SCORE Small Business Blog

Managing: Why Join a Membership Organization?

Tips for Finding the Right Community

iStock_000005068328XSmall_CroppedOne of the best parts about becoming a business owner is the “freedom”. We take the leap of faith with dreams of flexible work schedules, executive decisions, self-dictated income and freedom from the shackles of reporting for duty at someone else’s beck and call. The only thing we think we’ll miss is the steady paycheck and the group health insurance. But what many will find after a period of time is that the days are typically longer, pay is lower, less steady and freedom has its price. This is normal when you’re a start-up.

What many of us don’t anticipate is how little we appreciated the interaction with peers – the sense of community that comes with being a member of something bigger with other people. Sole-ownership can lead to the sense of living on an island and as humans and specifically women, we are inherently social beings. Business ownership can be counter-intuitive to what makes us feel connected.

So where should you begin to find your tribe? As business owners, we’re chiefs of our own tribes, to find a group to belong to is the exact opposite of business ownership. But as members of a community, it’s critical that we play both leader in our own domains as well as team player in the big community sandbox. As a woman does it make more sense to join a local chamber of commerce or a women’s business organization? What about the multiple women’s networking or peer groups? The options for women are endless and every day there’s a new group of women, matrons, mavens, ladies, broads, you name it – they’re out there.

So how do you know where you belong? The good news is – everyone wants you. The bad news is, it’ll take a little test driving to figure out who’s the right fit for you.

As the CEO of the largest membership based women’s business trade organization in Los Angeles, I like to believe that we meet the most needs and offer the best value proposition. I suggest asking the following questions of you and of the potential tribe of choice:

  1.  What stage am I in my business? This is where you determine the number of years in business, revenues/gross receipts, number of employees and where you hope to be.
  2. What am I looking for in a tribe? This is an important question to figure out as a business owner and a tribal member. The offerings can range from social engagement to business development, educational offerings to procurement opportunities, peer learning to political advocacy. The thing to do is create a list of what is most important to you and find the organization that puts a strong emphasis on those top priorities.
  3. What is my intended level of participation? Do you want to join a group to simply say you’re a member? Perhaps part of your long-terms strategy involves becoming a board member as a key action item towards growth. Maybe you’re only interested in marketing yourself to the community.
  4. What’s my measure of success? Be clear on what you intend to do for the investment of your membership dues. Ask yourself, at the end of the first year, what will have happened that will make it worth it for me to renew? How well were my needs and wants met? Would I recommend this organization to another business owner?

Jane Pak, Guest Blogger
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Discussion (13) Comment

  1. Jane PakVisitor

    Thanks Life Cover! These are questions I ask every potential member – we’re not trying to sell membership, we’re trying to offer a valuable proposition. And value is determined by the customer! I see many business owners join a group with no plan or measure of success – its just like everything in business – you have to have a sense of what you’re hoping will be returned on your investment – not just of your money (dues) but your TIME and EFFORT!

    I hope this was helpful to you, please feel free to share!

  2. life coverVisitor

    Thanks for this inspiring post. The last four questions seem to me striking. I think, this type of question is effective to bring out the inner demands as well as to set a specific goal and finally one’s position within his/her community..

  3. Jane PakVisitor

    Chris Hershey – it is a privilege to work with women like you. NAWBO-LA is thrilled to roll out the new communications strategy so that we can continue building out a more robust relationship with our community!

  4. Jane PakVisitor

    So glad you “get it” Jaime – I hope you’ll be joining an organization that fits your needs as a budding entrepreneur! Take full advantage of all the wonderful services SCORE offers and remember – you don’t ask, you don’t get!

  5. Chris HersheyVisitor

    Loved this article and we’re very proud to have you representing NAWBO-LA. We know YOU mean business.

  6. JaimeVisitor

    This is great! I will be graduating soon and have learned the importance of networking. It’s definitely important to remember that once you start a business you have become a part of the community. It would be very beneficial to join membership organizations in order to keep networking and growing.

  7. Jane PakVisitor

    Keep the comments flowing! And if there’s something you want to know or a question you’d like to ask make sure you check in with our many resources at or follow me on twitter and let me know how I can help!

    When a defining moment comes along – DEFINE IT – don’t let it define you!

  8. Jane PakVisitor

    Eleanor – that’s fantastic news! I love hearing when women biz owners are utilizing tools like LinkedIn. Did you know that 80% of companies are using LinkedIn for their recruiting? Its an awesome tool.

    Also love hearing success stories with SCORE! We’re the best kept secret in the world of small business – but not for long! Everyone should start seeing an exciting new roll out of opportunities to engage with SCORE and I hope you all keep in touch with us as we launch the first SCORE – Women’s Chapter! yet another quality tribal community focused on your success.

  9. Jane PakVisitor

    Yay Michelle! Tribes are critically important – they’re naturally designed to create kinship in order to promote social evolution. If you’re a budding entrepreneur, SCORE can help you with the tools you need to get kick started – but once you’re out there – you need to find your tribe – the group that’s going to support you to ensure your success! Make the decision carefully and with great deliberation – follow those guidelines and hopefully you’ll find the right place where you can root your success and pay it forward in the future! Best of Luck!!

  10. Jane PakVisitor

    Thanks Eleanor and Peggy for your comments!

    Peggy – AMEN to that – when I first got to NAWBO-LA 7 months ago, our combined boards took the bold approach and said – What do we need to be to women business owners NOW. The world had changed drastically and we needed to change with it in order to create the best value proposition. All business groups need to do that – re-evaluate every few years to make sure they’re still LISTENING to their members. I’m proud to say there’s a whole new vigor to NAWBO-LA and our women have survived this recession and they’re empowered to move forward. I attribute that to what we are able to deliver as a resource to our members as well as their coming together as a tightly knit community.

    It takes a village – and you have to find the one that is right for you! Orgs have to offer a value proposition that makes you say – yep! totally worth the investment. But business owners have to be clear on what will make it worth it.

    Thanks for your thoughts – keep em comin!

  11. MichelleVisitor

    Great post Jane! I definitely agree with your thoughts! This week I will be graduating with my bachelors degree and have been with my classmates for an entire year. They are definitely my tribe! With that said I will be looking for an organization to network through and your goal examples will be very useful! Thnaks!

  12. Peggy DuncanVisitor

    Excellent post, Jane. When I started my business 11 years ago, I joined various organizations that I thought would be beneficial to my business. I never came back after that first year because those organizations only cared about what was in it for them…not about helping me. Many organizations just don’t get that it has to be a win-win.

  13. EleanorVisitor

    I found that Linkedin and has given me an opportunity to have dialogue with some great professional from the comfort of my office. has put me in touch with Ken Larson, a Government Contract mentor. My regional SCORE office doesn’t have anyone there with the knowledge that Ken offers me. He is also available by phone during certain hours, and has been a fabulous advisor. Without Ken’s knowledge and support, I would have not followed through in applying for a government contract which is being reviewed. Linkedin has also offered me a variety a great mentors and contacts. Being in business can be isolating and daunting. However, the use of blogs and other forms of technology, make it so much easier.


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