Starting a small business is one of the most powerful and one of the most challenging things we can do. It’s saying to the world, “I can make a change” – it’s a declaration of fearlessness and intent in the face of uncertainty. If you’re a small business owner, you should be proud of the choice you’ve made.
You’re not alone, either. Although running a small business can demand much of our time and attention, there’s a hidden support network out there if you know where to look. Because we spend so much effort on business, we can often feel isolated or cut off. That’s why it’s as vital to build a nurturing personal network as it is to create an expert business one.
Tips for creating a powerful support network
You might have to initiate contact and be proactive
All of us are busy, but all it takes is a quick phone call, meeting up for lunch, or quiet time with the family to build better relationships.
Don’t talk about business all the time
It’s important to you, and it’s important to the people who care about you. Outside that circle, others want to see you succeed, but they won’t give your business the same insight and attention as you do.
If you’re asking for advice, be specific
If you’ve got a business question, provide some context and what you’ve already thought about. This makes it easier for others to understand your issue and provide advice that can help.
Don’t be afraid to share
Support is a two-way thing. It’s an opportunity for you to ask questions and also provide your own expertise and advice to others.
There’s nothing that works quite like boldness. Having a clear idea of the value you provide, and being comfortable with your expertise and opinions is magnetic to others.
How to build your support network offline
In a world obsessed with technology, smartphones and social networks, it’s important to remember that our most enriching and important relationships are often built offline. Here are some areas you can focus on:
Your family and extended family
Whether it’s your spouse, your parents, your kids, your siblings or your extended family, these are the people who care about you the most. Talk to them about your business, but focus on how it’s enhancing your life. Your family naturally wants to see you succeed.
You’ve likely already got a close network with your friends, and it might just be increasing how often you see them. You don’t want to be “the person who always talks about work,” so balance that with other things you enjoy.
Your colleagues (new and old)
You might have worked at a business before becoming an entrepreneur, or you have good relationships with your current employees, people in your coworking space, or suppliers and partners. These people will often have good advice for the challenges you’re facing, and might even be able to mentor you.
You can even hire others to be a sounding board for business issues you need to solve. These might be business or life coaches, consultants, mentors, accountants or lawyers. They will often have a more objective way of looking at things, which can be very helpful.
How to build your support network online
Online support networks have the advantage of being more focused and wide-ranging. You can find great communities for almost any type of niche, whether it’s business or personal.
Meetup is a company focused on letting people with similar interests get together. Check what meetups are available in your city. Whether you want to connect with other business owners and entrepreneurs, want to network with others, or simply want to explore a hobby or new interest, this is a great place to start.
Although social media isn’t necessarily a great place to get support, it can be a good way to get advice. LinkedIn in particular has lots of groups and ways to connect with other professionals in your field. Of course, on a personal level, Facebook is hard to beat.
There are millions of communities, forums and groups out there, whatever your professional or personal interests. The secret of getting the most out of these types of groups is to give as much as you get. Answer questions, share advice and build your authority. This doesn’t just grow your reputation in the group, it’s also a great way to communicate and drive more people to your business.
Remember that it takes time and effort to build up a strong, supportive network. When you use the right approach, you can develop strong connections with others, find mentors and experts, communicate better with your loved ones, and develop beneficial, nurturing relationships for yourself and your business.