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From Small Business Owner to Community Leader: 4 Ways to Make the Leap

Small business owners do more than strengthen their local economies. The most successful business owners also serve as civic leaders, making their communities better places to live and work, while building their own reputations to boot.

It’s no surprise that many entrepreneurs are also community leaders. The same vision and strategy that’s required to execute a business plan can be used to solve community problems from hunger to housing. But if you’re used to working in the private sphere, it can be challenging to know how to put your talents to work for the public good. That’s why we’ve put together these four actionable steps that business owners can take to position themselves as community leaders.

Develop leadership skills

Before you can step up as a community leader, make sure you’re prepared for the role. Community leadership is a big job. In order to do it well, you need to have the right traits:

Integrity

It takes integrity to earn a community’s respect. Business owners who aspire to become community leaders must live according to their values.

Openness

Along with integrity comes the ability to admit when you’re wrong and listen to the input of others—essential skills for any leader.

Vigilance

Leaders also require vigilance to monitor problems and solutions to ensure adherence to the right path.

Courage

More than anything, leaders have to be courageous. It takes courage to stand up against problems and put solutions into action.

Advocate for your community

Now that you’ve primed your leadership skills, it’s time to put them to work. Advocating for your community is one of the simplest things you can do to establish yourself as a local leader. Entrepreneur notes that by taking actions like these, you show that you’re invested in more than your own bottom line:

Focus outward

When outside forces threaten your community, don’t just focus on how it affects your business’s profits. Instead, lift up your business by supporting the community that keeps it alive.

Take small, meaningful actions

From messages of support on social media to showing up to community events, little actions go a long way towards increasing your standing in the community.

Be a good neighbor

Advocating for your community also means advocating for other local businesses. Instead of being hostile to competition, create a business community where everyone can thrive.

Give back

Large companies make a splash with big donations to charitable causes. But for small businesses, it’s hard to find the resources for philanthropy. Luckily, it doesn’t take deep pockets to make a big impact in your local community. Here are four ways (plus more!) that local businesses can give back.

Target small, local charities

Small donations don’t make much of a dent in a national charity’s bottom line, but those same dollars go a lot further when given to local charities.

Give in-kind

Even if funds are tight, small business owners can contribute professional services, space, goods, or volunteer labor to local causes.

Join a board

One of the most valuable resources local business owners can offer is their time. Joining a nonprofit board of directors is an impactful way to share your expertise.

Encourage volunteering

Business owners can also give time by allowing employees to volunteer for a local cause on the clock.

Create a culture of philanthropy

Volunteer time off is just one way that local businesses can create a culture of philanthropy. To foster a company culture that strengthens your business and your community, Inc. recommends adopting these business practices.

Volunteer as a team

Company volunteer days create stronger communities and stronger teams. Volunteering as an organization is also an excellent way to build local visibility.

Cover or match employee donations

Allocating a giving bonus to each employee or matching donations up to a certain amount keeps employees engaged in giving back.

Adopt fair labor practices

One of the best ways for small businesses to show their commitment to community betterment is by paying a fair wage to the local residents they employ.

Becoming a community leader isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes time to earn the recognition and respect of your community, just as it takes time to enact meaningful change. But by taking these steps to demonstrate your commitment to the local community, you can start creating positive change in the place where you live and work. 


Amy Collet is the creator of Bizwell.org, a website that helps professionals and entrepreneurs build and strengthen their personal brand. When she’s not busy with helping her clients, she enjoys coaching her daughter’s soccer team and is training to become a yoga instructor.