After last month's successful Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce Business Awards, I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of companies like ours being a part of the local community.
Making connections with surrounding business and social networks is about much more than raising your profile. It’s a way to establish your position within your market, to share and learn new ideas and to give something back to everyone your company impacts.
Leadership and trust
An excellent article recently published by the Huffington Post rightly points out that local involvement is not a distraction for SME owners, nor is it beyond their powers to help create positive change. In fact, many grass-roots charities and local organisations are crying out for the vision and leadership that entrepreneurs are well equipped to provide – and sometimes this is more valuable than financial donations.
Making yourself available in this way shows the wider community the values you hold and your abilities to make change happen. Even from a more cynical standpoint, the reputational benefits to such activity are enormous.
Learning and support
In our own busy calendar, we frequently seek to engage with others across our industry and in related areas. Events dealing specifically with sector developments, like the Debt Recovery and Enforcement Breakfast Seminar we recently attended, are a great way to stay on top of emerging trends and to see them from another perspective. Constantly learning and developing in this way is a form of risk management, ensuring your business isn’t surprised by sudden changes.
The positive impact of these kind of seminars, and larger events like conferences and expos, lasts much longer than the meetings themselves. At every one, we find our support network grows and we build up an ever-more useful contact book of colleagues, experts and commentators.
Understanding and care
Connecting with your local area also helps people understand your business and its goals, inside the company and out. Internally, employees who volunteer on outreach projects are far more engaged with their employer. When I dug a bit deeper into this idea, I found a study by the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, which states that 89% of companies report a positive correlation between volunteer participation and engagement scores.
Externally, it’s even easier to see the benefits. Small businesses can face high levels of late payment, but if more of their customers and clients understood what they do, why they do it, and what it takes, there would be much greater incentive to support that activity. Similarly, seeing a company actively improving a community is the perfect counterweight to the kind of negative PR that the debt enforcement industry knows all too well.
Many thanks for viewing my post; I hope you found it useful. If you did, please feel free to share it with your network. And, before you go, would you use the comment section below to let me know what you found most interesting about what I had to say and how it was relevant to your own circumstances?