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Thanks, Abigail!AbigailExcellent and Plentiful CompanyThe latest Census Bureau statistics reported 20M businesses in America have one employee – the owner. An additional 6M businesses have fewer than 10 employees, counting the owner. To put those numbers into perspective: 26M businesses are more than the combined population of the 10 largest cities in the USA.* For these small businesses, the good news is they have the ultimate flexibility to change and adapt to their clients’ needs and competition. The flip side is they are probably managing their business in isolation. Reasons for Community Share KnowledgeThere is no reason to repeat the same mistakes another new business made. Other owners, even in different kinds of businesses, have a wealth of experience that will balance both scare tactics and rosy promises of an advertising salesperson, as an example. Realistic Benchmarks for SuccessBusiness owners tend to be optimists; it’s a prerequisite for daring to control our own destiny. Sometimes having advisors to push us when we are being too conservative, as well as to add a voice of sanity when we are about to bankrupt ourselves with a poorly analyzed action, can make all the difference to the success of our business. Realistic Analysis of ErrorsWe are often our own worst critics! Sometimes it’s difficult to have a clear postmortem of what happened, why, and how to avoid a repeat in the future. It’s even more difficult when we are standing amid the fallout to see the next step to salvage our business. Safety NetPeople with close ties to a network of friends and family live longer, are happier, and enjoy better health than people who are isolated. Many business owners cannot discuss their challenges with the family without causing alarm. It’s not sensible to discuss your challenges with a competitor or your own clients. Who can you talk to? Develop Your Community NetworkI wish network training was mandatory at age 13, with a refresher course each decade afterward. It would make school, the work world, and our communities much easier to navigate. Collecting business cards is not networking. Making and maintaining a true heart-to-heart connection is networking at its best. Research the commercial networking organizations in your community. The newspaper, craigslist, and Meetup all list these resources. It takes time to become known and for people to feel comfortable about referring you. Give any group you join at least six months before you decide you need to move on. MastermindMasterminds are a small group of people, usually with non-competitive businesses, that get together on a regular basis to support each other’s growth by challenging the members to stretch into new goals and holding each other accountable for meeting their commitments. Commercial masterminds are usually more successful than voluntary ones, as they have enough structure and financial cost to encourage commitment. Ideally, find and negotiate to join a mastermind of the most successful people you can locate. Mastermind members are often scattered across the country and rely on the phone for some meetings, as well as weekend working retreats in various locations throughout the year. CoachCoaches are like a personalized Mastermind. They keep you accountable, will stretch you into new goals, and provide third party insights you might not have considered. People can work with different coaches, for different purposes, simultaneously. It’s also possible to work for several years with the same coach. As long as they are helping you grow personally and/or professionally, they are worth the investment. Conference/SeminarsThis is an expensive and often inconvenient way to build a network of like-minded people. Once the event is over, a rare individual follows up with the people they met at the conference. It’s difficult to absorb all the content provided and remember to make connections during the breaks or before and after the sessions. I encourage everyone to still network at these events, though it’s usually the hardest way to develop your network. Your DecisionRegardless of how you build your community, it’s important to remember that other people and their opinions have no power in defining your destiny. We can listen to their ideas, but at the end of the day, it’s our business and we make the final decisions.                                                                     © 2009 Straight Edge News          All Rights Reserved.

Contributed by Abigail Dougherty
Straight Edge Solutions