February 2012 Getting Institutional Help
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Getting Institutional Help

By Steve Strauss. ARCHIVE:

Last week, we looked at how bringing in a partner can solve a lot of vexing problems for an entrepreneur – partners can be a source of financial assistance, and extra pair of hands, a sounding board, and more.

This week I want to suggest that there might also be another 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 of Commerce is to help you succeed. Indeed, over 85 percent 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 business tips and strategies, check out the new podcast on iTunes that I am doing in conjunction with Greatland called Small Business Success with Steve Strauss, Powered by Greatland.)