Recently I saw a programme debating the role and usage of networks to support and build small businesses in South Africa. This has had me question why I do not attend local chamber meetings, volunteer for network events or look to establish new networks.
In my opinion, in the context of the White River area as a small business operating for less than 2 years. The established chambers do not add direct value to my operations, although informative and reassuring that a group of people have dedicated their time to lobby and share best practices, these networks are not valuable to my bottom line.
My biggest issue with smaller networks that seek to advance social cohesion or community development is that once again, it is rare that the people attending are actually honest about the capabilities of their businesses or willingness to make true development. Successful small business owners are successful because they are savvy with money, strategic with time and do not invest outside their expertise, so you will usually have a minority of members financing the chamber or members doing it as social ego trip.
At the risk of being an absolute hypocrite, I would personally encourage more start-ups to attend chamber meetings, build networks and volunteer when possible. The reason being is that we need to understand what it takes to organize a business community together, to think beyond inward revenue generation and outward value creation. My goal for the rest of the year is to attend as many FREE chamber and network meetings as possible.
Founder & CEO