linda has certainly achieved that and then some... comments such as 'what on earth did we do before you opened Linda'... 'this has become an important hub to bring people together and belong' are being heard more and more. Linda says 'being in business is not all about money and profit, it is so much more than that. It is a chance to bring people together, to involve the community and to give back. Yes we need to make a profit but actually being at the core of community and providing something that makes a difference in people's lives means so much more.' Linda has recently taken on a supported intern and what a heart warming story this is... please read that here... this is more like what I want to be part of... and the business owners I would like around me...
So how about other small business owners. There are 6.7 million businesses with less than 5 employees in the UK and 5.5 million of them are sole traders out there working for themselves. What of these small businesses what is going on with them? Do they subscribe to the same ethos as Linda above?
I attend a business networking group a couple of times a week (on top of my +Link4Growth commitments). This is a local independent networking group called Watford Weekly Business. This Friday I was up for the presentation and thought it might be interesting to ask those present what it is that they come to the group for? What is their motivation for coming back each week? ... I (we) were a little surprised...
Friendship, Inspiration, Contacts, Connection, Get out of the house, Avoid loneliness, Relationships and trust, Meet people with other skills and services, Ideas, Support (giving and receiving), Nurturance, Motivation, Positivity, Energy, Learn from others.
We reviewed this list... and pondered the fact that 'More Business' as a reason for business networking was absent from the responses. The overwhelming 'feeling' was one of being part of something that was bigger than ourselves and belonging to a group of people that all brought something to the table and made a contribution... we all play our part, whatever that is, and take responsibility for this by coming each week and offering ourselves to the group.
Business Networking is often sold to us as, meet other business people, get more business, exchange business cards... and yet even amongst business owners this appears not to be the primary motivation for networking... obtaining more business is almost a guaranteed outcome if you are present often, and just be yourself.
Link4Business, which is a fairly recent introduction to the +Link4Growth family is "evolved business networking". It's not set up to profit by bringing people together, it is set up to enable everyone to benefit by being brought together. More than that it has 3 key objectives :-
- Build a local town / village / Area business club, where all local businesses can meet often, support and help each other. It is much easier for us to succeed if we work together.
- Introduce the local businesses to the community. Through Link4Growth and the community activity Businesses can reach out to a much wider audience than they could through more traditional business networking. 70% of the community are not in business but still buy products and services... and actually most small businesses still do not network regularly.
- Raise the awareness of 'Buying Local' through the hashtag #L4GBuyLocal. If we all considered buying from a local business before we succumbed to using the 'multiples' this would have a profound impact on our local economies and the fortunes of our more 'community centric' micro businesses ... like Linda above.
The world is changing, local business is an important part of the Community... but it is not a separate thing, it is a group of people who belong to the community who are involved in a commercial venture providing products and services, but still part of our community.
From my observations and the evidence that I have seen, the micro business sector is growing fast (up from 3 million not so long ago) as people move away from the hamster wheel of chasing money and more of everything at all costs, to... actually enjoying the moment, being grateful for what we have and having more enjoyable, happier lives... we absolutely don't need more stuff in our lives, we all have enough of that... but being in a more caring, supportive, giving and nurturing community where we can make a contribution and be around happy people? I'd swap to that... how about you?