I read an article recently which suggested that small businesses based in London are at a disadvantage purely because they were located in the capital. The author went as far to say that stepping outside of London “could be the best decision budding entrepreneurs make”. He might have a point.

London was once the place to be for small businesses, but that no longer appears to be the case. In a late 2017 study by small business payment specialist Square, London was ranked only as the 10th best place in the UK for small business growth.

The research, which looked at confidence among small business owners, along with the available support, market growth, and potential new business owners, suggested that you’re better off pitching up in Belfast, Nottingham or Cardiff (1st, 2nd and 3rd on the list).

Where’s London coming up short?

As somebody who works with businesses within and outside of London, the findings resonated with me. In my experience, there is a marked difference between how leaders go about business in the city compared to those outside of the capital’s four walls.

From working with business leaders in London, asking for support isn’t something that always comes naturally to them. They understand the value of support, but see it as more as one-off engagement; a means to an end. As such, it can prove difficult to engage on a more personal level with them, and to show the value in a long-term relationship.

One of my ultimate aims is to get leaders in London to adopt a mindset of supporting each other. Whilst it’s easy to understand the concept of collective impact – ‘Together we can achieve much more than any of us can alone’ – it can be difficult getting leaders to buy into it in the context of business and so communities fail to form.

What’s stopping leaders from building their own communities?

If business leaders could click their fingers and have their very own community magically appear around them, they would. But, communities are built on trust, mutual purpose and values – things which are not going to develop overnight. Building a community requires a different mindset and approach to networking that is different – more personal – than you might be used to.

Transactional to meaningful conversations

How often would you say you have meaningful conversations with leaders in other businesses? It’s far too easy to avoid them altogether and keep things transactional with your network. But you can’t expect to build relationships that endure and prove valuable unless you open up a bit and share your personal vision, values and purpose. Honesty and transparency are the only ways you’ll truly find out if you are a good fit with somebody. We’re not saying that you should tell somebody your life story as soon as you meet them, but find an opportunity to take the conversation to a more meaningful place.

Setting the foundation for growth

It might sound like a cliché, but partnership communities are what you make them. They can be an opportunity to share your experiences with other business leaders – actively working together to enable each other to achieve success and happiness. But they can also just prove to be a group of leaders who are tenuously linked, checking in once a while out of obligation more than anything else.

We believe that communities play a crucial role in creating an environment which enables personal and professional growth. Just like you can’t expect a garden to blossom without creating the right conditions, you’ll struggle to fulfil your potential if you don’t create an environment that enables growth.

Sure, you can survive alone, but you’ll only really thrive when you plug into the community around you. It starts with having honest and personal conversations with like-minded individuals who are on a similar journey to you. If you don’t have easy access to those types of people, Agnentis can introduce you to other business leaders who share your outlook on life.