Small Business Discussion Groups

by Bruce W. Hall

Plenty of comprehensive, useful and potentially life changing books are available to help entrepreneurs thrive in a difficult economy. They cover a wide range of thought provoking topics, everything from how to get focused to negative habit patterns; from dealing with employees to providing better customer service.

Within a few easy readings, you can develop the power to create, communicate and lead, learn to stop procrastinating, and begin each day with a positive mental attitude. There are chapters on strategic planning, organic growth, and self-management. There are pages on avoiding debt, controlling your budget, and effective communication.

Yet, how many times when you finished a book did you feel neither the concepts nor the techniques expressed were enough to address your own very specific needs?

There are also an abundance of lectures, meetings, and seminars designed to help merchants flourish during a business drought. Motivational speakers address personal development issues, showing you how to find your calling and live your passion as an entrepreneur. Economists address price/sales ratios, cash flow statements, depreciation and reading the financial pages. Government officials present training programs, financial assistance packages, and life in a borderless world.

Yet, how many times afterward did you walk away from a session unaffected, as though nothing they said specifically related to your particular concerns?

Any resource, which can directly help your business, is a valuable one. However, the best format for idea development, problem solving, and decision making may very well exist close by among your own business peers, in the form of a discussion group.

The purpose of a discussion group is to gather together a small number of people, preferably 5-7, willing to exchange information, experiences, or their opinions about common problems and objectives. Participants also explore possible solutions and devise a measurable set of real world goals with a strong basis for future action.

Discussion groups are an ideal format for brainstorming because each personís ideas or concepts count. Typically, by majority vote, the group chooses a topic of relevance, which allows participants to discuss and debate its merits, arrive at possible solutions and develop methods for taking action.

Everyone is encouraged to express their own opinions, ask questions, share resources, and discuss answers. Since the only way to achieve success in this format is by balancing group interaction, full participation is vital and overseen by a facilitator.

Discussion groups do not sponsor or co-sponsor programs, establish policy, issue formal minutes, issue publications, or appoint committees. Furthermore, a discussion group is not advertised or promoted as a program, since discussion groups do not sponsor programs.

On the other hand, a successful discussion group is one in which participants are encouraged to share resources, offer opinions, express ideas, discuss strategy, debate timely issues and reach personal conclusions.

The atmosphere is non-judgmental. Conflict is discouraged. Positive thinking, trust, and mutual respect are encouraged. Since itís vital all participants work together, interdependence is stressed over independence.

Itís not only important to get the attitudes and opinions of the group expressed, but also to generate detailed strategies that can allow each person to make critical decisions that can help their own business succeed.

In other words, discussion groups are all about you, the participant: your needs, your concerns, your business, and the future of your community.

Copyright © 2009, by Bruce W. Hall. All rights reserved.

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