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Commentary by Stuart R. Crawford

RISMEDIA, Jan. 16, 2008-You simply cannot survive in today fast paced, ever changing and global economy without the support of like-minded individuals who are open to sharing and committed to success, growth or learning to assist you along the way.

The right group can provide the fundamental resources for building your business. Professional groups can be made up from a group of peers in the exact same industry, a group of companies that focus on the same vertical market or market segment, or just a group of business leaders that are ready to help out those just starting out.

The right professional group can be a conduit to growth and success within your small business, what should you look for? Here are some guidelines to assist you in creating or finding the right group.

1. Shared Vision – It is critically important that your group have a shared vision. You need to make sure that everyone is on the same wavelength and committed to the vision of the group.

2. Trust – Trust is a major factor in the success of any business group, you must be able to trust all the members of your group that issues, challenges and needs are kept confidential within the group and they are not discussed with others outside the membership. When you have complete trust with your group, it is amazing how you and your colleagues open up and share challenges, pains, frustrations and weaknesses with everyone.

3. Create a team – Creating the right team is important to the success of any professional group, when you have a team of like-minded professionals assembled for one common goal or shared vision, the results can be extraordinary. Your peers in your group will be on the lookout for opportunities to help you and your business grow, and you will be doing the same for them. Besides sharing business opportunities, there are a number of different areas that sharing starts to happen, these can range from business to personal dreams, goals, challenges and issues. The team is there to help you succeed.

4. Open Mind and Heart – Successful groups keep an open mind and also an open heart with others in the group. No one person can do it alone and the support of the team is critical to its success. If you are the type of person that can open your mind to new ideas and open your heart to building new strong relationships, then your professional group will be an overwhelming success. In a professional group, there is a personal side of success that the group is there to aid and support all the members of the group with.

5. Commitment – This is perhaps the most important key to success. Groups that have committed members will have endless opportunities. Members need to be committed to getting their goals accomplished on time, committed to sharing their resources and learning’s, committed to helping each member grow their business, commitment to the group in general. When you have a room of committed members, your group becomes a trusted, well oiled, and an extension of your business family.

6. Remember to have fun – This is the most important tip, if you are not having fun doing what you are doing, why are you doing it? If you are forced to go by an employer or if you are the business owner, do not force your employees to attend. Sell them on the importance of the concept and then let them choose if they want to attend. However, fun is one of the critical components to a successful group. Have fun, learn, open up and give of yourself.

7. Be respectful of other member’s time – Be on time when attending your professional group, nothing shows more disrespect to others than you consistently showing up late. Be on time, and be respectful of others time when you are in the group meeting, don’t monopolize the group’s time by speaking too much. It is important to listen to others and allow everyone to have equal opportunity to say their piece.

There are a number of tips and tricks to creating or joining a professional circle that you should look out for. One of the most important tips that I have found is to step out of your comfort zone when participating in your group. Be open and honest, let your guard down and be willing to share with others. Remember to give from the heart, givers always receive more than what they give in the long run.

These groups are hard work; there is no coasting when you are working effectively in your group. When a group is working effectively there will be homework that challenges your mind, makes you examine who you are and what your company stands for. Be ready to work hard and challenge yourself. When you are ready to challenge yourself you will start to reap the benefits associated to a successful professional group.

Seek out a professional group or start one today. 80% of success is just showing up, when you participate and show up, you are most of the way there. Showing up is more than just making an appearance, showing up is actively getting involved, participating in the exercises and being honest with the group.

Are you ready to show up, commit, and have fun with your group today?

Stuart Crawford is the Director of Business Development for IT Matters Inc., Calgary, Alberta’s award winning Microsoft Small Business Specialist. He can be reached at scrawford@itmatters.ca or via their Web site http://www.itmatters.ca.

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