Tips for Finding the Right Community

One of the best parts about becoming a business owner is the “freedom”. We take the leap of faith with dreams of flexible work schedules, executive decisions, self-dictated income and freedom from the shackles of reporting for duty at someone else’s beck and call. The only thing we think we’ll miss is the steady paycheck and the group health insurance.

But what many will find after a period of time is that the days are typically longer, pay is lower, less steady and freedom has its price. This is normal when you’re a start-up. What many of us don’t anticipate is how little we appreciated the interaction with peers – the sense of community that comes with being a member of something bigger with other people. Sole-ownership can lead to the sense of living on an island and as humans and specifically women, we are inherently social beings. Business ownership can be counter-intuitive to what makes us feel connected.

So where should you begin to find your tribe? As business owners, we’re chiefs of our own tribes, to find a group to belong to is the exact opposite of business ownership. But as members of a community, it’s critical that we play both leader in our own domains as well as team player in the big community sandbox. As a woman does it make more sense to join a local chamber of commerce or a women’s business organization? What about the multiple women’s networking or peer groups? The options for women are endless and every day there’s a new group of women, matrons, mavens, ladies, broads, you name it – they’re out there.

So how do you know where you belong? The good news is – everyone wants you. The bad news is, it’ll take a little test driving to figure out who’s the right fit for you. As the CEO of the largest membership based women’s business trade organization in Los Angeles, I like to believe that we meet the most needs and offer the best value proposition.

I suggest asking the following questions of you and of the potential tribe of choice:

  1.  What stage am I in my business? This is where you determine the number of years in business, revenues/gross receipts, number of employees and where you hope to be.
  2. What am I looking for in a tribe? This is an important question to figure out as a business owner and a tribal member. The offerings can range from social engagement to business development, educational offerings to procurement opportunities, peer learning to political advocacy. The thing to do is create a list of what is most important to you and find the organization that puts a strong emphasis on those top priorities.
  3. What is my intended level of participation? Do you want to join a group to simply say you’re a member? Perhaps part of your long-terms strategy involves becoming a board member as a key action item towards growth. Maybe you’re only interested in marketing yourself to the community.
  4. What’s my measure of success? Be clear on what you intend to do for the investment of your membership dues. Ask yourself, at the end of the first year, what will have happened that will make it worth it for me to renew? How well were my needs and wants met? Would I recommend this organization to another business owner?

Jane Pak, Guest Blogger View more posts by SCORE’s Guest Bloggers