January 16 by Paul O'Brien
As the owner of your very own small business, you go into work elated due to a product release later in the week. You’ve worked hard to get where you are and soon all the blood, sweat, and tears will pay off with hundreds of loyal customers.
Suddenly, it hits you: what customers? Where will they come from? If they don’t come, where will you get any help to find them? What have I gotten myself into?
The closer the big release comes, the more nervous you get. If only the business was a giant megabrand, you think, everything would be much simpler.
Starting a new business or unveiling a new product is an extremely stressful situation to put yourself into. This uneasiness can be compounded by the idea that you’re all alone in the universe. How are you supposed to survive if you have no peers and nobody knows you exist?
Before Coca-Cola was a worldwide brand, it was walked around from pharmacy to pharmacy by its inventor, John Stith Pemberton. Before there was Bank of America, there was Bank of Italy, founded in San Francisco to help immigrants when they were denied by bigger banks. And most know the story of Sam Walton’s struggles to get Wal-Mart off the ground in Arkansas.
The point is companies don’t just start mega; even the biggest corporations in the world started out as a germ of an idea. And the CEOs, inventors, and presidents of those companies had to work their tails off to get where they are now.
One of the main differences between those giant companies and your startup is the means at your disposal. When Wal-Mart started, there was no Internet. When Bank of Italy expanded, there was no mobile marketing. Coca-Cola didn’t have a Facebook page in 1886 (really!).
You, however, have all these and more. Even better, these innovations actually work better for the small brands out there in the world more than they do for the giant corporations. For instance, Wal-Mart does all it can to stay away from controversy. But a smaller company might actively get involved into politics to rouse up a certain market.
Despite all the developments in online commerce and offline marketing, you may still feel like your company is out there floating around in the ether. However, another side effect of the socialization of commerce is the B2B world.
It’s true there is more “noise” and competition out there, and making a name for yourself in the crowd can be tough. This does come with an advantage, though, and that’s that the companies you’re up against are facing the same issue. When it comes down to it, they need help too, and that help can come in the form of a partnership. It’s become so prevalent that there are now entire communities for finding the right partner fit for your company.
In many ways, your innovation, your new idea, is the spark of a new industry and industry stands on the shoulders of entrepreneurs. Where would Facebook be without MySpace? Google without AOL? Ford without Karl Benz (or the buggy? New ideas taken time, awareness, and collaboration to reach the populous and that is best accomplished through the support of your peers. A great place to start is in discovering which of your peers already pay attention to you.
Even if a partnership is out of the question, consider still what you can do for the small business community and where you can find help. Most business owners are willing to give at least a shout out to a friendly request, which may come in the form of a blog post or a tweet or two. Even some small bits of advice or a “good job” can do you good, especially if you’ve really felt like you’re all alone out there in the cold, cruel world!
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