Every city has its own unique small business community. As a startup owner, you’ll want to embed yourself in this local community in order to better understand the trends and approaches that can help you succeed in your specific area.
If you’re a rising Chicago-based company, you’re likely wondering how best to grow your business in The Windy City. To help, we asked members of the Forbes Chicago Business Council to share their best local business growth approaches. Here’s what they advise you consider:
1. Visit Businesses In Person
While phone calls are great, they’re best used as a quick discovery tactic. Chicago business owners are very hands-on and give a lot of credit when you visit in person, if only as a patron. Use cold calls to learn about scheduling, but be in person for your first pitch. The community is supportive of local startups and will give you the time of day if you match that with preparation and face time. – Sterling Douglass, Chowly, Inc.
2. Test Your Product In Your Home Market
Being headquartered in Chicago gives businesses a great advantage because we rank high on the list of markets that reflect the overall socioeconomic demographics of the entire U.S. In addition to that, it allows us to stay close to our brands and launch in a large enough area so that we can see real sales impact while testing new ideas. – Jaisen Freeman, Phusion Projects LLC
3. Spend Time In Chicago’s Many Diverse Communities
Chicago is not one community, but many diverse and wonderful communities. Take the time to visit your current and potential customers. Listen to them and get to know and celebrate their little corner of the Chicago area. We often want to believe that there is a broad answer when the simple answer is visiting, listening and being part of the many local communities are the real keys. – Patrick Coleman, GiveCentral, Inc
4. Connect With Your Local Alderman
Having your finger on the pulse of the community will be vital to your success. The easiest way to do this is in Chicago is to connect with the local alderman’s office where your business is located. They are a wealth of information and their interests will be aligned with yours: Their goal is to increase business revenue in their area, which in turn increases revenue for the city. – George Csahiouni, TransMerit Merchant Services
5. Never Stop Networking
Chicago is a small town in many ways, so a commitment to networking is key. Strive to schedule at least one to three meetings with new contacts each week and develop several engaging questions to ask them. Focus on getting to know more about their business so you can add value to them. Helping others always helps grow your business in return. – Cory Sandrock, Pareto & Company
6. Connect Via LinkedIn
A great Chicago growth hack is using LinkedIn as it is intended. Connect with the perfect employees, consultants and vendors by first vetting them on LinkedIn. You can then use that resource as a contractor or future employee. We have hired many consultants from LinkedIn based on relevant projects they have posted on their profile. – Michael Mayes, Quantum 9 Inc.
7. Tap Into Chicago’s Entrepreneurial Community
I find that by surrounding myself with successful entrepreneurs and listening to and learning from their experiences I can more quickly improve myself and make my company better. There is power in having people share what works for them versus telling you what you should do. – Scott Pauga, Second Life Mac