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Best Practices

Building an Entrepreneurial Network with Partner Meetings [with Slide Share]

Published Feb 02, 2017
Pola Firestone Relationship Manager and Affiliate Liaison of SourceLink

Pola Firestone

Relationship Manager and Affiliate Liaison for JoinSourceLink.com. Writes about all things related to supporting Affiliate Partners and their entrepreneurial communities.

 

Building a Connected Entrepreneurial Network through Resource Partner Meetings

“Growing strong businesses is a full contact, team sport. How extremely fortunate we are to have this network and to be able to point entrepreneurs to specific resources and people who can help their businesses grow.”

There’s a big difference between providing a directory of resources and building a connected network of entrepreneurial resources. Directories offer (often outdated) contact information. However, with a connected network, you can provide relevant connections and impactful programs based on what your entrepreneurs need.

And building a connected entrepreneurial network starts with bringing people together.

Conducting regular meetings with what we call Resource Partners, those business-building and entrepreneurial service organizations that are ready to help businesses in your community start and grow. Meeting with those organizations—bimonthly or even quarterly—is a key way to build a robust entrepreneurial infrastructure.

These Resource Partners serve a vital role in your community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. They are your libraries, educational institutions, small business centers, chambers of commerce, incubators, accelerators and other business development organizations. They strengthen entrepreneurs and their businesses through their educational and technical assistance, which may include business planning and training, early-stage funding, access to markets, access to capital, strategic planning and more.

Staying in touch has its benefits, as our SourceLink affiliates prove over and over again.

Well-connected communities have a better understanding of what entrepreneurs need and can better ensure those needs don’t fall through the cracks. They also allow Resource Partners to share their services and success stories, building awareness of what your network has to offer its entrepreneurs, creating a system for efficient referrals between organizations as entrepreneurs grow and their challenges change and helping you craft the story of how those organizations help create economic impact.

Moreover, a connected network can rally around a shared vision and build those collaborations that fill gaps and move the economy forward.

Sounds meaty, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. 

SourceLink: Building a Connected Entrepreneurial Network through Resource Partner Meetings

How to Host a Resource Partner Meeting

Our affiliates receive a SourceLink Implementation Guide, counseling from our team and a wealth of shared best practices from our national affiliate network on how to build a strong entrepreneurial infrastructure.

Here’s what you need to know about how to host a successful Resource Partner meeting.

First step, connect.

Decide how often you’ll bring your network together. A quarterly Resource Partner meeting is recommended, but do plan a regular schedule to build consistency and continuity.

Second step, share.

Give Resource Partners an opportunity to share their services and success stories. This allows everyone to know what’s happening in the network, to make more efficient and relevant cross-referrals and to allow your network to build a continuum of entrepreneurial services.

Third step, collaborate to fill gaps.

Guide the conversation around topics you and your community will benefit from like:

·         Event coordination around activities like Global Entrepreneurship Week or other entrepreneurially focused events that highlight your resource network.

·         Campaign coordination, perhaps around promoting Shop Local, where you can establish a  unified front to promote entrepreneurship and/or small businesses

·         Ecosystem assessment to map services for entrepreneurs: e.g., a meeting on resources for Main Street (or Innovation-Led or Second-Stage or Microenterprise) can help your network coordinate and collaborate to fill gaps

·         Needs assessment to establish how you can reach target demographics, promote partner organizations or better leverage hotlines, social media, shared blogging, marketing, etc.

·         Results from entrepreneur and impact surveys to demonstrate your worth and value to the entrepreneurship ecosystem

 

SourceLink: Building a Connected Entrepreneurial Network through Resource Partner Meetings

Lessons from the Front

Jenny Miller of KCSourceLink uses our Biz-Trakker®, a decision support and client management system, not just to track interactions and referrals for our entrepreneurs, but also to track Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Case in point: Biz-Trakker helps Jenny facilitate KCSourceLink’s quarterly Resource Partner meetings. Biz-Trakker sends an invite directly from the CRM, schedules follow up notifications and tracks registrations for the meetings. Users easily RSVP to invitations by clicking the link in the email where it automatically sends a response to the sender without filling out additional forms.

Jenny schedules these meetings at Resource Partner locations around Kansas City’s 18-county metro, allowing Resource Partners to tour the featured partner’s facility and giving all Resource Partners the opportunity to attend meetings closer to their home base.

Jenny sets each meeting with a clear agenda: one month it may be identifying needs for Second-Stage business. Another could focus on coordinating events for Global Entrepreneurship Week or a Shop Local campaign. The pre-published agenda allows Resource Partners to prepare their questions and insights before the meeting and, with a large network for 230+ Resource Partners, determine which meetings are especially relevant to their demographic and their outreach. On average, about 40 Resource Partners meetings attend these meetings every other month.

Jenny begins Resource Partner meetings with a round robin dialogue where each attendee shares, for example, a client success story or why they like being part of the KCSourceLink network, sharing impact and reinforcing the mission of a connected entrepreneurial infrastructure.

Set a clear agenda with outcomes

Jenny turns her Resource Partner meetings into interactive discussions. They are true working sessions where Resource Partners come together to solve the gaps or help with a local campaign. (Think #shoplocalKC).

Example questions include (actual questions asked during a KCSourceLink Resource Partner meeting):

  1. If you had a windfall of $50K what program would you put in place?
  2. What one thing could the city do to help your Innovation-Led businesses?
  3. What can KCSourceLink do to better serve Innovation-Led entrepreneurs?

Questions like these allow the network to prioritize its goals and start building toward a common vision for what the entrepreneurial ecosystem needs.

Resource Partners love KCSourceLink’s regular meetings and find the connected resource network to be a true strength of Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Here are a few actual quotes Resource Partners have shared during their introductions.

“I enjoy the network of partners. It’s one place where I can meet everyone who serves entrepreneurs in our community and find out what they do and where I can refer clients for research, information or services that we may not be able to provide.”

“The network is key to collaboration. Here, we can share information with other resources partners that may touch clients we work with.”

“Growing strong businesses is a full contact, team sport. How extremely fortunate we are to have this network and to be able to point entrepreneurs to specific resources and people who can help their businesses grow.”

Get a sneak peek into one of Jenny's Resource Partner meetings. 

Check out this SlideShare from one of Jenny's recent Resource Partner meetings, complete with annotations on how you can adapt her presentation to your meetings. It's almost like you're in the room . . . 




Pola Firestone Relationship Manager and Affiliate Liaison of SourceLink

Pola Firestone 
is the Relationship Manager and Affiliate Liaison for JoinSourceLink.com. Through her outreach work, Pola has a window into what’s challenging those building entrepreneurial ecosystems, and uses that knowledge to help inform new products and new solutions.