Leverage community connections for your business with these six expert strategies

For most small businesses, initial growth happens locally. Often, business leaders begin to spread the word through family and friends, who then tell their connections in the community. These word-of-mouth referrals can lead to new customers, vendors, partners, employees and more for a small business.

The members of South Florida Business Journal Leadership Trust understand the importance of tapping into their local community to fuel growth. Below, six of them share their best tips for leveraging local resources as a business owner.

1. Seek talent from local universities.

We often look no further than our own backyard universities for talent to grow customers and resources. It is often advantageous, efficient and effective to first invest in hiring those with local degrees who already know community dynamics and potential customers and have strong relationships. They can leverage their own networks and local insights to support business expansion in the marketplace. — Jeffrey BartelHamptons Group, LLC

2. Be active among your alumni group.

As we have seen, the use of influencers has been popular among local early-stage businesses. However, a referral from people who know you and your business well is much more powerful. Additionally, while influencers are strong promoters of consumer goods, your alumni group has a range of members that most probably is broad enough to include most types of business. Become an active club member! — Dennis CustageLiquid Capital

3. Partner with local nonprofits.

One way that we’ve connected with our community is to partner with local nonprofits. This has allowed us to make strong community connections, increase brand awareness with local business leaders (many of whom sit on the board of these nonprofits) and support organizations that are tackling important local issues. — Lauren FairbanksS&G Content Marketing

4. Actively connect with like-minded people.

Whether finding new team members or locating your next customer, working with like-minded people is always a recipe for success. Our team does this by giving back. Seventy percent of our employees are actively involved with local charities, collectively contributing nearly 2,000 hours of community service per month. As we meet similar people, it is only natural that synergies are made. — Jeremy StraubCoastal Wealth

5. Implement a corporate social responsibility program.

I’ve always believed in giving to give — not to get. Incorporating a corporate social responsibility program is a fantastic way to help a business grow locally, meet new talent and possible customers, gain introductions to new business referral sources, and much more. Plus, it feels good and is a win-win all-around! — Durée RossDurée & Company, Inc.

6. Participate in civic and charitable groups.

About 12 years ago, I relocated to South Florida to assist with a business that was just past startup. We wished to let it be known we were joining the business community here, so we looked to get the company involved in civic groups and charitable events. As an unexpected benefit, our participation became a source for employment recruiting and relationships that helped our business grow. — Michael SlukaB2B CFO Partners