Why ignoring your community will kill your business

No matter how big or small your business is, building and maintaining community relationships is vitally important. When businesses ignore the relationships directly around them, they potentially miss out on the most accessible catalysts for growth. Your business is located in a neighborhood within a city or town. As an owner or entrepreneur, you should strive to be an active member of your local community because your company's potential growth can be directly correlated to the relationship. 

Beyond the chance to give back and do some good, there are strong business reasons for building relationships within your local community. It's an excellent opportunity to distinguish your company from its competitors, gain loyal customers, attract desirable labor, and build your brand. It's also a great way of strategically developing relationships within the business community.

People prefer to buy from companies they know and trust, but trust is not something that gets established overnight. It’s built slowly by creating genuine, mutually beneficial relationships, not business transactions. Authentic community relationships require dedication, nurturing, and selflessness, not short-term thinking that focuses only on narrow business goals. It demands that your company genuinely get to know the local community, people's families, grassroots ideas, experiences, and different perspectives that may, in fact, have no immediate benefit. It requires a focus on what your business can contribute, rather than what it can gain.

Before reaching out to the local community, ensure your entire business, including all your employees, are fully invested in the relationship building process and understand the true essence of community relations (i.e., being genuine & giving). Your staff is not only a big part of your business but the local community as well. Once everyone is onboard and on the same page, determine the most efficient and effective mix of outreach methods that you think will work for your business. There are many ways to get involved in the community, but not all of them will work for your company. Reflect on how much time and money you can commit to the process and try to get involved in community causes your business is passionate about. Choosing a cause or activity that you and your employees are passionate about will help everyone stay motivated and energized.

Here are a few traditional ways businesses can get involved & build relationships with their local communities.

Philanthropic Initiatives

Volunteering time or contributing money to a local cause of your choice is a great way of increasing your reputation and helping your community at the same time. Allow your employees to swap their work hours for volunteer hours (within reason), or pick a few local nonprofits and charities that your employees can raise money for. Don't be afraid to communicate the company's efforts and achievements to your customer base via the company website and marketing materials. Be proud of your work in the community and keep people informed.

Networking Events

Whether you’re just starting your business or have been up and running for some time, networking can be your life support. As a business owner, you need to get out there and attend networking events to build connections. Networking events can help you build your brand, engage your customers, and develop strategically valuable relationships within the business community. Networking requires many of the same attributes as community outreach. Being genuine and finding what others are passionate about is important. Effective networking is all about making long lasting connections, so think about what you can do for people that you meet, don't just look at them as customers. Networking is a long process that may not produce immediate gains.

Sponsorships

Partnering with organizations like local sports clubs, colleges or schools to sponsor events can be an effective way of building relationships and helping your community. It gives your business the chance to show that you care about the needs of the local community and provides a platform to begin building relationships with local organizations. Having a presence at events also positions your business as a leader in your industry and the community. Even small businesses with limited budgets can get involved. If your company can't afford to give thousands of dollars to fund or sponsor an event, offer your business's time or expertise instead. 

In conclusion, there are a variety of ways that you can and should engage with your community. Community engagement is vital to the growth and reputation of your company and should be a focus for the company early on. Genuine, mutually beneficial relationships that are built on trust will take your company a long way!

Contributed by:
Zach Miller
Senior Accountant