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5 Top Online Communities for Small Business

5 Top Online Communities for Small Business

We all need advice from time to time and this is especially true for business owners. There are numerous challenges that need to be tackled on a regular basis, from staff to money to growth. Even if your business is doing well, dealing with these issues is simply the nature of owning a business.

Business owners also regularly need support and advice to keep taking the business to the next level. Feeling supported and able to reach out for help when needed, can be the difference between giving up or pushing forward at times in your business. As a small business owner (or an aspiring one), one of the greatest resources you want to take advantage of are online communities for small businesses.

Communities allow like-minded entrepreneurs to connect, share experiences, advice and tools to succeed in business. There are numerous advantages to being part of a community, here are my top four.

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1.  Access to a wealth of information

You have all the information you might need in one place. All the communities provide key information from business planning and marketing to growth strategies and building a website. Almost all business related topics are covered in these communities and you have a free resource center with heaps of information to help you in any area of your business. You can learn the best practices, share, and receive advice from other small business owners who have faced similar challenges as you.

2.  Get the support you didn’t know you needed

It is important to surround yourself with people who will support and help you to get to the next level in your business. If you want good advice, listen to those who are where you want to be, those are the people who you want to take advice from. In the communities, you can reach out for support through the forums, posting questions and by participating in discussions. You might not think you need support, but when you feel supported, you will understand how valuable this is for your growth.

3.  Free marketing tool

Communities are also great marketing tools. When you join the community, take time to create a strong profile. Make sure that your information is clear and captivating to anyone reading it. Always include your website address, who you work with, and what solution you provide. Finding some potential clients would be great, but this shouldn’t be seen as the main objective. It’s just an added benefit.

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4.  Build relationships and network

These types of communities are the hub for building relationships and networking for free. You can network with other small business owners and talk about your business and what you do. Networking allows you to generate leads and increase your business. Networking also opens up more opportunities for your business and you can build some great connections.

You will meet amazing people and you could even find the perfect joint venture partners to work with. Building relationships is key to success. No one succeeds completely alone.

Top Online Communities for Small Business

There are many online small business communities or even groups available for you to join. What might be best for you however, might not be the best for someone else. Before joining a community, take a look at a few and get a feel for what the community offers and if you like it.

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Here are a few of the top online communities to get you started

Start Up Nation was founded by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs. It is a free service so there is no charge to join. It is the top leading community for entrepreneurs and provides you with everything you need to know to grow your business.It has a wealth of forums, groups to join, articles to learn from, blogs, networking for members, and much more.

This amazing community provides you with guides, templates, videos, articles and information in all forms and a blog to share your ideas. They also have a group on LinkedIn where you can participate in discussions, share, and get advice on specific topics and connect.

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The Small Business Bonfire is a smaller community, but it is top of my list. It is also a free community and you have access to amazing tools for small business owners which you definitely can’t get anywhere else. It also provides a forum, groups and networking. Other communities definitely worth checking out are:

  1. Partner UP – Social networking for small businesses.
  2. Entrepreneur.com – Everything you ever need to know in one stop, definitely worth checking out.

If none of the 5 communities provide you with what you are really looking for, why not get creative and build your own community? Building a community is definitely time consuming but there are so many benefits to you as a business owner that if you can do it, do it! You will need to be very active and provide high quality content, connect on the forums and keep the community growing. Communities don’t need to encompass everything from the beginning, rather view it is a place for like minded people to connect, share ideas, resources and learn from others. You can do this via a forum, a membership site or even a mastermind group to get you started. So what are you waiting for? If you feel like you could use some more support and guidance in your business, take the first step now and reach out to a community. If you know of other communities that should have been listed here… please share below! To your success!

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Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Last Updated on December 10, 2019

7 Strategies to Keep Employee Motivation High

7 Strategies to Keep Employee Motivation High

Highly motivated employees are essential to the success of any business. Most people spend a third of their lives at work.[1] That’s a significant amount of time away from home, apart from the people who make us happy and the things we love to do. So keeping employee motivation high is essential for creating an office environment that gets the best out of our people.

But do you know what motivates your people?

It’s simple:

  • Is their work stimulating?
  • Does it challenge them?
  • Is there room to grow, a promotion perhaps?
  • Do you encourage creativity?
  • Can they speak openly and honestly with you?
  • Do you praise them?
  • Do you trust your staff to take ownership of their work?
  • Do they feel safe in their work environment?
  • And more importantly, do you pay them properly?

Every one of these factors contributes to the general happiness of your employees. It’s what motivates them to come into the office each day and work hard, hit goals, and get results.

In contrast, an unmotivated employee is typically unhappy. They take more sick days, they’re not invested in seeing your business succeed, and they’re always on the lookout for something better.

Stats show that 81 percent of employees would consider leaving their jobs today if the right opportunity presented itself.[2] So it’s up to you to set aside time and energy to create a work environment that benefits every one of your employees.

These seven strategies will help you motivate your people to consistently deliver quality work and, more importantly, to stick around for the long term.

1. Be Someone They Can Rely On

You rely on your people to turn up to work each day, to come to you when they have a problem they can’t solve, to be honest, and to always engage professionally with customers.

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But this is not a one-way street. You, too, need to be someone your team can rely on. They trust you to have their backs when a client is unreasonable, to know that the decisions they make are in your best interest, and to make good on your promises.

If you say you’ll attend an important meeting, be there. If your company makes a profit and you’ve said you’ll pay a bonus, pay it. The goodwill of your people is something you never want to test, let alone lose.

Be reliable; it’s astounding how much this motivates your people.

2. Create an Awesome Company Culture

There’s no denying that company culture trickles down from the top. Your leadership and attitude massively influences the attitudes, work ethic, and happiness of your staff. If you’re always stressed-out, overly demanding, and unreasonable, it’ll create tension in your office which will adversely affect your employees’ motivation levels.

In fact, the HAYS “US What People Want Survey” found that 47 percent of staff who are actively looking for a new job, pinpoint company culture as the driving force behind their reason to leave.

So if you have high staff turnover, you need to determine whether your company culture might be the motivating factor behind your churn rate.

Here are four ways to build a culture that keeps your employees highly motivated.

  • Be conscious of the image you present. Your body language and attitude can positively or negatively impact your employees. So come to work energized. Be optimistic, friendly, and engaging—this enthusiasm will spill over to your people and motivate them to be more productive and efficient.
  • Appreciate your people and be reasonable. Celebrate your team’s achievements. If they’re doing a good job, tell them. Encourage them to challenge themselves and try new things. And reward when deserved. If they’re struggling, help them. Work together to find solutions and be a sounding board for their ideas.
  • Be flexible. Give your people opportunities to work remotely—this is highly motivating to staff, particularly millennials. They don’t want to be battling traffic each day on their way to work. They don’t want to miss their kids’ baseball games or ballet rehearsals. Stats show that companies that offer flextime and the ability to work from home or a coffee shop have happier and more productive employees.
  • Create employee-friendly work environments. These are spaces that inspire and ignite the imagination. Have you ever been to Google’s offices? No headquarter is the same. From indoor slides and food trucks, to hammocks, and funky work pods on the wall, gaming rooms, and tranquil interior gardens, there’s something for everyone. It’s a space where people want to be, catering to their need for creativity, quiet, or team building; you name it.

So take a look at your company culture and ask yourself, Is my business an attractive workplace for talented professionals? Does it inspire commitment and motivate my people? What could I do to improve my company culture?

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3. Touch Base with Your Team Weekly

Make time for your people, whether you run a remote business or work in an office, set aside time each week to talk to your people one-on-one. It’s non-negotiable.

When there’s an open line of communication between staff members, work gets done. Don’t believe me? A study by Gallup found that 26 percent of employees said feedback from their leaders helps them to do a better job.[3]

Your people want to feel trusted. They want to take ownership of their work, but they also need to know that when they have a question, they can reach out and get answers. If you’re unwilling to make yourself available, your team will quickly become unmotivated, work will stagnate, and your business will stop growing.

So block off time on your calendar each week to touch base with your people, even if only to let them know that what they’re working on matters.

4. Give Them the Tools They Need to Do Their Jobs Well

Imagine trying to run your business without electricity. How would you contact your clients? What would happen when your phone or computer battery died?

Technology is super critical to the success of your businesses. It allows you to work more efficiently, to be more productive, and to handle matters on-the-go. That’s why you need to give your people tools that will make their jobs easier.

Make sure their equipment is in good working condition. There’s nothing more frustrating than a laptop that takes ages to boot up. It’s got to go. Replace outdated software with new software. Don’t make your designer work in Coreldraw; give them access to the most up-to-date version of Adobe Creative Suite. Take it a step further and buy them a subscription to Shutterstock or Getty Images.

Make working for you a pleasure, not a pain; and watch your employees’ motivation levels rise.

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5. Provide Opportunities to Learn and Upskill

Would you believe me if I told you that 33 percent of people cite boredom and a need for new challenges as the top reason for leaving their job?[4] If you want to retain your talent, you need to upskill.

Thanks to technology, we live in a rapidly evolving world that demands we change with it. A copywriter is no longer just a writer; they now need to be experts in SEO, Google Adwords, CRMs, and so much more.

A pastry chef needs to be a food stylist, photographer, and social media manager. An entrepreneur needs to be a marketer—or at least take ownership of the marketing message for their business—if they hope to scale.

Technology makes all of this possible. No matter your location, your people can continuously expand their knowledge and gain new skill sets—something that’s highly motivating to employees. They want to know that there are opportunities to grow and develop themselves.

If you won’t invest in your people, then your business becomes just another job to tide them over until they find where they truly belong. So be the company that sees value in developing its people.

6. Monitor Their Workload

Overworked employees tend to be unproductive and unhappy. Your people cannot be at full capacity every day, month to month. Something’s got to give. They’ll become deflated and their work will eventually suffer, which will negatively impact your business.

What I like to do is implement a traffic light system. It helps me to keep a finger on the pulse of my business. So there’s red, yellow, and green:

  • Red means they’re fully loaded.
  • Yellow means they’re busy, but they can potentially take on more.
  • Green means they haven’t got enough to do.

I use this traffic light system because I don’t want my team members to be stressed out of their brains all the time. If they are, they won’t make good decisions and they won’t do good work.

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If my people are regularly overloaded, I have things to think about. Perhaps I need to hire a new person to help ease the load or take a closer look at what projects are good to go, and which can take a back seat.

And this is why #3 is essential. If I’m regularly engaging with my people, I’ll know that while they’re coping with their workload, it is impacting their performance and health, and I’ll take action.

7. Don’t Mess Around with Your Employees’ Pay

Never mess around with your people’s salary. As a business owner or high-level manager, it’s easy to forget that most people live from paycheck to paycheck. Delayed compensation can mean a missed bill payment, which could result in costly penalties they can’t afford or hits to their credit score.

So it’s your job to ensure that you pay your people on time.

The Bottom Line

A motivated team is an asset to any business. These people never give up. They get excited about coming to work each day and can’t wait to test a new theory or tackle a particularly tricky challenge. They’re proud of the work they do. And more importantly, they have no reason to leave.

Wouldn’t you rather be part of their success story than the business that drove them away?

More to Motivate Your Team

Featured photo credit: Emma Dau via unsplash.com

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