Trying to build community within the industry or niche in which your company operates may seem like a pointless endeavor if you are concerned with maintaining a competitive advantage. However, in truth, having honest conversations with your peers about your firm’s ups and downs can help you grow your business. By exchanging insights with your peers on methods that have helped or hurt your respective firms, you open yourself up to opportunities to learn more ways in which you can successfully take your firm to the next level financially.
The Summit CPA team recently learned that creating communities of companies within the same field can also be a business itself. Our team recently spoke to Carl Smith, founder of the Bureau of Digital. The Bureau brings together digital companies to discuss issues facing their current industry and ways to better their businesses. This conversation highlighted how companies could benefit from cultivating a community that fosters and facilitates knowledge sharing.
Highlighted below are a few ways your business can start engaging more with your peers to help you achieve your financial goals.
Reach out and start talking.
Identify business leaders you believe would be open to exchanging ideas and discussing what’s currently happening in your industry, then reach out to them. Start informal conversations around topics that interest you both. These conversations can occur in person, but we recommend first encouraging participation by hosting discussions on a social platform like Slack. This approach makes the conversation more accessible, which means more people are likely to join in. During these chats, make sure you divulge your thoughts on the topics introduced by you or others involved in the conversation so that the knowledge sharing does not come off as one-sided.
Host the right events.
If the information exchange goes well, you may want to consider creating a virtual event (e.g., online workshop or webinar) on a pertinent topic to introduce more people to the discussion and continue building community with your peers. If the virtual event is successful, you can always host an in-person event on a similar topic. For example, the Bureau offers both camps and summits, which are held in person. Their summits follow a traditional conference format where speakers talk directly to the audience, providing a high-level view on a specific topic. Attendance is usually around 100 attendees. Their camps incorporate more moderated conversations where Bureau members can engage with one another. Attendance for camps offer a more intimate environment with less than 30 attendees. In this instance, it’s imperative that you establish an in-person event that you believe will benefit your peers the most.
After you’ve decided what type of event you want to host, it’s crucial that you prepare properly to ensure your event is a success. While preparing, we recommend considering ways to spur engagement among participants and ensure they’re able to learn from one another. For example, in preparation for an event, the Bureau goes as far as to send out pre-event surveys to attendees to get a better idea of why leaders from these companies are attending and what their current struggles are. They then use this knowledge to seat attendees next to others who share similar struggles to encourage conversations that will lead to learning moments. While your preparatory efforts don’t have to be as specific and labor-intensive, they should keep the participant experience in mind to ensure whoever attends your event leaves it with better insight into how to solve their current problems and improve their business.
You can continue to view your peers as competition or shift your mindset to see them for what they also are: an invaluable resource. Much like the Bureau, you can establish education spaces and communities where business leaders like you can learn and feel supported.
We suggest thinking of community building as not only an opportunity but a tool you can use to achieve your growth goals.
Summit CPA Group is an accounting firm which has been fully distributed since 2013. They are the leading provider of Virtual CFO Services and 401(k) Audits. Summit recently launched a comprehensive course to coach other CPA Firms on how to successfully sell and deliver VCFO Services in a remote work environment. The team at Summit understands the importance of having the proper people, processes, and tools necessary to function well as a distributed team, and they love helping clients overcome these challenges through their own experience and expertise.