Should You Join a Business Group?

Running a small business requires some level of expertise in many areas.  There are management issues, marketing questions and financial realities. Trying to master all areas, or at least sort them all out, can be frustrating, exhausting and scary. Entrepreneurship differs from many other “professions” in that by definition you are on your own: no colleagues back at the office, no mentor or boss to show you the way.  In addition, it is not just your paycheck that is at risk; it can be everything you have, not to mention money put up by friends and family.

It can be a lot to get your head around.  And that’s why there are so many business groups out there for people who are looking for input, support and guidance.  For the overwhelmed business owner these groups can be an irreplaceable resource.

Here is how the groups usually work. They tend to meet once a month and include between six and 15 chief executives. Each meeting is focused on one member’s business, and everything from financials to marketing plans to staffing is reviewed.

To many, the price of these groups may seem prohibitive.  But the question is, how many tips, warnings, insights and ideas would it take to make the investment worthwhile? It is hard to imagine sitting through 12 meetings with other business people — including one focused solely on you and your business — without learning something that would be worth that money and more.

There is also something to be said for seeing evidence that you are not the only one who struggles. It can be a confidence builder just to know that all businesses have problems — some that you have, some that you don’t. The most valuable information you learn about problems is about the ones that haven’t hit you yet.

Beyond the money, there is also the issue of time, which can be even more challenging. It is hard for many owners to imagine being out of pocket for an entire day every month.  Then again, this reminds me of the lumberjack who is too busy to sharpen his saw. The ironic part is that it’s often the people who are most convinced they couldn’t possibly find the time who are most in need of the guidance.