This past summer my kids discovered this really cool retro candy store that recently opened up in the plaza down the street from us. Every other day they would walk down the street with their friends and discover one of the unique candies that many of us grew up with. Candy Buttons, Pez, Wax Bottles and Double Bubble just to name a few. It was so cool to see their smiling faces, while also reliving my youth. So, you can imagine my disappointment this week, when I learned that the retro candy store was permanently closing. Unfortunately, this is just one additional closed retail store that can be added to the pile of closures that the plaza has seen over the past few years. What is even more disappointing, is that the majority of them could have been easily prevented.
So, why is it that some businesses succeed, while others quickly fail? Obviously, this is a complex question with hundreds of different reasons, so it is not a question that can’t be answered in a simple blog. That said, there is one thing that I have seen repeatedly make a difference for small start up companies……Business Networking. The owners of the Retro Candy Store had been repeatedly asked to visit some different businesses networking organizations in the area, but like so many others before them, they always had an excuse why they couldn’t attend.
In stark contrast to the Retro Candy Store, not a day goes by that I don’t hear some small business professional tell me, “I wouldn’t be in business today if it weren’t for this group.” Business Networking provides so many critical resources to new companies for a price tag that they could never find anywhere else. Here area few that came to mind.
- Marketing – Business Networking provides an essential marketing arm for the business that most small businesses can’t afford otherwise. Not just any marketing, but marketing that has been stistcically proven to have a higher return on investment than any other means of marketing in existence. Business Networking is like having a network of sales people in the community always looking out for your next big opportunity, always looking for ways that they can help your business grow. Referrals through your marketing team often have a higher closing ratio and a higher profit margin than any other means of client acquisition.
- Resources – Business Networking also provides essential resources for your business. Every business needs a network of people that can provide supplies, repairs, construction, accounting, coaching, etc, etc, etc…. Business Networking puts all of those resources in one room. You don’t have to go researching to find the person who you can trust, you have a personal relationship with them because you share a common bond through your group. These resources are also other small businesses that have been there and done that. So, they can serve as valuable mentors on your entrepreneurial journey.
- Awareness – Awareness is probably the most basic element that business network can provide. Nobody is going to do business with you if they don’t first know that you exist. In today’s world, where we are bombarded by marketing messages every second of every day, so achieving that awareness is more difficult than ever. Achieving a level of awareness that people actually act upon is even more challenging. Simply putting up a store front, rarely gets the job done. Business Networking gets your name and company in front of hundreds of people in the community that all want to help you.
There are likely many other benefits that small businesses receive from networking, but these are just some of the most common that apply for small, local, start up companies. Business Networking won’t necessarily help overnight, so you need to dig your well before you’re thirsty. I have seen many start up companies join a group in a final fit of desperation, but it is too little, too late. I can’t help but wish that the Retro Candy Store and so many other small businesses had listened and listened early on. If you’re a new start up company reading this, get out there and get active with your business networking community, it can make the difference between the life and death of your business. If your an existing business networker, don’t give up on the start up companies! Keep annoying them until they attend just to get you off their backs! They will thank you later on! Hopefully, tother we can help to prevent the closure of small businesses like the Retro Candy Store.