Entrepreneurship can be a challenging life. Many entrepreneurs, especially those just starting out, often work alone. While being your own boss is often one of the chief attractions of entrepreneurship, every entrepreneur needs some support to help them on their path to success. Having a support network can not only keep from feeling (and being) isolated, but it can speed your path to success.
Why is Networking Important?
By networking, we meet others who are on the same entrepreneurial journey we’re on. We can develop relationships with people who “get it,” and who understand the entrepreneur’s unique challenges. In addition, we may meet vendors and suppliers who have products and services our business needs. We may meet potential investors or partners, and we may meet customers, an essential element of every business.
Networking also exposes us to new ideas, to people who may re-energize us or re-motivate us and remind us why we started this crazy journey to begin with. Many successful entrepreneurs got to where they are now because of the help they got from others along the way. A strong network enables you attain goals that you might never achieve on your own.
So here are three essential support networks every entrepreneur needs.
Essential Support Network 1: Friends and Family
Every entrepreneur needs support that has nothing to do with business. As John Donne said, “No man is an island.” Your journey through entrepreneurship—and through life—will be much more pleasant and fruitful when you have friends and family to buoy you up, to celebrate your successes, to commiserate your failures, and to be your cheerleaders every step of the journey.
Having friends and family can give us a sense of purpose, and can keep us grounded. They help us remember we have a life outside of our business ventures. And that all work and no play really does make Johnny a dull boy. Friends and family can restore balance when we sometimes feel overwhelmed on our business journeys. They provide entrepreneurs with essential social and emotional support, critical to the health and well-being of everyone, not just entrepreneurs.
And most importantly, friends and family add richness to our lives
Essential Support Network 2: Masterminds & Accountability Partners
When you are developing and exploring ideas, and a building a business, it’s essential to have the support of like-minded people. Creating a mastermind group of other entrepreneurs can accelerate the success process exponentially.
What is a mastermind group?
A mastermind is a group of people who meet regularly to tackle and solve problems and challenges together. They support one another, advise one another, share connections and resources, and even do business together when it’s appropriate.
A mastermind group can help you feel part of a team and eliminate that feeling of isolation many solo entrepreneurs experience. Members of the group all act as business advisers and mentors for one another. A good mastermind group will include members at different stages of the journey and possibly even ones in different industries.
In addition to a mastermind group, having accountability partners can also speed up your progress. An accountability partner is someone who will track your goals with you and help you stay on track as you progress. An accountability partner is someone who is willing to tell you the hard things you need to hear, as well as encourage you through the struggles and celebrate you in the victories, while you do the same for them. One of the essential qualities of an accountability partner is that they aren’t willing to accept your excuses and let you off the hook.
For this reason, it generally should not be a spouse or significant other, or even a close friend. Your accountability partner will recognize that sometimes you won’t be too happy with them, and they may not be happy with you. A good place to look for an accountability partner might be in your mastermind group. You can also find someone in a professional association with you, or a business associate who is NOT in your employ nor you in theirs.
Essential Support Network #3: Local and Online Networking Groups
Local and online networking groups are the groups that we think of when we traditionally think of networking. These groups may include:
- Leads Groups
- Trade Associations
- Business-Building Groups
- Chambers of Commerce
- Business After-Hours or Business Before-Hours
- Co-operative Learning Groups
- Business Co-ops
- Cross-Marketing Groups
- Informational Seminars
These groups, whether in-person or online, can help you meet new people. They can also get you used to talking about your business. Unless your business is entirely online, at least half of your networking efforts should be at in-person events, even if you’re an introvert by nature (as an introvert, I might be inclined to say especially if you’re an introvert).
When choosing groups, find out whether they allow visitors or non-members so you can determine if it might be a good fit before paying a membership fee or committing to the group. Once you commit, make it a point to attend regularly. This is how you will build those relationships and create your essential support network.
Another consideration in choosing groups, is to spend about half your time between groups where there are many “regulars” with whom you can build relationships, create partnerships, find accountability partners and receive and give ongoing support. And then spend the rest of your networking time at groups where there are often new people. This way you can expand your network and increase your reach.
Remember to Follow Up
And, as always, as you meet and network with people, remember to follow up with them. If you only network to see how many business cards you can collect, you’ll not have the essential support networks you need; you’ll just be a card shark. Don’t be a card shark.
If you need some help getting started with networking, learn here how to become an effective and successful networker.
Following these steps will help you to build your own essential support networks, accelerate your entrepreneurial success, and make your journey more enjoyable. If you still need some help getting going, comment below or use the Talk to Me! link above to work with meand become a successful entrepreneur.