group help

Have you ever considered that, on paper, AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) shouldn’t work? Think about the concept: In an unfamiliar setting, let’s assemble a group of strangers who share a serious health problem and have them take turns acknowledging their personal issues.

I’m part of a group that, similar to AA, doesn’t sound like something that could produce effective results. But, also like AA, it does.

Ignite Fauquier is a free community group that will resume its post-Covid monthly meetings in September. Each month one owner or representative from a local business or non-profit is invited to present their organization to a gathering of other community members. The person shares a particular challenge that their business faces. Members then offer suggestions to overcome the challenge.

Here’s a sampling of the challenges from the past:

  • One owner’s circle of clients included personal friends. That was great until they were slow about paying their bills. How was he to collect his money without ruining the friendships?
  • An owner of a small, limited menu café was working non-stop hours because he was challenged to find employees.
  • A natural food store found it tough to broaden its customer base in a small town. They felt that too many people still associated the term “natural foods” with 1960s hippies, 1980s yuppies, or even 1990s hipsters!

The people in the audience for these three presentations didn’t include anyone who had friends as clients, any other restaurant or café owners, and zero other natural food store owners. And yet, each of these presenters came away with over a dozen suggestions for each of their challenges.

You see, at Ignite Fauquier we open up both our hearts and minds to find a connection to a similar problem we have solved. Since I used to be a credit manager and needed to collect money from clients while maintaining their business, I had some ideas for collecting money and maintaining friendships.

Audience members thought back to times when it was difficult for them to find and keep employees and provided both short-term and longer-term solutions. And the natural food store event produced lively conversation. My final suggestion was to rebrand their message as, “Natural Foods…not just for hippies anymore!”

Our helpful audience doesn’t consist of Mensa member billionaire business owners. We’re town and county employees, small business owners, shop owners, insurance agents, realtors, bankers, interior designers, marketing company owners, life coaches, chiropractors, or employees of the Chamber of Commerce. And you would be amazed at the variety of ideas that bounce around that meeting room.

Just as my post from last week noted, asking for help is a positive step to overcoming a problem. I noted that it’s scary for an individual to say, “Hey, I’m personally in over my head here. Can you help me?” And asking for business help can be as intimidating as seeking personal help. We don’t want people to know we’re stumbling. We want to come across as having our acts together. Put on a happy face and pretend it’s all OK.

Our kind members don’t make judgments or point fingers. We simply offer up an abundance of ideas and support to help overcome challenges. And we usually share a lot of laughter.

So if your business is struggling with a challenge, I encourage you to find a local group like Ignite Fauquier and find comfort in knowing that you’re not alone and that there are ideas out there that can help.