Welcome to a series of articles all about business growth. Over the last year or so we have all been focused on Covid-19 and the challenges to be faced over the years ahead. It has not been a particularly happy time for many. While some businesses have had to close or reduce staff, many have kept going and there are new ones starting most weeks.
This series is all about the future and the optimism that comes with growth. Let us remember that starting and growing a business is as much about the innovation, drive and determination of the people who do it as it is about the products or services they sell.
Doing things on your own is never easy, especially if you are not feeling all that confident. You will find it easier to grow your business if you collaborate with others and become part of networks that will offer support and encouragement. There are a number of innovative networks that have grown up in the Pacific, especially over the last year or so, and you need to explore how to make the most of them.
Many years ago, Henry Ford said that ‘coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success’. Networking with others is not just about collecting contacts or phone numbers; it is about planting relationships which can grow and become extremely beneficial to all involved.
It used to be common practice for people running businesses to keep everything to themselves so as not to give away secrets! No-one can afford to do that today. You need to hear what others think, to share ideas and resources and to decide where it makes sense to work collaboratively. To do that you have to start networking.
This is a daunting task for those of you who are shy or who find it difficult talking with strangers. Start with those closest and nearest to you – local businesses, family members who are in business, friends and relations. If there is a networking event somewhere then find friends to go with so at least you will know someone!
Most Chambers of Commerce and business organisations will have events you can attend. Depending on the type of business you may be able to join specialist groups (such as farmers, handicraft, fashion, computer and IT, trades, cooperatives and so on). There may be women in business groups near you or groups aimed specifically at young entrepreneurs. There are more formal organisations such as Rotary or Lions that might be of interest.
The Young Entrepreneur Council of the Solomon Islands is a great example of a dynamic, creative organisation focused on the growth of young men and women in business or who have business ideas. There, you can meet others, learn from others, access training and mentoring and benefit from other services and support offered to YECSI by donors and sponsors.
In Vanuatu, Yumi Work is the first example in the Pacific of a space deliberately designed to promote working with others and learning from each other. Currently 34 small businesses, run by former seasonal workers, are beginning a 9-month journey of learning, networking and collaboration.
In Tonga, TYEE brings together young people to grow their ideas together.
Collaboration with others has been described as an activity that ‘divides the task and multiplies the success’.
The more confident you are the easier the process will be. Make a small plan for yourselves. Decide who you would like to talk with and work out a strategy of how to make that happen. All over the Pacific are small business owners who are dealing with the challenge of loneliness and isolation, especially away from the more populated urban areas. If you cannot find a group to join, then consider starting your own. Invite a few friends just simply to share stories and experiences. This will inevitably lead to finding needs or other things in common and before you know where you are you will be growing your business and helping others to grow theirs.
Competition makes us faster. Collaboration makes us better.
I look forward to hearing your experiences about collaborating and networking with others.
Next week I explore teamwork - a business owner does not grow a business on his or her own – you will have a team which might include full or part-time staff, suppliers, contractors and others. They can all help with business growth if they are allowed to become involved!
As always, please contact me if you have an interesting story to tell and are happy for it to be told.
Breadfruit Consulting (www.breadfruitconsulting.com) is a Vanuatu-based business providing advice, training, coaching, and mentoring to businesses throughout the Pacific islands. Breadfruit specializes in a range of business development activities including ‘business continuity planning and action’, helping businesses to survive in a crisis, designing and starting new, sustainable businesses. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Founding partner at Breadfruit Consulting.