Influential business leaders have appeared throughout history, from the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution. These thought leaders helped shift paradigms in times of great change. They directed the course of their industry, or even the course of humanity overall.
You might not be altering the course of humanity, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a leader. We are in the middle of a time of great change. It’s truly remarkable that most people on the planet can reach your website and see what you have to say within a few clicks.
This global access has ignited a renewed passion for entrepreneurship in local communities. We have more tools available than ever before to allow anyone with an idea to help it become a reality. Chances are, your community is already buzzing with startups and small businesses.
As a small business owner, positioning yourself as a local business leader can directly translate into greater business success. You’ll find new partnerships, build your reputation and earn more referrals. You’ll even direct the future of business in your community in ways that you believe will serve it best.
So, where do you get started? In today’s post, I’ll be examining how you can go from local small business owner to influential local business leader.
1. Become Visible in the Community
Job seekers often hear that it’s not what you know, but who you know. And I’ve seen this play out time and time again in my career. But I’ve found it’s needs a slightly different spin when we’re talking about becoming a leader.
According influence expert to Jason Monaghan, it’s about who knows you. Politicians do this really well. They’re reaching large masses with their message. They don’t know all their supporters, but their supporters sure do feel like they know them.
Schedule time to attend local events, volunteer to head up a charity cause, get to know as many local business owners a possible, start holding events and classes… Get out there, shake some hands, take some selfies and make your presence known.
2. Build Real Relationships
Now that you’ve gotten your name out there, it’s time to go deeper. Unlike the politician with thousands (or millions!) of constituents, you need to start cultivating one-to-one relationships with the people in your own community.
Making a meaningful connection and landing their contact info is only half of the battle. You’ve got to follow up and take action.
It could be something simple like sending them a link to a valuable, relevant resource. Or you could just shoot over a quick email asking about it’s going with what they were working on from your previous conversation.
Over time, you’ll create a sphere of people in your community and your industry who enjoy speaking with you. As you connect with others in your community, start gathering like-minded people into small groups. I love building masterminds based on multiple business connections I know would add value to one another.
3. Share Your Expertise and Knowledge
Influential business leaders don’t hoard their knowledge; they share it freely. You can share knowledge through your blog and social media profiles, but remember to keep it local. Let your expertise shine through by helping others and you’ll become an influencer.
This is where most aspiring leaders lose out. They’re great a talking a good game and playing politics, but they miss out on actually adding value. I like to add value to every business conversation I have.
And you know what I’ve found? The more value I add, the more sales I make without trying.
I recently moved to a new place and met up with my neighbor. We got to talking about business, and I shared some ideas for how he could some content marketing methods to grow his startup. Before I knew it, I just made a fantastic new client.
It wasn’t my intention to convert my neighbor into a client. I just sincerely wanted to add value and help him succeed in his digital marketing efforts.
4. Take on a Protégé
The mentor and protégé relationship was once extremely popular, but has fallen by the wayside in recent decades. You can breathe new life into this practice by seeking out a local protégé.
Look for someone you’ve met through conferences or community events who shows promise. Even if they aren’t within your exact industry, you can still help guide them through many business hurdles.
Having a protégé enhances your reputation as a business leader. Your protégé will tell others that you are there mentor, and you can tell other leaders how working with a protégé has enhanced your business (it undoubtedly will).
Plus, as a small business owner, teaching someone the ropes of your business makes for a great way to scale and expand your brand… and feel great to giveback!
5. Be a Catalyst for Local Action
Leaders do one thing that other professionals do not – they lead others. Building relationships and adding value will enhance your reputation as an expert, but becoming a catalyst for local action will cement yourself as a community leader.
Look for opportunities to create an event in your community. It can be a professional conference, a fundraiser for a charity, an awareness 10k run or any other event you believe will resonate with your community.
I’m actually doing this on a small scale by starting a local podcast in the upcoming year, focused on helping business professionals help each other.
It’ll feature local business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals sharing their expertise. By developing and curating this platform, I’ll be able to make numerous relationships that I wouldn’t have been able to make otherwise.
Local events often attract coverage from local news, which further enhance the possible benefits of the event. Not only will those involved with the event be exposed to your leadership skills, but local residents will see your full capability.
A Cycle of Success and Growth
You may have picked up on the cyclical benefits of becoming an influential community leader. Everything you do will enhance almost everything else you do. Many of the advice above also directly applies to growing a successful business. Incorporate becoming a local business leader into your overall business goals and you’ll reap endless benefits.
What plans do you have to increase your local influence in the upcoming year? I’d love to hear any additional ideas and advice you may have to contribute. Leave your tips in the comments.
about the author
Chelsei Henderson is a content marketing consultant helping freelancers and entrepreneurs build successful companies in the digital world.