Despite dwindling revenues and strict budgets, a majority of small-business owners are members of business associations, according to a recent survey.
Ventureneer, an online education and peer-support service, conducted a more than month-long study that asked entrepreneurs their perspectives on belonging to networking organizations.
“What I thought was interesting was that in this economy that so many business leaders belong to dues-paying organizations, and more than likely, more than one,” says Geri Stengel, Ventureneer president.
Titled “Use and Value of Resources by Small Business Owners and Nonprofit Leaders,” the 19-page report is available on the company’s Web site.
Since this is the first time that Ventureneer has conducted the survey, there is no benchmark with which to compare the results. However, 93% of the 452 small business and nonprofit leaders that responded to the survey said they saw the value of membership organizations. Of that number, 78% belonged to business-networking groups, while 58% were members of industry associations.
Stengel says that most small-business owners joined their respective groups for networking, in addition to business-education purposes. “It allows you to meet other people going through the same things as you. It allows you to ask questions, seek a referral for a vendor…,” the company president says. “In unsettled times, people need to rely more on other people.”
The survey also revealed that when a small business isn’t thriving, its leaders tend to increase their outreach to include state and/or local business organizations, such as networking groups, industry associations, chambers of commerce or general business associations. However, when small companies are stable or growing, they have the tendency to join national or international organizations.
When a business is struggling, then, more than ever, is when business owners can get the most benefit from membership in a business association. “Some of that is misery loves company, but more importantly, it’s for problem-solving. In the beginning, everyone will be commiserating, but once you get unstuck, you’ll really see the wheels turning and owners beginning to try new strategies,” Stengel says. “What is working for one company can frequently apply to someone else.”
Small-business owners seek advice in several ways. However, according to the survey, they are most likely to turn to their peers.
There’s a possibility, Stengel says, that once the economy shifts back in the opposite direction, the number of people in such groups might dip, but she doubts that will occur. "In good times, people want to belong even more.”
For more information about the survey, log onto the company’s Web site at www.Ventureneer.com.