According to data from the U.S. Small Business Administration, there were 31.7 million small businesses in the United States as of 2020. These small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can greatly benefit from the knowledge, development, funds, and opportunities that come from being connected with other business owners. However, many of them lack access to a global network that most multinational companies have.
Entrepreneur Brian Pallas wanted to change that barrier to access by founding Opportunity Network. By tapping into this global network, SME leaders can more easily find other business owners to connect with, so they can enjoy the same relationship-based benefits as large corporations.
Whether a connection or introduction leads to an immediate sale or not, SMEs can use online global networks to gain support and uncover a wealth of knowledge and opportunities. Pallas shared his insights on the benefits of online networking for SMEs and how entrepreneurs can make the most out of their partnerships.
The benefits of an online global network
Most large corporations have been able to withstand the economic shocks of the last few years by relying on their global networks. However, many smaller enterprises don’t have the built-in connections to quickly adapt and pivot if there’s an interruption in their supply chain.
“If [your supply chain] breaks and a supplier is not around anymore, you’d really have to begin from scratch,” said Pallas. “It is really critical for [SMEs] to be able to react … [and] networking is what can give an SME that power.”
According to Pallas, there are three key benefits of building up a wide online network as a small to mid-sized company:
Globalization is a major benefit of having an online global network, as you can diversify your supply chain, obtain global information easily, and access new markets — all while spreading risks.
According to Pallas, if a community deals with a supply chain disruption, it will see increasing prices, which can impact the cost of goods for businesses. However, those with diversified supply chains minimize their risks and are not fully dependent on the community for resources. Therefore, they can source from elsewhere and avoid passing increased prices onto the community.
With an online network, SMEs can form relationships with clients, suppliers, and investors who are interested in working together to make a deal.
This online network expands a company’s reach and helps them to establish sales possibilities globally, rather than just within their scope. Introductions and referrals are easily facilitated using online networks, which are a great way to fast-track your negotiations. Referrals create a stronger connection and often lead to new ventures.
Pallas firmly believes that the right person to help with your business can be located anywhere in the world.
“The notion that the best business partners need to be next to you is quite unrealistic,” said Pallas.
Because a company’s reach is greatly expanded with an online network, the chances to develop and gain knowledge beyond one’s geographic and socio-economic barriers increase greatly. This can improve an entrepreneur’s perspective and give them the foresight and connections needed to grow a business.
“Using the global network, small and medium-sized businesses’ growth is not limited by lack of capital or connections — rather, they can now access and service the same international clientele as multinational companies.”
Helping SMEs find their ‘counterparts’
According to Pallas, there are three phases in connecting SMEs — understanding what they want, finding a counterpart, and doing the deal. Opportunity Network focuses specifically on finding counterparts.
Opportunity Network is a private digital network that connects CEOs and investors to reliable counterparts worldwide for all their commercial, investing, fundraising, and merger and acquisition needs. The goal is to help SMEs make connections and grow by tapping into a global network of over 45,000 CEOs and investors.
“Every member … has been vetted and screened for legitimacy, for size, and we know that they are all who they say they are,” said Pallas. “They are running their companies, they’re able to make the final decision, to sign off on the deals that we’re posting or connecting to, and they will be able to contribute meaningfully to the business of our members.”
Using the global network, small and medium-sized businesses’ growth is not limited by lack of capital or connections — rather, they can now access and service the same international clientele as multinational companies. With over $380 billion in deal flow on the network, SMEs can potentially find counterparts within 48 hours.
“What we really want to do is help the smaller segment of SMEs have a chance at growth [while making] our own contribution to the global economy,” said Pallas.
Making the most of your business partnerships
Pallas’s No. 1 piece of advice for SMEs looking to build and tap into their network is to always look ahead to the future. Rather than moving on when a deal doesn’t close immediately, he recommends maintaining connections with the people you’ve interacted with throughout the process of searching for a partner.
“Some people … forget about all the people they spoke with,” Pallas told CO—. “The network is something you want to nurture over time. There might be 10 people you speak with, leading to just two deals. But, these other eight connections might be valuable to your future business goals.”
Nurturing those relationships with people you didn’t end up partnering with can prove essential to your business’s growth of the business.
“You will … get way more than you expected and maybe something different from what you were thinking about in the beginning,” explained Pallas. “The connections you make today can be of great value for your business now, and also in the future. That is the power of an online network.”
Learn more about Opportunity Network and how to join here.