With a little help from my friends: Support networks growing entrepreneurs need for success
We are social creatures by nature, and this is no different within the business world, where the ability to connect and collaborate, or foster positive professional relationships is directly linked to success and longevity.
However, the life of an entrepreneur, particularly in the initial stages of founding and growing their company, is often marked by long, gruelling hours spent working and making critical decisions alone. While being your own boss is one of the primary attractions to becoming an entrepreneur, it is also an inherently risky endeavour that can leave you shouldering a lot of responsibility.
As John Donne famously said, “No man is an island“, and we tend to do worse when we isolate ourselves from others. In a business context, surrounding yourself with the right people and influences as you grow your business and develop as an entrepreneur, can help mitigate this isolation and keep you focused and motivated, which in turn can speed you up on your own journey to success.
Mentoring and coaching
Being an entrepreneur requires an incredible amount of drive and dedication, especially in the early stages when much of your time is taken up by the operational aspects of running your business. Finding a mentor who has experienced and overcome similar challenges can therefore be an invaluable source of support.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that 94% of SMEs using external support saw benefits including increased ambition and higher turnover rates, while 71% of Fortune 500 companies use a mentoring program.
A mentor can offer insight into the strategic aspects of your business, being more readily placed to identify weaknesses you yourself may overlook, as well as allowing you to benefit from their own circles of influence. Most importantly, having a mentor can help alleviate the isolation that many entrepreneurs face, navigating you through tough times with the benefit of their own experience.
Similarly, investing in a coach to improve certain skills can help reduce the pressure of feeling that as a business owner you must be an expert in all areas. Developing your skills both personally and professionally with coaching can leave you better placed to steer your growing business in the right direction, and avoid becoming overwhelmed and burnt out.
Mastermind groups and accountability partners
A mastermind group is essentially a group of like-minded business owners and entrepreneurs that gather regularly to share and discuss problems, challenges and successes, with the intention of supporting one another’s professional development through practical ideas and solutions.
Though being an entrepreneur is ultimately a solo endeavour, being part of such a group can restore that feeling of being a part of a team. Surrounding yourself with those on a similar trajectory to your own can help keep your motivation and enthusiasm from stalling, which can lead to slowing down your personal growth along with the growth of your company.
Connecting with other entrepreneurs benefits your personal development, your business, and is an invaluable way to learn from others and forge meaningful business connections along the way.
On a smaller scale, having an accountability partner, where you both work to hold each other accountable to your projects and goals is another great way to ensure you stay on track and continue to make progress. Having the input of someone who is prepared to tell you the things you may not want to hear, while challenging you to continue improving and moving forwards can act as an additional motivating push from both a personal and business perspective.
The importance of family
A 2016 report from Bank of America on small business owners found that 57% of 1000 respondents said they relied on family members for emotional support, while 35% said family and friends help them the most with running their business.
Families can provide financial help in the critical initial stages of starting your business when capital is often severely limited, and it is hard to secure funding from financial institutions that may be reluctant to invest in a new venture with no proven track record.
However, it tends to be the emotional support that families provide that truly makes all the difference to entrepreneurs. It is important to have a support system not only at work but also at home. During times of pressure, families can provide a much-needed respite from the daily stresses of running a growing business, whether that is through lending a sympathetic ear, or simply providing the encouragement and understanding you need to keep going when you otherwise might feel like throwing in the towel and giving up.