The mission of SourceLinkDallas is to connect entrepreneurs to the services and resources they need to start, improve and grow their businesses. This post will unpack that mission statement and explain how we implement it.
Connectivity is the first element of the mission. We exist to connect people. We want to be a visible and effective link between the Dallas small business and entrepreneurial communities and the organizations that were created to serve them. We don’t want to be a service provider. We are not lenders, we are not business coaches. We are an economic development agency, and by making it easier and faster for businesses to find support services we will strengthen the Dallas economy. In this way, SourceLinkDallas will also be a tool to market Dallas to venture-minded people everywhere. We can help brand Dallas as a place that is welcoming and ready to help you start and grow your business.
The SourceLinkDallas website and hotline, and our community engagement program are the primary ways that we connect business clients to our partners. These tools and processes make up the bulk of our work and we are adding staff to make business referrals more effectively.
We make those business referrals more useful by working behind the scenes with our network partners. This network, now numbering almost 60 organizations, is a subset of the larger Dallas area entrepreneurial ecosystem. In our recruitment process we asked prospective partners what they hoped to get from SourceLinkDallas. Two responses were most common. One, they wanted more publicity in the business community and hence, more and better qualified business clients. Two, they were looking for opportunities to become more involved in the larger community.
We try to understand what our partners are trying to accomplish, look for opportunities for collaboration and invite them to engage with each other. We make opportunistic, ad-hoc introductions and connections and we do it more systematically as well. This happens at our regular network partner meetings. We have held two meetings so far and at each event is was really gratifying to see people linger long after the event. They were introducing themselves to each other, sharing ideas and business cards and taking notes. We plan to have additional meetings about every other month. If you are an existing SourceLinkDallas partner and would like to help us host an event at your facilities let me know at [email protected].
The other elements of the mission identify who our clients are and what we think is important to them. We focus on people who want to start, improve or grow a business. We built content on www.sourcelinkdallas.org for each group. We have information for concept stage individuals. These people have ideas and motive to create their own venture, but may need help fleshing things out, assessing their preparedness for business and finding out the essential legal steps to setting up shop in Dallas. We consider startup businesses to fall in a broad range. They cover businesses that completed the legal steps and have “opened their doors” but not closed a deal, all the way to firms in business for a year or two, but still exhibiting early stage growing pains.
Established businesses are the subject the last two types mentioned in the mission: those that want to grow or improve. For these clients the goal may be growing their business, finding access to new markets through procurement opportunities, exporting or innovating new products. Other established business owners may be satisfied with the scale of their business but think it is time to pick up more formal technical skills, solve a production problem, integrate new technology or processes for efficiency or maybe retool their whole operation to meet challenging times or emerging opportunities. These are important outcomes too.
Economic developers historically focus on new businesses started and jobs added by existing companies. At SourceLinkDallas we love those outcomes, but we don’t want to lose sight of the benefits of existing Dallas companies making their business more efficient, effective and sustainable. Those businesses that stayed in business, that improved or that survived a crisis are incredibly important to their owners, employees and customers. They are also great testimonials for the kind of helping business ecosystem Dallas should show to the world.
This mission to help people start, improve and grow businesses in Dallas by being the conduit was informed by our vision for Dallas as an entrepreneurial community. Next week we will take a look at our vision statement and how we structure our operations, build collaborations and look for strategic opportunities to make that vision a reality.