Small Business Month is an excellent reminder of the vital role that small businesses play in creating jobs, driving innovation, and fostering community and economic development. According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses are responsible for nearly half of the United States' economic activity and create two out of every three new jobs. The National Bankers Association Foundation celebrates the impact small businesses have on their communities by providing jobs, resources, and access to goods and services. The Foundation’s mission is to address the underlying causes of the racial wealth gap by providing pathways to prosperity to underserved communities, and small businesses are central to this mission of closing the wealth gap. So, if you’re an entrepreneur or thinking about taking the plunge, use this month and beyond to seek advice, leverage resources, and expand your ideas to launch or grow your business.
1. Networking and referral opportunities: Use Small Business Month to connect with other business owners, industry experts, and potential customers, which can lead to valuable partnerships, collaborations, and referrals. But don't limit your networking to this month. Get out of your comfort zone. While connecting with other local businesses or industry groups is crucial, go beyond those channels and attend conferences regularly in person or virtually to reach a broader audience. Word of mouth is free marketing for your business, and buyers look to others for recommendations about a product or service. A Nielsen study found that up to 92% of people trust their friends and family’s advice. As the company's founder, you have the passion and the vision, so spread the word. 2. Access to resources: Workshops, seminars, and panels provide valuable information on marketing, social media, finance, securing capital, and business strategy. Many business owners do not outsource professional services because of expense, accessibility, or mistrust. However, entrepreneurs can save time and money by outsourcing specific responsibilities, enabling them to focus on scaling the business rather than being bogged down in the weeds. Finding affordable options is possible, and Small Business Month can help entrepreneurs find the right services while supporting other small businesses. 3. The art and science of negotiation: Small Business Month is an excellent time to find a mentor to help you learn skills, like negotiating. Whether buying a product or service from another vendor, raising capital from investors, or selling your products to a customer, it's all about learning how to walk away feeling like you achieved the best possible outcome. Negotiating effectively can give clients, employees, and partners a positive impression rooted in respect. When you deal with problems fairly that result in mutually beneficial deals, more people will want to work with you. And don't always take "no" as the end of the conversation. Sometimes, it's just the beginning because now you can begin addressing the prospect's or potential partner's objections. Most entrepreneurs get rejected numerous times before they get a positive response so be prepared, and don't let it stop you from moving forward. 4. Exposure, publicity, and learning to think outside your box: Raise your business profile and visibility by using events to showcase your products or services and to attract new customers. Delve into understanding how other businesses have raised their profile through referrals, social media, digital marketing channels, etc. Think about how you can expand your reach beyond a brick-and-mortar storefront. For younger entrepreneurs, selling online is a no-brainer, but all companies need a good website. Most consumers or businesses will research a company before buying, and a credible website can make all the difference. So, hire a professional and don't try to do it yourself. Also, many brick and mortars miss out on a segment of consumers by not offering multiple buying options. Don’t assume you won't be able to sell your product online. Many consumers prefer to buy from mobile devices or at home, allowing you to expand your audience beyond your physical radius. Need more convincing? 70% of Americans are currently shopping online. In 2022 alone, there were 268 million digital buyers in the United States; by 2025, this number will likely reach 285 million. 5. Inspiration and motivation: Attending events can be inspiring and motivating, and hearing other small business owners' success stories can provide encouragement and a renewed sense of purpose. Learning from their mistakes can be just as beneficial, so you can avoid making the same ones. One of the things that you will probably hear is to never take your customer for granted. Customer satisfaction is the key to success, no matter how small or big you become. It not only helps with word-of-mouth referrals, but it can also help you understand where you can improve, what new products your customers are searching for, and how to scale your business. And if you get a bad review, don’t ignore it. Tackle it head-on. Reach out to the customer directly, see how you can rectify the problem, and don’t make the same mistake again. You will be surprised at how many people will give you a second chance if you own it. 6. Recognition: Small Business Month often includes awards ceremonies recognizing outstanding small businesses and entrepreneurs. Winning an award can boost your confidence and the credibility of your company. It also allows you to use the recognition in marketing collateral, social media channels, your website, and emails. Don’t underestimate the power of third-party endorsements. Summary: Starting a small business is challenging and rewarding. But if you have an entrepreneurial spirit and a drive to succeed, it can provide a pathway to financial success, personal fulfillment, and a sense of purpose. Small Business Month recognizes this by helping entrepreneurs succeed and thrive in a competitive world. If you are a small business owner or are considering it, seize the opportunities to network, learn, grow, be inspired, and celebrate your achievements. Click here to learn more about how the National Bankers Association Foundation helps small businesses thrive. To read more National Bankers Association Foundation blogs, click here. #SmallBusinessMonth