That certainly sounds a bit self-serving, doesn’t it? But the “marketing value” of working with those organizations or causes with purposes you believe in does, in turn, provide you and your company some degree of benefit. One of the pillars of successful entrepreneurship is freedom of time. To then use that time in some way to benefit the community completes that ultimate circle of giving back.

Start simply

Let’s start with the simplest way to do both simultaneously. Join your local chamber of commerce. This is a more overt way to participate in the business community while promoting yourself and your business. It is fully expected, even celebrated at chamber events. Go, wear your company polo, sponsor the after-party and jump in with both feet. The chamber will provide an audience and possibly new markets. It will certainly provide new relationships.

In this month’s Greater Palm Bay Chamber article, Puneet “PK” Kapur, the owner of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Palm Bay says, “You need to know what kind of people you are dealing with in your area. Anything related to business; you must get involved with your chamber of commerce. It is the best source of information for any new business, and you will meet influential people who are community leaders, who are business leaders and who have been successful in the area.”

Jennifer Sugarman, president and CEO of the Cocoa Beach Regional Chamber says, “It is a fact we do business with people we know, like and most importantly, trust! The chamber offers a platform to allow these things to happen.” SpaceCoast Business features articles by our chambers each month to highlight those companies, new and old, who benefit from their chamber participation.

What is your Passion?

The next step is to identify where you want to make a difference. If you have children in sports, for example, you can serve on the board for your local baseball, soccer, football, lacrosse or cheer league. The parents you’ll meet are from all walks of life, and from all companies large and small. Read: “potential clients.” There is usually a shortage of parents willing to participate at this level, so you’ll be welcomed with open arms. I’ve personally become friends with small business owners, vice-presidents of large international companies, stay-at-home moms (and dads), and university presidents because my sons play rec-league and travel lacrosse. Stories in our magazines have come from wings and beers after a game, learning about what the parents do when they are not cheering for their kids. Are you in sales? What better foot in the door than an instant commonality in a new friendship? Do not for a second feel predatory here; most everyone recognizes the benefit of the people we meet in these circumstances.

Go Big or Go Home

Next up? Reach for that brass ring. When it comes to participating in your community, there are always a few higher profile organizations and charities. In Brevard, there are many, and my choice was Junior Achievement. As a former teacher and having had previous experience with JA before I moved to Florida, I solidly believe in their mission of “fostering work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy in Brevard schools.” To me, it is an honor to represent my company at JA activities and I’ve met people I’d only read about prior to joining.

Anne Conroy-Baiter adds, “With a board of roughly 44 premiere business leaders, I’m very cognizant of the fact that what we offer back to our board members is a potential for higher-level connectivity. Being active on the JA board brings with it the opportunity of developing relationships and building business connections with people who literally make business happen in Brevard. In addition, the JA board is carefully vetted, bringing together people who are mission oriented, generous in time and money, united in moving Brevard forward, and last, but not least, fun. It’s a culture that’s been built over decades.”

I look around the board meetings I attend and consider myself lucky to be in such good company. I’m quick to offer my services as a board member, and you will need to put you and your business in a position to contribute as well. Your time is certainly valuable, but you bring other assets to bear. Use them, help the cause, and yes, get some degree of marketing value from your participation. Everyone wins. ◆