Although it might seem at times that you’re the only one having to cope with the trials and tribulations that come with owning a small business, the truth is there are millions of people around the world in the same boat as you are (or at the very least, a very similar boat).
The problem that a lot of small business owners face isn’t that they don’t necessarily understand this fact, but because they’re so precious of their own small business, they don’t feel it’s possible – or they don’t want to – learn from their peers.
But the truth is, put a similar group of people from any type of business together and you’re going to share experiences, offer insights and generally be able to receive answers to various different questions.
That’s only if you take the time to engage effectively, however. Simply taking the time to call a fellow small business owner might be beneficial when answering one small query, but it’s not going to do much to your business’s overall development. It’s important that you’re an effective communicator – the more effective you are, the more you’re going to get out of your experiences with others.
Don’t be afraid
A lot of small business owners are concerned about what others are going to think. There’s no doubt you will want to ‘show off’ your business and tell everyone about what you do, but there’s also likely to be a feeling of doubt. Are you doing everything right? Are you making a glaringly obvious mistake? Are you doing something that you really shouldn’t be doing?
And it’s things like this that can stop you from even starting to communicate with others.
But you need to remember that you’re highly unlikely to be the only one not simply with your worries, but facing the same stumbling blocks and making the same mistakes.
You need to try and put these worries to the back of your mind and just start communicating. Yes, you might not be doing everything right, but does it really matter? Unless you’re doing something blatantly illegal, chances are other small business owners are going to do their utmost to ensure you get on the right track.
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How, when and where you decide to communicate and engage with others is largely up to you, but a fantastic place to start is a networking group. You might not have heard of one in your local area, but take a look online – in most towns and cities around the world there’ll be a number of groups where small business owners meet regularly. Some use them as advertising sessions, others as a chance to meet similar minded individuals and many more to simply chat about the problems they’re having and share the ideas they have with people who are genuinely interested.
Usually very informal sessions, you more often than not usually have to just put your name down beforehand and then turn up. There’ll be someone there to greet you and from then on, the time’s yours. Listen to any presentations that people are giving, make small talk with other business owners and simply ‘mingle’ – you’ll be surprised at how many friendly people you meet who are feeling and experiencing exactly the same things you are.
And because everyone there will be just like yourself, it’s important you don’t try to be someone you’re not.
If you’re not a naturally confident person, don’t try and be one when you’re talking to others – chances are it will make you come across as being cocky or arrogant. It’s the same with if you’re naturally inquisitive and love to ask questions – if you try and be quiet and not ask much at all, it may give the impression that you don’t care about what others are saying.
People will respect you for being you. They’ll like that you’re not trying to be an over-the-top business owner attempting to impress everyone in the room. Sure, we all like to boast a little, but the majority of us don’t want to do it to the extent that it makes us – and others around us – feel uncomfortable.
Communicating effectively on any level is not something that comes natural to everyone. In fact, communicating in the most effective way possible is arguably something that no one is able to do naturally.
When you take the time to learn how beneficial effective communication can be as a small business owner, however, you’ll soon realise its potential. Talking to other business owners, for example, you’ll be able to do everything from expanding your knowledge base through to meeting individuals who will genuinely be able to help you in the future. That might be by providing you with information on your business’s development or striking up a relationship where you can work in partnership with each other, but the important point to understand is they’ll have a positive impact in some way.
Never underestimate the power of those around you, even if you think they don’t know any more than you do. Engage with them effectively and you might just be surprised at the outcome.
This post was originally featured on August 14, 2012.