It doesn’t matter what sector you’re in. If you’re running any business, you should look outwardly as well as inwardly if you want to succeed. As a small business owner, you can gain so much from sharing your expertise and helping others, accruing social capital and building your local business community as well as your own business.
How To Earn And Spend Social Capital
What is social capital? Social capital is earned or spent by sharing your expertise, helping other people, and benefiting from their expertise too.
You don’t have to share your trade secrets or give services or products away for free. Instead you might be able to recommend a SaaS solution that will help a fellow business owner streamline their systems, or troubleshoot a problem they have with their social media profiles. You may not be an expert in that area, but if you’ve got a useful hack or have learned from your own mistakes – share it! That’s what social capital is.
Fundamentally it’s about working together to help each other succeed and build a thriving business community.
Here’s how to start earning social capital, and spending it.
Are you connected?
In any town or city there will be a community of small business owners waiting to be connected with. They will be full of words of wisdom and advice, but you need to find them first. Being active on social media can help you find likeminded individuals, and it’s worth searching for any networking groups that are already established in your area. Your local chamber of commerce may be able to help point you in the right direction.
If there aren’t any business meet ups in your area, or perhaps those that exist are not for you, how about starting your own? No doubt you will find many other micro and small business owners are in a similar position and would welcome the opportunity to meet up and connect. Details of how to start up a business hub can be found here.
Here for you
Once you join a business community you’ll make not just acquaintances but friends. They’ll become an emotional support network, able to understand the issues and problems you face as a small business owner. Hopefully, you’ll be able to learn from each other’s mistakes.
It’s important that you do respect boundaries though and don’t expect too much. We all know of people who are very good at taking but not so good at giving; if you want to earn social capital and build genuine business relationships you’ll need to make sure you’re contributing positively to the group.
Invest in your business community
Social capital can be earned by sharing your time or resources for free, but it is also earned by keeping your local economy buoyant. That means investing in other local businesses. So if you need a graphic designer to create a new logo or design an email template, don’t go on gig economy type websites and buy services from someone in a far-flung country, use a local business – someone you know or have had recommended by your local business connections.
Spend social capital
Becoming an active member of a local business community means that whenever you need help, services or recommendations, you’ll know who to speak to. If you’ve invested in that group by being a good citizen you can expect that other business people will recommend your business to their connections too. You will also be in a position to ask for help if needed, but don’t expect other business owners to work for free.
Social capital is repaid in the same way as you earned it, for example:
- Sharing advice and tips
- Explaining how to do something so someone can get on with it themselves
- Troubleshooting a problem
- Recommending a course of action
- Recommending services, products or other businesses
- Providing emotional support
- Listening to another business owner
- Brainstorming ideas together
- Being a friend
The more time you spend engaging with members of your group, the more you’ll get out of it. Local business communities need committed individuals who understand the benefits of investing their time and social capital. Of course, not everyone gets it; some people will always be takers not givers. But fortunately there are enough business people in every town and city that understand the value of social capital and want to be part of a vibrant business community.
Your Business Hubs are all about building communities and sharing social capital. We currently have hubs in Farnham, Guildford and Bordon but ultimately want to create a network of business hubs across the country. If you would like to build an exciting business community in your area, click here for details on how to start a hub.