New York Times – Should You Join a Business Group

Original Article on New York Times: 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.

I’ve learned that once you peel back the facade of most businesses, the inner workings look very similar. Whether it is a doctor’s practice, an insurance brokerage or a computer-board distributorship, there are common denominators, including customer service, cash flow, financial controls, people, sales and marketing. There are also partners, family members and personal issues that make the reality of running a small business much more than just an academic exercise.

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. There are hundreds of groups that offer a forum for noncompeting businesses to share experiences and compare notes. For the overwhelmed business owner, I think these groups can be an irreplaceable resource, but I also think there are some dangers to watch out for. As I’ll explain, my own experiences have been mixed.

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. Someone leads the discussion, which is confidential. Some groups offer outside speakers and individual coaching. Some have a social component while others are all business. The larger organizations — Vistage, YPO, EO — have multiple groups that meet in each city and also hold scheduled events that involve the entire organization. Annual dues can range from about $2,000 to $13,000 a year.

Read the rest of the article at the New York Times website: Should You Join a Business Group

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