Belfast Telegraph

Here's the big idea for small businesses

By Ron Immink

The co-founder of Small Business Can tells us why culture, cooperation and a lack of 'BS' has helped create an online community of over 10,000 members ... who look out for each other

For a brand to be authentic, there needs to be a full alignment with the culture in the organisation. I have been reading and writing a lot about the importance of culture. As much as it applies to organisations - your HR manager is the most important person in the company apart from you - I think it applies even more so to online communities.

Believe it or not, but Small Business Can is regarded as best practice. We have had visitors from all over the globe (most of them banks and government bodies) asking us what the secret to our success is. And we always explain that it is tone and culture. You can buy technology, you can buy media, but you can't buy culture.

You can't buy people like Alan, Olwen, Paul, Helena, Gerry, Michael, Jez, Anthony, Stuart, Debbie, Shauna, Tony and countless others - the danger with names is that you have to name everyone. An article with over 10,000 names would get boring pretty quickly, so buy a phone book.

These people make everything tick. Feel free to ask the community for help and it will arrive within 24 hours. The blog has more and more of our members submitting articles and posts, generating excellent business content grounded in reality. Our e-zine is regarded as a piece of art, so feel free to subscribe. Our Twitter community is 'hopping' and our Facebook and LinkedIn are doing very well - even though we are still not sure how those last two work!

Part of the conundrum is instilling our firm with the Small Business Can culture.

This is all thanks to the community.

They ensure that there is no doom and gloom, that feedback and answers are constructive and that moderators don't become, what one of our contributors referred to as "obnoxious, rude and disrespectful".

A practical example of what culture does is one of our members raising €3,000 in 12 days with the help of other members. This is the beginning of what we hope will be a Small Business Can crowd-funding initiative.

So what's the secret of our ongoing "success"?

Well, the answer to that comes straight from all the books I have read - authenticity. Everyone that is part of Small Business Can believes in SMEs, believes in getting on with it, believes that helping others will help you and believes that we can create a new start for the economy.

And last, but just as important, all of our members have a well developed 'BS meter'. They can smell it a mile away.

Which brings us back to culture. Culture means not having BS. Small Business Can is an anti-doom and gloom, BS free zone.

By Ron Immink, co-founder of Small Business Can. Visit their website,