How joining a business association can help your small business

With all the things you need to do to keep your small business moving along, joining a business association may not bubble up to the top of your priority list. However, there are a number of reasons why joining a business association can help boost your business and even save you time in the long run on marketing and operational activities.

For starters, there are a range of associations to consider joining. You can choose an industry-specific group; a regional or local chapter of a national trade or professional association; a local business or merchant’s group; and even a group with a particular focus, such as one for start-up entrepreneurs or small business owners.

Among the many benefits of joining a professional organization, here are five that make finding the time to join worthwhile:

Networking opportunities: Networking opportunities for many are the number one reason for joining a business association. While not everyone you meet will be a potential customer – in fact some may be competitors – you’ll meet people who can be referrals to their business associates or others who may need your services. In fact, the more involved you are, the more people get to know you and will be inclined to help open doors. Networking isn’t only for business leads. You’ll be able to get referrals for services or vendors; discover alliance opportunities; and find prospective job candidates, which most small business owners indicate is their number one HR challenge. Associations are also a great forum in which to glean and share best practices that are relevant to your business.

Education and training: There is a range of educational and training options offered by many business associations. In addition to online information resources, many associations provide seminars, webinars, conferences with workshops and online training courses. Some even provide certificate programs for accreditation in certain skills. You and often your team members can take advantage of this training often at special discounts for members.

Civic leadership: Many local business associations support volunteer and charitable efforts that you may not have the time to undertake on your own. By participating through your business association, you can lend support to the effort by managing some aspect of the program, encouraging your team members to get involved or providing financial assistance. Your small business will gain from your involvement by boosting your reputation locally and expanding your contacts. Your team also may learn new skills by volunteering.

Political participation: While not all business associations have political affiliations or an agenda, there are many political issues on a local, state or national level that impact members. For example, members may be affected by a possible state licensing requirement or a rise in sales tax. Business associations can contact local and state governing bodies to state their position relative to a potential law or ordinance, for example.

Increase your purchasing power: Some associations have agreements with suppliers or vendors to provide discounts to members on products or services. Some associations also offer group health insurance options.

In addition to these benefits, business associations also provide opportunities to socialize with others at dinners and other special events. Considering how much time you spend at your small business, you may welcome the opportunity get together with others in your market or industry in a social setting to exchange information and share insights.