Community Over Competition – what a nice concept. But in practice, it can mean a whole lot more for your business than not being competitive and just being social.
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I used to think community in the business meant just two things – being social and/or making a sale. Many of the social groups ended up a competition of status and who you knew in the industry. The local networking groups I participated in were geared towards presenting your elevator pitch and hoping someone cared about what you were offering.
Maybe someone would catch up to you afterward and ask for more information, but mostly it was just crickets. It wasn’t just me not making meaningful connections, it was pretty much everyone. This was because people were there competing for the sale but weren’t truly open to buying. It wasn’t all bad though, I got several speaking gigs out of it and a few clients. But mostly it was awkward and not the best use of my time.
Luckily, the concept of business community is shifting in the online world, especially among women business owners. Communities are popping up to support growth and nurture collaboration over competition.
Sites like Covelle, where you’re not even allowed to make the hard sale, but instead can post listings offering or requesting opportunities for collaboration and content sharing. This version of community allows for deeper connections and lasting biz bestie relationships. There are so many ways that being part of a community can truly support your business beyond just feeling good, collaborating, or getting clients.
Benefits of Community:
- Not feeling isolated and alone
- Getting inspired by others’ action, success, and ideas
- Collaborating on projects and events
- Cross-promotion of each other’s stuff
- Feeling understood and supported as a business owner + emotional support when shit goes sideways
- Accountability – both for working on stuff and taking care of yourself. (ex. Did you sleep last night? / Don’t forget to eat! / How’s your project going?)
- Productivity & Time Management – keep each other on track and working on what matters most
- A safe place to talk about the ups and downs of running a business with people who get it
- Access to referrals, programs, and strategies that are tried and true
- Getting feedback on ideas, content, programs, products, etc. (ex. Am I crazy, or could this actually work? / How could I make this happen?)
So surely by now you’re sold on the idea of #communityovercompetition. But now you’re wondering what to do about it. How do you find a community that fits you? I know there are still the yucky make-a-sale type networking groups out there. But you don’t have to be a part of them. Finding groups that you love will take some trial and error. Trust me, I’ve tried a LOT of groups and when I first started out it was SO HARD to find good ones. But there are some gems out there that make all that searching worth it. But hey, let me save you some time!
Take action! Here are some strategies for connecting.
1 | Virtual Cofee
Have virtual coffee with peeps you know on social media. Reach out and have a chat on Skype. This is the easiest and quickest way to get started.
2 | Online membership groups ROCK
• Small Business Sisterhood (Pepper Makepeace – yours truly xo) [http://smallbusinesssisterhood.com]
• Covelle (Megan & Sam – formerly Flock & Co) [http://covelle.co/]
• The Brand It Boutique (Sam Bell) [http://www.thebranditboutique.com]
• The Members’ Club (Carrie Green – Female Entrepreneurs Association) [http://mc.femaleentrepreneurassociation.com]
• Being Boss (Emily & Kathleen) [https://beingboss.club/]
• Creative Dream Circle (Andrea Schroeder) [http://www.creativedreamincubator.com]
• Think Creative Collective (Abagail & Emylee) [http://thinkcreativecollective.com]
3 | Local in-person networking groups that don’t suck
• Little Black Desk Society (various locations in the U.S.) [http://www.littleblackdesksociety.com/]
• Meetup Groups – Sometimes they have good ones…trial and error will be necessary, though [http://www.meetup.com]
4 | In-person coffee with individuals you meet at larger events
• If you go to a larger in-person group event or conference, be sure to pick out one or two people to meet with again one-on-one.
• You can also pick a small business owner you know in your area and just reach out to grab coffee with the sole intention of getting to know them better. It’s ok to let them know you’re not going to pitch to them.
When you’re evaluating groups, pay attention to how you feel when you interact with other members and how you feel about what’s expected of you. Some groups are just weird. It’s not you. It’s them. Other groups are structured in ways that may not suit our personalities. You’ll have to play with this a little bit and see what works best for you.
As an introvert, I prefer groups where I don’t have to stand up in front of a large group and give a 30-second pitch. I prefer connecting one-on-one or online. I function better in those settings. But that’s not to say that someone else wouldn’t thrive in situations that make nauseous. Find out what you like and do more of that!
I’m happy to help you start! Reach out to me and let’s have coffee!
Connect with Pepper MakePeace, the author of this post, by visiting smallbusinesssisterhood.com!