Conferences are back
Last week, I attended the first CEX: Creator Economy Expo in Phoenix. This event was geared toward different types of content creators, ranging from B2B-focused firms that help write industry specific content to Instagram and TikTok influencers.
I met a wide variety of entrepreneurs that all consider themselves to be content creators. And I attended some fascinating workshops and presentations that will help me advance my own business and the content I create for my target audience. But most importantly, I connected with a group of entrepreneurs that I have known virtually for over a year but have never met in person. What a treat! (see photo of me and some of my community at the conference at the end of this post)
My Solopreneur Communities
All of us are members of the Unemployable Community. Bear in mind, that doesn’t mean none of us can get jobs, rather that none of us want to work for anyone other than ourselves. This online community has provided me with training, accountability, support, and connections with other business owners on a path similar to mine. It has kept me from feeling alone on my solopreneur journey and inspired me to keep at it on days when I am feeling down.
Not only do I have the benefit of the Unemployable Community, but I am also a member of the Association of Independent Professionals. This non-profit organization is full of “infopreneurs” – market researchers like me, along with copyright experts, private investigators, knowledge management specialists and other solopreneurs working in the world of information.
I am grateful for both groups because they provide me with a sense of community and belonging. When you work on your own, it can be lonely. It can be a challenge to set goals or to get work done that you don’t want to do (financial reports, I’m looking at you). With these two communities, I have found people who are happy to hold me accountable to getting work done, to provide feedback on my latest idea, and to be generally supportive of my efforts, because they are in the same boat.
Business Roundtable Community
In my ‘offline’ world, I run monthly Business Owner Roundtable Groups. I have been running groups like this for the past couple years. What I realized once I put the group together is that many small business owners feel the same way that I do as a solopreneur.
Even though they have employees, these small business owners don’t have peers in their business to discuss their concerns or goals. And your typical business networking events are focused more on selling than on worrying or goal setting. So where do they go for their community? To these monthly meetings.
Back in March 2020 when the world shut down for an indefinite amount of time, the Women’s CEO Peer Group I was running had their first online meeting. Looking at the grid of faces on the screen, I could see the same expression of concern on each business owner’s face. Many of them were forced to shut down and had no income coming in at all. What would be next? Could they survive this shutdown? What would happen to the business they had invested their time and money in for so many years?
The one thing that helped them all feel at least a little bit better about their situation was the realization that they were not alone. Speaking to their peers on this Zoom call, they realized that every business had been impacted and somehow that was comforting.
We all need a community
As a result of my own experiences with community and as a facilitator of CEO Peer Groups, I am now a firm believer in the value of bringing entrepreneurs together into a community – in person or virtually. It can make a huge difference in your business and your personal life to have a core group of people who understand what you’re going through and support you through your challenges.
Some of the key benefits of a community of business owners include:
Accountability – Your peers will hold you accountable to decisions you make and follow up with you to be sure you do what you said you would.
Planning – Stepping away from your day-to-day work can help you look a little further out for your business. Where do you want to be in one year? Or three years? A discussion with your peers away from your office can inspire more strategic planning.
Education – Online communities and Business Owner Roundtable/Peer Groups typically include access to experts and training programs to help promote your own professional development as a business owner
Growth – Research has shown that members of a peer group tend to increase both profits and revenue faster than those not in a group. Likely it’s due to the combination of accountability, planning, education, and sense of community that inspires business owners to push forward.
Feedback on Peer Groups and Community
Don’t just take it from me. The members of my past peer groups have provided some great feedback on the value of these groups. Consider these comments:
“We have all heard it, you need to take time to work on your business not in your business. The group creates a focus for me and helps me hold myself accountable for the things I should be doing. It centers my focus on what is important and I enjoy hearing that our group has helped members with issue they were struggling with.”
“Meeting with other small business owners helps keeps focus on growth, provides insight that I would not otherwise receive, and encourages me. I always leave those meetings with ideas, inspiration, and feeling like I have friends who get it.”
“The saying “it’s lonely at the top” is so true; as an Owner, you cannot have many necessary conversations with an employee of yours. You need a confidante that can relate to your situation and has the wisdom of a tenured business owner.
“As part of a dynamic group of fellow business owners, we can positively affect the operations of each of our organizations through activities such as this.”
“I love this group – absolutely worth every penny. It’s great to have people who are in your same/similar position to bounce ideas off of in a completely safe environment.”
Find Your Community
Whether it’s a Business Owner Roundtable Group, CEO Peer Group, Accountability Group, online community, or a self-created Mastermind, there is huge value in joining in a community of your peers. As a matter of fact, I am a firm believer that bringing small businesses together in a community will help all the community members do better.
While I agree that there is value in local networking events, such as Chamber of Commerce or Business Networking International meetings, the goal is different there. When the people at the meeting are your potential customers, you have your ‘sales’ hat on, and aren’t likely to share your top pressing issues or your fears about the future.
To find a true community, it is important to find businesses that are a similar size to yours, as the issues tend to be similar. But it’s equally important to find businesses that are in different industries from yours. This is not just to avoid competitors but also to open yourself up to diverse points of view that you might not hear in industry-specific conversations.
If you are a growth-minded small business owner, then consider seeking out a community of business owners to help you grow your business. There is definite value in coming together to discuss issues, seek out solutions, learn new skills, hold each other accountable, and force yourself to set aside time for some strategic planning.
Small Together Community
Before you join a community, consider what it is you are looking for. Do you want to commit to a monthly half-day focused on strategy and decision making? Then look for a Business Owner Roundtable or CEO Peer Group with a professional facilitator. Are you a solopreneur looking for some help with accountability and goal setting? Then consider partnering with someone in a Mastermind or Peer Accountability partnership or group. Do you want to meet with other entrepreneurs in person? Or are you comfortable with a virtual group, which could expand your connections outside of your geographic region?
If you are looking for more of an ongoing connection with your community, then look for an online group. Some groups can be found on Facebook or Linked In, as well as Slack or Discord or Reddit. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my own group, Small Together. It is on the Mighty Networks platform to allow the conversations to take place away from social media and in private. All members own small businesses themselves, and our topics include planning for the future, frustrations of digital marketing, and the day-to-day issues that we all share in common.
Whether you look to my community or to others, I strongly believe that there is huge value in finding a group of your peers to lean on and learn from. We all do better when we help each other. Where is your community?