I want to suggest that there might be a source of help around the corner that you may have overlooked: Your local chamber of commerce. Chambers of commerce can be one of the best friends your business can have.
Think about it: What is one of the main problems you encounter as a self-employed businessperson? I bet one of them is a lack of support. Well, the whole purpose behind a chamber is to help you succeed. Indeed, over 85 % of U.S. chamber members are small business owners. So your local chamber is a place committed to your success.
At your chamber you will find a host of programs and resources intended to make your business better and more profitable.
Let’s consider the various ways a chamber of commerce can help a small business:
1. Programming: Much, nay, most, of the programming done by chambers is intended to help their members grow their businesses. Chambers bring in speakers, offer educational seminars, create informational newsletters, host luncheons, spotlight successful members, facilitate small business counseling, supply relevant demographic materials, sponsor business expos, and offer a variety of other programs intended to help grow members’ businesses
2. Networking: At a chamber you still get to network the old-fashioned way – in person. And as a result of that, you will be able to create a network (and not a virtual network) of like-minded people – small business owners who, like you, are juggling payroll, taxes, a challenging economy, etc. There will be people to bounce ideas off of, and ideas from others that can be applied to your business as well.
Additionally, chambers of commerce offer you the chance to do business with your fellow chamber members.
3. Lobbying: Legislation of all sorts on the state and national level has profound impacts on small businesses. However, most entrepreneurs have neither the time, resources, understanding, nor desire to lobby on a particular bill. That’s another place where a chamber of commerce can help.
4. Getting involved: chambers always have a variety of committees that allow you to participate in your community on issues of importance to you. By joining one, you can make a difference and have your voice heard.
5. Discounts: Chambers offer their members discounts and deals on everything from health insurance to computers to education, and on.
So yes, joining a chamber of commerce can be an excellent way to get some institutional support for your business.
(For even more fun business tips and strategies, check out the podcast that I do in conjunction with Microsoft called Small Business with Steve Strauss, Powered by Microsoft.)