Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely pursuit. Sure, you might have employees or you might spend your days surrounded by other customers at the coffee shops you work out of, but when it comes down to your business’s ultimate success or failure, you’re on your own.
To make matters worse, it can be hard to explain the challenges that the solo nature of this pursuit presents to people who haven’t traveled the entrepreneur path. Friends and relatives might listen with interest, but they just aren’t able to relate to the pressure running a business puts on a person.
The best solution I’ve found is to join entrepreneurial organizations -- membership programs that allow me to connect to fellow business owners. Entrepreneurial organization can help you take advantage of all of the following benefits:
1. Targeted Q&As and networking
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into questions that only other entrepreneurs could answer. Whether it’s a recommendation for a product to meet a specific need or a question on how to handle a particular business challenge, it should go without saying that people who have been through the issues you’re facing are the best people to answer your questions.
Entrepreneurial organizations can help you answer these questions through user forums, member Q&A sessions and more. But if you need more personal assistance, there’s another powerful benefit that many networks offer: targeted warm-lead introductions.
Say I was an entrepreneur looking to pursue a seed fundraising round. I could read articles about how to best approach the process, or, if I was a member of an entrepreneurial network, I could reach out and ask to be introduced to people who have successfully gone through the process themselves. The entrepreneurial organization could then make introductions for me, giving me a much better chance of initiating a meeting than if I reached out on my own to make a cold introduction.
2. Mentorships and menteeships
Most entrepreneurial organizations offer meetup events -- either online or in person -- that help members to connect. In many other cases, the warm-lead introductions made by these networks can lead to powerful relationships in both directions.
Finding mentors who can guide you through your business’s challenges is a major perk for members of all entrepreneurial organizations. However, it can be just as powerful to be introduced to a fellow growing business owner who is seeking information you can provide. In my experience, I’ve found that becoming a mentor to these up-and-coming entrepreneurs is a great way to reignite my own passion for business and to keep my skill set and knowledge as sharp as possible.
3. Special discounts and educational opportunities
Certainly, one of the biggest benefits of joining any type of member’s-only organization is the discounts it provides. And entrepreneurial organizations are no exception!
Take, for example, the “EO Marketplace” offered by the Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO). In this special area of the website, the more than 10,000 members can post listings offering discounts off their products or free upgrades for other EO members. Not all of the ads posted will interest all members, but if you stumble across something good, you can easily make back the cost of your membership fee!
Many of these networks also offer educational partnerships that help members either gain access to certain programs or receive tuition discounts. Just take a look at the benefits offered by YEC, which has partnerships with Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, UNC’s Kenan-Flager Business School, UC Berkeley’s School of Information, the USC Rossier School of Education and the American University's School of International Service.
4. Brand-building resources
Finally, I can absolutely say that I’ve benefited from the editorial programs that many entrepreneurial organizations run, which allow me to share my knowledge on sites such as VentureBeat, Yahoo! and more. Because the content I share on these sites helps me establish myself as a leader on digital marketing strategy, they contribute positively to my lead generation activities and help me make enough sales to cover the costs of my member fees.
Depending on the particular networks you decide to join, you may encounter other brand-building opportunities, including mentions in press releases put out by the organizations, speaker-panel inclusions and more. My advice to you would be take advantage of as many of these opportunities as you encounter. You never know how a particular piece of press will contribute to your business’s growth!
Now I want to hear from you. Do you belong to any entrepreneurial organizations? If so, share the benefits you’ve experienced in the comments section below!
Entrepreneurship organizations are groups that have been around for ages. Though the concept is nothing new, the diversity of options available continues to expand with the increased demand from the millennial generation. I joined the Yellow Collective in October and have been pleasantly surprised by how much the experience has exceeded my already high expectations.
The Yellow Collective is a networking group for creative and entrepreneurial women that has chapters scattered throughout the US. We meet on a monthly basis to learn, mingle, encourage, and motivate.
Though groups such as this typically have a quarterly or yearly membership fee, in my opinion, what you gain is priceless.
Paying an entrepreneurship group’s dues is kind of like paying for a gym membership. If you’re paying for it, you want to get as much value as you can. In addition to personally wanting to squeeze every drop of juice out of your experience, you also are given many additional resources to help you grow. These resources often come in the form of exclusive events, digital content, mentors, literature, and community support.
The beauty of these types of organizations is that you’ll connect with individuals you may not have the chance to meet otherwise. Though you may consider yourself to be an extroverted person or even attend networking events within your industry, these types of groups typically include members from a variety of industries and walks of life (all sharing the same drive and ambition.)
Although your business experience may vary, there is much you can learn from the success, trials, and tribulations of others regardless of their field. This allows you to think outside of the box and apply a new and fresh perspective to your business or company.
We’ve all heard the expression “if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room” and, in my opinion, it could not be more accurate. Being surrounded by peers who have lofty goals and a strong work ethic helps to hold you to the same standard. This boils down to human nature and the desire to succeed amongst others in a healthy competition (or at the very least be on the same playing field.)
Not to mention, meetings typically consist of sharing your visions with the group or even a mentor. Verbalizing these goals makes them more tangible and often times acts as a catalyst to help you hit them. After all, would you want to come to the next meeting without making any progress?
This quarter with The Yellow Collective consists of three meetings, two of which have already taken place. Our first meeting was an introduction and was filled with backstories and icebreakers amongst members. I chatted with women of all ages and left with several tidbits of advice and an overwhelming desire to make a difference in the lives of others.
The November “Girlsgiving” meeting was an opportunity for us to give thanks for the ability to follow our calling & for the incredible women we were surrounded by. We also focused on the heart of our business/passion, where we’re at now, and what makes us tick. This month, we’re having a holiday themed meeting and will continue sharing knowledge, fostering relationships, and challenging each other.
Although this quarter is coming to an end, the meetings are only one small aspect of the overall experience, and I know the momentum will only continue to grow. Afterall, there’s nothing I personally love more than women empowering women to reach success. Why wouldn’t I want to continue placing myself in a room filled with genuine and inspiring girl bosses?
Challenge yourself & raise the caliber of your activities outside of work. Take the time to develop new skill sets, read books on business, or even look into joining a local entrepreneurship group yourself – you may be surprised by how far you go!
It’s not news that millennials love technology. This generational cohort, consisting of 24 percent of the county’s population, has ranked “Technology Use” as the top reason for making their generation unique according to a report released by Nielsen. Millennials rely on technology to make their lives easier, both professionally and personally.
When it comes to their careers, millennials use social media platforms to their benefit. Whether it’s connecting with colleagues, job hunting or seeking advice, social media platforms seem to have replaced the old-fashion professional organization.
In fact, according to findings from Buzz Marketing Group’s, “Professional Organizations Study 2015,” survey, more than one quarter of respondents referred to professional organizations as “old school.” Additionally, respondents who were under the age of 40 have been leaving older groups in record numbers for the following reasons:
Ninety-three percent of respondents ranked social capital as very important or important to their professional lives. The value millennials put on social capital is fueling the reemergence of younger professional organizations that bring quality to a space diluted by Facebook posts and constant, but distant, connections.
"Millennial business owners and leaders overwhelmingly believe that today's professional communities are a powerful tool to build social currency and further their professional goals," says Tina Wells, founder and CEO of Buzz Marketing Group. "Over the last five years, it is clear that groups like YEC, Summit Series and Levo have transitioned the once-antiquated industry into a beacon for curated social capital, relevant professional benefits and peer-to-peer learning from Gen Y."
A majority of millennials (67 percent) stated they would "prefer to join an organization founded by peers of a similar age,” such as YEC and FounderSociety. These groups have sparked a resurgence of professional organization because they are meeting the wants and needs of Millennial professionals and business owners.
According to the Buzz Marketing Group survey, millennial-focused groups resonate with young professionals because they are innovative, tech savvy and useful. The survey also discovered that:
If you are a millennial who remains on the fence about a joining a professional organization, here are the main reasons why becoming a member can be beneficial to your career.
Social capital: Glenn Curtis notes on Investopedia, “Professional organizations allow for a congregation of intelligent, like-minded professionals that are immersed in the inner workings of the industry to gather and provide participants with access to a variety of opinions and ideas.”
Whether it’s joining a LinkedIn group or attending an invitation-only conference, networking can introduce you to a mentor or an advisor, and give you the opportunity to share advice with/from peers locally and globally. Social capital is the most important currency in business, and members of professional organizations can access it easily and often. By establishing trust with industry leaders and colleagues you can help each other reach professional goals.
Learn: Millennials who join a professional organization gain access to educational resources like industry research, newsletters, seminars, courses and events where leading industry thought-leaders share insight into the latest trends, innovations, technology and best practices. Members further their careers by staying ahead of their competitors.
Job opportunities: Most professional organizations share job listings that are exclusive to members. Your freshly-formed network can connect you with individuals and companies searching for someone with your specific talents or, if you're hiring, introductions to top candidates when the begin looking for open positions.
Develop leadership skills: Membership in a professional organization brings you the chance to develop your leadership skills speaking at industry events, answering questions on forums or contributing content to the group’s newsletter or website. That is practice for becoming a stronger leader that will help you achieve your professional goals by becoming a trusted and respected addition to the group of industry leaders.
Exclusive services and benefits: Being a member of a professional group brings millennials exclusive perks. Besides being a member of a cultural landscape of a professional community, organizations such as CoachesForum offer access to educational resources and invite-only events. Members have access to exclusive deals and discounts tailored to their business needs. Professional communities now provide members everything from healthcare to travel discounts to a complimentary FoundersCard membership.
Opportunity to give back: Because Millennials are so charitable, professional organizations provide a once-in-a-lifetime chance to give back. YEC, for example, allows members to speak, teach or participate in nonprofit organizations like Junior Achievement. Other organizations will coordinate with local charitable organizations, such as food banks or animal shelters, as ways to give back to the community.
Despite their reliance on social media platforms, millennials would prefer to become members of professional organizations that enhance their careers. However, millennials are looking for affordable groups that consist of their peers and utilize technology.
For those considering a membership to a professional group, keep in mind you will get what you put into it. This means you want to be an active and productive member who mingles with other members and contributes to the community by curating useful content.
Last week I wrote about attending conferences and trade shows. They can offer valuable tools and platforms, and many of the best events I’ve attended were organized by trade and professional associations. That brings me to a much broader topic for this week. I believe that trade and professional associations can be very beneficial for businesses, especially entrepreneurs. In fact, I’m surprised by the lack of people who belong to associations.
Whenever I’ve considered involvement in a trade association in the past, I looked at it as an investment in myself. Benjamin Franklin once stated that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest. I couldn’t agree more and would recommend entrepreneurs take this advice.
Think of a professional association membership as an investment in knowledge and your career.
The argument that I hear most frequently from colleagues who don’t belong to trade associations is that membership can be pricey. It’s true. But when you consider the benefits and if you take full advantage of your membership, I think you’ll find that trade and professional associations can be a great investment.
I could outline dozens of benefits I’ve received from my involvement in various trade and professional associations, but I want to focus on four now:
What’s great is that trade and professional associations typically exist on national, state, and local levels. Whether you’re looking for a general business association (consider your local Chamber of Commerce) or an industry specific association, it likely exists. A list of many of the top national associations is included in the annual federal Consumer Action Handbook and is accessible online.
I’ve been involved in dozens of trade and professional associations throughout my career. Of course, it’s important to find the right one. Consulting the Consumer Action Handbook can help. Also consider asking colleagues and competitors what associations they’re involved in. Look at your local newspaper and event calendars to see which associations are the most active in your area. If you find one that looks like a good fit, I’d recommend contacting some existing members to ask them about their experiences.
When I’ve conducted this due diligence on potential associations, I’ve found the right one (regardless of the industry) and benefited from my membership.
Please share your thoughts too. I’d love to hear what benefits and challenges other entrepreneurs have found with trade and professional associations.
Membership is open to businesses and organizations interested in increasing visibility and brand awareness in Westchester County and surrounding areas.