The type of association you join as part of a network plan is important. Stakeholder theory supports improved results when organizations join small business associations, such as insurance industry associations, communications, networking or other trade organizations.
How can participating in an association help your organization? First, participating means more than simply attending meetings or events; you need to be engaged in your group to get the most from, and give the most to, it.
Depending on the type of associations you join, your networking with others inside your industry and outside of your industry can provide valuable contacts and access to hard to reach business resources.
This association or participation needs to be a key part of building your own small business community because the benefits of that involvement is often a growth in your brand, identity, and sales.
You can use stakeholder theory and engagement strategies to build a strong community. Build a stakeholder model that includes the points of contact for your organization and with your stakeholders (for example, suppliers, customers, employees, friends, family, community, your banker, your lawyer, your accountant, investors and more).
For example, consider working with business mentors or coaches, building an internal committee with key staff (obviously your organization needs staff for this type of network building) to focus on specific challenges or directions, and working with the local, regional and federal government agencies set up to support small businesses.
Building a successful network requires several different strategies and your commitment of time and effort; one of the most important things you can do for your business is to join local, national and, if possible, global, small business associations. The pay-off will be worth it.
(such as forestry, manufacturers, exporters, professionals, and many more industry trade organizations are accessible in countries around the world)
Many associations have member benefits, such as industry educational programs, access to industry research and statistics (for example, the insurance industry associations provide access to information on benchmarking, on human resources initiatives, and more), industry conferences;
Additionally, industry and trade associations often act officially or unofficially as lobbyists for their industry - they represent their members at all levels of government (for example, insurance industry associations have been successful in lobbying various levels of government for regulatory reform, the forestry industry has been successful at working with government on trade issues, and more);
Some industry groups have certification programs (programs that certify companies have achieved a certain auditable, professional and/or business standard - again, the insurance industry associations have provided input to certification programs, and in many cases they provide the certification courses).
(such as the Chamber of Commerce, Board of Trade, Soho (small office, home office), Women in Leadership, and more in different countries around the world)
For example, if you sell business to business (rather than business to consumer), and you join the local Chamber of Commerce, there is a good chance that some of your customers will also be chamber members. It's a small business community. And by joining, you will have an opportunity to meet them, get to know them better and participate in events with them. All great business opportunities;
Associations will often offer member discount programs (for example: courier programs; merchant credit card programs; gas programs; and more);
Many associations will also provide educational programs and events targeted to their members' needs;
Many business associations will lobby various levels of government on their members behalf (on member issues such as corporate tax rates, etc.);
And generally, all associations will give you access to their membership list (contacts list) upon becoming a member.
I have belonged to many organizations and associations over the many years I've worked in a variety of businesses.
Today I am still actively involved in four as a member; when I say active I mean I sit on the Board, or on a Committee, for those associations.
I have found that whatever time and energy I commit to my participation in a small business association, I get back in building great relations with members (some of whom are my customers) and get back through the improvement of the association (a better, stronger group is where I want to be).
Please note: I also attend a number of events as a non-member of a number of industry or small business associations. There are typically always non-member rates for attendance or participation. I'm pretty pragmatic about that attendance; if I'm attending three or more events per year per association then I should probably join and become active.
If you need help in setting up a network, committee, finding business mentors or coaches, and/or finding the right type of association to join, or defining your stakeholder theory and stakeholder model from which to build your business community, use the Contact Us form on this website and provide your contact information. I'll be in touch.
Participation in the right type of association will help you grow your business, grow your relationships and grow your business community.
Return from Type of Association to Community.
Or return to More For Small Business Home Page.
Do you want to access successful, proven business networking techniques that will help you to grow your business?
Discover the value of networking that helped mortgage broker, Peter Kinch, grow his business into $10 million of sales in his first year.
A leader in the business of networking and relationship building, Donna Willon, and her partners, Kris Bovay and Lorne Patterson, have published easy to follow strategies and techniques for building successful networks.
Find out more from the ebook, Business Networking Techniques that Work!