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Small Business

Managing Your Business

Surround Your Business With People Who Can Help

Expand Your Professional Network with These Trusted Connections

For business owners, it can be challenging to identify the trustworthy employees who help to drive growth, partners or investors who give the company stability and a supportive network of family and friends.

Although employees and personal cheerleaders are important, experts suggest keeping an eye out for other types of individuals who can propel your business forward, create opportunities and boost momentum.

Industry Advisors and Mentors

There are many helpful organizations that pair up small businesses and entrepreneurs with individuals eager to share insight, says Mary Kay McMahon, Human Resources consultant for information services firm Wolters Kluwer. She suggests considering the National Association of Women Business Owners, the Senior Council of Retired Executives or your local chamber of commerce.

"Often, there are great resources for finding mentors or knowledgeable peers within the community," she says, adding that intuitive, experienced professionals can give you an edge during processes like employee recruiting or sales campaign development.

When building these connections, she adds, consider what you have to give as well. "Don't come into a relationship with your hand out, always expecting something. Start by seeing how you might offer assistance or help."

Former Employees and Partners

There's a reason that "don't burn your bridges" is well-worn advice.

John Eliason, author of Rewire: How to Grow Business in a Crazy World and Have a Great Time Doing It, says that businesses are in constant flux, and just because an employee or partner relationship might end, it doesn't mean a business owner can't continue to draw on that connection.

"If you've reached a level of trust with people, they can become long-term resources, and you should think of them that way," he says. "Keep in touch and consider each person a part of your professional resources that you can draw on when necessary."

Peers and Competitors

Although it may seem counter-intuitive to sit down with competitors, you may find ways to share insight and work toward common goals. For example, a number of manufacturers in rural Minnesota recently banded together to arrange for job training through the Dunwoody College of Technology.

The school's Dean of Workforce Training, Debra Kerrigan, says that the initiative brought together company executives who barely spoke to each other before. "They recognized that a rising tide lifts all boats, and talking to competitors ... can address common issues, like the need for skilled employees," she says.

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