GIBs - Girls in Business. That's what we call our group. It is one of the most valuable "go-to" resources that I have for my business. Let me tell you about the GIBs and how you can have your very own.
My GIB group consists of four women. We all own our businesses but have also worked outside our current industry. That means we each bring more knowledge than just from our immediate endeavors. As a group we have skills in sales, marketing, consulting, human resources, education and research. We are or have been in the travel, orthodonics, medical, media, publishing, organizing, advertising and gifting industries.
The focus of the group is not networking but to help each other build our businesses. It wasn't overnight that it became so valuable. We first met and started sharing information about ourselves and over time developed a strong level of credibility and trust with each other.
We meet once a month over a long dinner and each of us gets a chance to talk about something happening or of concern in our business. If there is someone with a serious situation, we may devote the whole meeting to that topic.
The point is ... we talk business and don't drift off (for too long) into non-focused issues. Together we have helped each other overcome such topics as selling a business, HR challenges, staffing problems, marketing opportunities, reviewing business strategy, gender relation issues, morality questions, profitability concerns, an overseas adoption and many others. I can't speak for everyone but I think they'd agree we have all grown professionally from our involvement in the group. And we are now all friends.
The value of my GIBS comes from knowing there are people to turn to who know a lot about my business evolution and who I am confident will have my best interests at heart. I also know I can call them in an instant if I need an emergency meeting. This has strengthened me as a business owner and has built my confidence in decisions I've made along the way. It is also so rewarding when I can help someone else with an issue. The entire experience is ... priceless.
I encourage anyone who sees value in this to start their own group. Here would be my suggestions:
1. Selection - Look for people who come from different industries and have had other careers. This brings depth to your conversations. You are also more assured that someone in the group will have experience/insight into the various issues that may arise.
2. Size - 4-6 people is ideal. Don't go for size but for quality.
3. Personalities - Make sure, as best you can, you select people who are different from each other but compatible. You want to encourage various views but ensure that everyone will be open to ideas contrary to their own. Also select people who won't monopolize the conversation.
4. Gender - I would suggest you keep it to all women (or men accordingly). There are discussions that come up that are just handled easier and more openly that way.
5. Meeting Place - My suggestion is a restaurant or coffee house. You want everyone focused. In a home environment there will be unintended distractions and the host will come in and out of the conversation when serving, etc.
6. Location - Meet somewhere where you won't be known. The last thing you need are multiple people coming up to the table to say hello. It wastes time and ruins the flow of conversation.
7. Atmosphere - Along with location, have a place where your conversations won't be overheard. The acoustics should also be such that you can hear each other without having to speak uncomfortably loud. That ruins the natural course of thought and continuity.
8. Schedule - Select a consistent time each month to meet. That way everyone will have it in their calendar and can plan around it as much as possible. There will be times when everyone can't attend. Have the meeting anyway. Dynamics change with fewer people and valuable conversations still arise.
9. Topics - It's best for each member to consider what they'd like to discuss before the meeting. Some months there may not be anything problematic but face it, as business owners we're always working on something.
10. Celebrate Successes - When one of you overcomes a problem or achieves something new, celebrate! Are you part of a group that you feel strongly about? Tell us!
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