Starting and managing a successful small business can be very lonely, especially if you launch your company without a strong support system in place.
“Making the move into business ownership can be one of the most exciting and liberating experiences; however, it can also be one of the most challenging,” according to SBA.gov.
Most entrepreneurs realize that starting a business is an incredibly lonely experience. Helen Dowling, a small business owner and the founder of Exceptional Thinking, recommends that entrepreneurs should find ways to make the experience less lonely.
Dowling says, “Let’s face it, we’re all quite sociable really and even if we don’t need to be around people all of the time, too much of our own company isn’t good for us. I don’t know about you, but if I’ve spent a couple of days in the office on the trot, I’m usually climbing the walls.”
If you need to break the cycle of solitude in entrepreneurship, here are five ways to find the right people to aid you during your journey:
1. Join social clubs in your city.
It’s important to build your personal network, and joining social clubs is a great way to start. Not only will you locate great events, you could also meet potential clients, employees and new friends. Take a look at clubs like the Union League for “Young Friends” memberships, as well as the Young Friends clubs at your local museum, orchestra, and ballet.
2. Create a small group of like-minded entrepreneurs.
You may have already heard of the term “mastermind” groups.
“It is often said that you are the average – income & personality wise — of the five people you spend the most time with, including yourself. For some people this is great news, for others they are thinking that they need to start hanging out with a different set of 5 people.”
Whatever the case may be, build a small group – quickly. Make sure that the four other people you interact with don’t have competing businesses, and assess ways you can help each other. I personally know of groups that meet monthly and each member has to come to the meeting with at least one lead for another member of the group.
Also, be mindful of time. As entrepreneurs, we all have full schedules so don’t schedule more than 60 to 90 minutes once a month.
3. Host a dinner (or a happy hour) each month and invite new people.
Consider this a startup marketing expense.
Host an event for a hand-selected group of people you want to get to know. Be strategic when creating your invitations, and make sure you personally meet and greet each person who’s on your list. Don’t hesitate to let each person bring a guest if it’s a happy hour. If you’re hosting a dinner, it’s okay to extend the invitation just to that person.
Make sure that the invitees can benefit from getting to know your other guests, as well — not just you!
I love to cook and entertain people in my home, so I host dinner parties every month. At this point in my career, my parties are more about hanging out with friends and mutual support. But they’re always fun, so don’t make it all about business!
4. Don’t make withdrawals where you haven’t made deposits.
It’s really unfair to contact people and ask them to mentor you when you have nothing to offer them.
It may seem harsh, but it’s true.
I receive hundreds of mentorship requests each year. The ones I respond to are usually the people who have contacted me and said, “Can I take you out to grab coffee?” The rationale is simple.
A small gesture, such as taking someone to lunch or for coffee, indicates that the person believes in mutually beneficial relationships. In fact, I have a good friend who built his entire business off of taking people out to lunch – even when he barely had the finances to do so. He was able to convince some pretty important people to have lunch with him and eventually fund his business. If you ask him his “success secret,” he’ll likely tell you it was as simple as asking people to lunch.
5. Become a giver.
My most important professional contacts have been nurtured as a result of my philanthropic work.
I join marketing committees of nonprofits I’m interested in working with, and meet other people and collaborate on ideas. They are able to observe my skills firsthand and evaluate me as a colleague.
Keep in mind, you shouldn’t join an organization you’re not passionate about just to meet people, because it will backfire. But if you have an opportunity to partner your skills with a deserving organization, generating new business could be a nice result.
What other tips do you have to turn your lonely business into a thriving and social endeavor? Let me know in the comments section below.
Tina Wells, founder and CEO of Buzz Marketing Group earned her B.A. in Communication Arts graduating with honors from Hood College in 2002. She is the author of the tween series Mackenzie Blue, published by HarperCollins Childrens Books.
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