Small businesses play a vital role in economies across the globe. The Small Business Administration says small businesses — which are defined as firms that have fewer than 500 employees — comprise 99.9 percent of all businesses in the United States. Small businesses may be defined differently elsewhere in the world (in the European Union, small businesses are defined as firms with 50 or fewer employees), but they are no less valuable to their economies.
Because of the key role small businesses play, including employing millions of people throughout the world, it is essential that small businesses thrive and prosper. There is much the public can do to help small businesses be successful, but there also are steps small business owners can take to assist one another.
• Pass along opportunities. As a business owner, if you come across a resource or an opportunity that may not be the ideal fit for your own company, consider sharing the information with another small business owner or recommending another firm that might make for a more suitable partner.
• Promote one another. Make sure there is a prominent and visible collection of business cards or promotional materials available in your facility. For example, if you are a local real estate agent, you can promote and recommend mortgage brokers, home inspectors, interior designers, and moving companies. If you own a store, enable other businesses to advertise their own stores and services.
• Organize networking and meeting opportunities. Networking and meeting with others in the industry is a great way to share ideas to see what may be working for others and what is not. Networking meetings also provide great opportunities to work on potential collaborations.
• Consider sharing resources. Certain businesses may benefit from sharing facilities, equipment or even supplies and other resources as cost-saving measures. This also may open up opportunities to collaborate.
• Use one another's services. One of the simplest ways to help another small business is to be their customer. This is the ultimate show of support and can help validate your recommendation.
• Explore co-branding or co-marketing. Some businesses support each other by working together. Finding ways to work together can be effective, especially in similar industries. For example, pet store owners can work exclusively with a nearby dog trainer, and both can market their services together.
• Start a social media group. A small business with social media savvy can be the administrator/moderator of a local group that encourages other businesses in the area to frequently post and advertise their businesses.
Small businesses can work together to support one another so these vital cogs in the economy can flourish.