We constantly hear about (and experience) the incredible challenges involved in starting out as an entrepreneur; long hours, lack of finance, risks, stress etc. A good support network is essential to help overcome these hurdles and is worth its weight in gold.
As the Director of my first company, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy (or everyone would be doing it right?) however I didn’t realise the immense amount of time it would take just to finalise my business model, branding, website, terms and conditions…the list goes on!
Although I am immensely passionate and excited about my new endeavour, life is far from easy. Earlier this week when things were looking decidedly bleak, I went to spend the last of my funds on groceries. During the 20 minutes I was in the supermarket, someone stole my bicycle – in broad daylight they cut through the huge chain in a busy market place! It was one of those moments when I suddenly felt thoroughly defeated. I actually cried. I walked home with my groceries, helmet still on and trousers still tucked into my sock feeling really sorry for myself.
Once at home all I wanted to do was lock the door and go to bed, never wanting to face the evil world again. Instead I called my girlfriend, Tweeted and Face Booked my tragedy and emailed my Strategist. Instantly I was hit with a barrage of sympathy and support from people who knew exactly where I was at and knew how to get me laughing again.
There has been numerous times when I don’t know how long I would have wallowed in my misery or just completely caved in if it wasn’t for my support network. Made up of friends, family and associates, they make the difference between throwing in the towel and rebounding back on top form. Surrounding myself with like-minded ‘eagles’ who have been through it all before and have unwavering belief in me and my company is the most important thing I have done.
To make sure you always bounce back, here are 5 top tips to strengthen your support network:
1. Eagles or Emus?
There is nothing wrong with an emu – it just can’t fly.
Surround yourself with people you admire, respect, operate ethically, and are on a higher entrepreneurial level than you – meaning they have actually achieved the things you are aiming for. Hang out with people going places. Absorb their passion and experience and build relationships with them by supporting and sharing. They understand what you are going through and are helping to cut the path to where you want to go. If you are going to spend time learning to fly, you may as well learn from the best.
2. Beware of ‘The Best Intentions’
Initially it might be difficult to weed out the more non-supportive members in your network because their advice and point of view still makes sense…at the beginning.
Slowly, as your priorities and ambitions change, it will be advantageous to reduce the amount of advice you take on board from people who either don’t understand what you are trying to achieve, or are letting their fear get in your way, even when they have your best interest at heart.
3. Be in the Right Places at the Right Times
Ask around and search the internet for the people you want in your network. Where do they hang out? What events are they going to? Then be there. Talk to them, enquire about their business, show your passion and ask how you can help them. Let them see you are willing to go through the difficult stages in order to achieve your dreams.
I remember peering into the window of the exclusive Coutts Bank on The Strand just to see the titles of the magazines on the tables in their waiting area – then go and buy a copy because I want to be reading what those people are reading!
4. Ask For It
When you find someone you think could be the perfect mentor and addition to your network, don’t be afraid to just come straight out and ask them. Don’t be held back because you think they would be too busy, are too successful, wouldn’t be interested etc. Most successful entrepreneurs are more than willing to spread their learning and experience around to help others. They also benefit as mentors because it causes them to re-analyse their own business practices and you can help promote their business through new channels.
5. Pay For It
Although your support network will be made up of friends, family and associates who often come free of charge, it’s vital to invest in yourself and your business by paying to have experts on your side.
One rainy Sunday I came across an online article on a business networking site and really identified with it. I clicked through to the author’s website and sent her an email asking if she wanted to be my mentor. She agreed and even though it is really difficult to find the money to pay for things before you have any money coming in, with her on board the money will be coming in a lot faster than if I hadn’t recognised her value and made the decision to pay for it.