Finding a supportive community in tough times
In light of health officials’ recommendation for physical distancing to help stem the spread of COVID-19, the idea of community has become more important than ever. For an unknown period of time physical distance is going to separate us all — but that doesn’t mean we can’t find the support we need in other ways.
Related: 10 tactics to adapt your business for social distancing
Find the support your small business needs
Running your own venture is challenging in the best of times. Take a few minutes away from calling suppliers and reassuring stressed-out workers to take care of yourself in one or more of these ways:
- Join your local chamber of commerce.
- Get active in professional organizations and groups.
- Participate in online forums and meetups.
- Call out the wins for your group or community.
- Whip up support for other small businesses.
- Find a mentor.
There’s no shame in asking for help — right now, it could mean the difference between surviving and throwing in the towel.
1. Join your local chamber of commerce
One reliable source of support during the COVID-19 pandemic is your local chamber of commerce. No matter where you live and work, the chamber’s doors are always open.
For example, The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has curated and shared a list of resources to help business owners and employees who need help.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce website details Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, including efforts to help businesses keep their employees and changes to the Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP).
Connecting with your local chamber will give you reliable information on:
- Best practices for surviving a crisis
- Federal and provincial programs available to SMBs
- Private sources of financial relief or support
- Urgent needs in your community
Since the chamber is a credible source of information, you can share their links in messages you send out to your customers, suppliers and partners.
2. Get active in professional organizations
A second thing you can do is join or get active in professional organizations and online communities related to your industry or occupation.
You’ll not only get ideas on how to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic, but connect with grassroots efforts in your area.
Here are just a few groups to check out:
The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses
CFIB offers business support services and advocacy for small business owners throughout Canada.
Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs
CAWEE brings a diverse array of successful professional women together to build lasting relationships. Check their calendar for online networking events.
Small Business BC
Serving the entrepreneurial community in BC, this group offers a business continuity checklist, digital meetups, and webinars on topics such as managing cash flow during COVID-19.
As you likely already know, Facebook Groups are a fantastic way to connect with like-minded people within a given niche or industry.
They can be location-based or not. They can be general or specific. What matters is these groups are a means of connecting with other business owners during this difficult time (and beyond).
Here is a list of trade associations.
3. Participate in online forums and meetups
This is another excellent resource for building strategic relationships that can help you:
- Adapt to the new business reality
- Pivot quickly to continue serving customers
- Tap into a supportive community online
Check out the small business section of Meetup.com to connect with other business owners.
BNI is short for Business Network International and it is an organization that connects business leaders through a robust referral marketing program. Connect with other local businesses by using their easy online chapter locator to find the nearest chapter.
Make Lemonade is a Toronto coworking community for women. With physical distancing, their coworking community is now offering daily virtual coworking sessions for entrepreneurs throughout the country!
4. Call out the wins for your group or community
Whether you create your own community or join an existing one, it’s important to recognize members when they go above and beyond.
To do this, you can:
- Call out exemplary employees/volunteers
- Share innovative ideas local businesses are using to adapt their delivery models
- Celebrate philanthropy or charitable acts when they occur
Cheerleading has never been more important — if you see something laudable, make a big deal!
5. Whip up support for other small businesses
Now more than ever it’s important to spend a little extra time supporting others. A few suggestions:
- Promote other small businesses doing great things
- Send business to other companies when you can
- Support fundraising drives for small businesses hard hit by COVOID-19
- Announce partnerships, especially if it involves a service discount or deal
- Share the websites and/or social media pages of other small businesses and leave reviews on Yelp or Google business.
Remember, there is strength in numbers.
6. Find a mentor
If you’ve put off finding a mentor or lost touch with one, now is the time to start or renew contact with a trusted other.
Mentors can be guiding lights through these challenging times, offering tips and best practices based on years of experience. And if your mentor offers consultancy services, you should make every effort to recruit their services and to promote their services within your business community as well.
You’re not on an island alone
For most of us, this crisis is unprecedented. Defeating the coronavirus requires isolation, a state that requires business owners to invent new ways of serving their customers.
Reach out virtually with your fears and questions, stepping in with answers when you have them. Our combined knowledge far outstrips the wisdom or experience of any one of us — so pool your resources! We will triumph over this latest challenge the way we always do: together.