By Lloyd Fritzmeier

As a small business owner, you’re facing tough challenges in today’s rocky economy. The problems seem tougher, and the solutions are getting harder to identify and implement. So, how do you deal with this situation proactively?

How about setting up your own business roundtable? A roundtable is a group of non-competitive business people who share many of the same problems and challenges and meet monthly to tap into each other’s thinking in order to develop more powerful ideas and solutions.  There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, “None of us is as smart as all of us,” and this applies to a roundtable, where the collective thinking yields more energy and creativity.

For example, every retailer has the challenge of attracting customers.  Assume you’re selling stationary, and there’s a woman’s clothing store and restaurant on the same street. All of you have three options: Bring your current customers back more often, attract brand new ones, or depend on a combination of those strategies. As you and your Roundtable partners discuss this issue, new thinking and possibilities will surface.  What have you tried yourself that worked or didn’t work? What new programs have they tried that worked and how would they apply to your business? What other ideas have they heard or read of? The opportunities to share your “best practices” on this topic and others are limitless.

So, how do you set one up?  First, identify five non-competitive business people within your area who could be good thinkers, have relevant experience, and might be committed to the roundtable process. Talk with each of them to evaluate them as roundtable partners. When you’ve screened them and selected five partners, meet with them to define your expectations for the group, the format for your meetings, and the place you’ll meet – many restaurants welcome these kinds of groups in the morning, because it means new business. You can bring in speakers, share individual problems, and hold open conversation. Some meetings run two hours, others run all morning. It’s your agenda, so decide what’s most relevant and helpful.

Finally, each partner recruits one more, so you have ten partners in the formal group.  You only want this maximum size, so everyone can have a voice at the meetings.  And, accountability is important, so you’ll want each partner to commit to specific actions between meetings to assure a positive outcome.  So, set up your own roundtable today…you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Lloyd Fritzmeier is a leadership coach and strategic advisor with The Starfish Partnership. Contact him at (404) 551-2964 or lfritz@sfritz.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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