Most small towns are delighted to see a new business open. The chamber of commerce holds a ribbon cutting that is published in the newspaper, and everyone keeps their fingers crossed that this small business will succeed.
Here are some extra things a chamber of commerce can do to help that dream of success come true.
Provide the new business with lots of information.
1. If your town is in an enterprise zone, be sure to give that new business an easy to understand guide to the benefits. Include the contact information for the person who can help.
2. If you have regional small business economic development services, provide a brochure that outlines those services. Often business owners will think that those services are for bigger projects, when the focus of your own economic development organization might be micro-business.
3. Provide information about all the businesses and owners surrounding the new business. This is often overlooked. But the reality is that this new business owner might have been so busy getting remodeled and moved in, he or she hasn’t met the neighbors.
Go so far as to gather signed business cards or notes from each of these neighbor businesses, and even small gifts to include in your welcome packet.
4. Provide relevant information about city ordinances that will impact this new business. Does your town allow outside sales tables and signs or not? What are smoking regulations? Are there historic district regulations they need to know about?
5. If these people are new to town, include information about service club meetings as well as you chamber meeting schedule.
6. Give them lists of businesses that serve other businesses, like contact information for your local office supply, web masters, cleaning services, bookkeepers and any other services their business might need.
Provide lots of perks and direct assistance to new businesses
1. Give them a three or six month gift membership in your chamber of commerce.
2. Assign a member of your chamber as a liaison to this business. Introduce this person at your first welcome meeting.
Encourage the owner to call their liaison with any business related questions or questions about your small town. Ask the liaison to check in with the business at least once a month, and to bring the owner to chamber meetings as their guest for the first few months.
3. Welcome this business in your chamber newsletter with an encouragement that other members stop by to say hello and shop or use their service.
In small towns and rural communities, the chamber of commerce is small enough to be able to take a direct and active interest in the success of every member business from startup to sale and retirement. It is one more thing that makes us different from big cities.