Starting up and growing your own business can be extremely exciting and exhilarating, but it can also at times be quite lonely and overwhelming, particularly if you don’t have a business partner to share the experience with. When you are sitting alone at your desk it can be hard to know where to turn for advice and support.
The good news is there is fantastic solution to this. That is to create your own support team that you can call on whenever you need to for help and advice, and even sometimes simply for encouragement and motivation and a friendly chat.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Get your friends and family on board
Having the support and encouragement of the people closest to you can be invaluable. Even if they are not experts in your particular industry, they can be there during the tough times to put the kettle on and listen while you talk. They may also be able to provide practical help, particularly when you are starting out, from stuffing envelopes to answering the phone.
The secret to making this work well is to explain to them what you are trying to achieve and why, and how long it is likely to take.
You also need to explain why this is so important to you, otherwise they may resent the time you spend on your business, which might otherwise be spent with them. So make them feel part of what you are doing and wherever possible, get them involved. If you are starting a food business, for example, invite them round to sample your recipes.
If you think they are likely to be able to offer useful advice as well as encouragement, create an informal advice board of trusted friends and family who meet once a month. They can acting as a sounding board for your idea and offer their thoughts on anything you need assistance with.
2. Join a group
When you are trying to grow a business and are busy dealing with all the hurdles and setbacks that can entail, it can be wonderful to find yourself in the company of other people who are trying to do exactly the same thing.
Not only will they understand what you are going through, they will also be able to offer some useful tips and advice – and even some motivation when needed. Check out the local business organisations in your area – at the very least there is likely to be a local traders association and a local chambers of commerce (www.britishchambers.org.uk) near you, both of which may run events.
There may even be an association specific to your industry. There are also a number of online groups and forums which have been set up to support small businesses – check them out too.
3. Get a mentor
A mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor who can guide and help you as you grow your business. They can help you stay on track, provide a sounding board for your ideas, encourage you through the hard times and offer practical advice and invaluable industry contacts.
Many entrepreneurs have had mentors at various stages of their business lives. Sir Richard Branson had airline pioneer Sir Freddie Laker, inventor Sir James Dyson had his first boss, James Fry, and chef and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay had Michelin-starred chefs Albert and Michel Roux.
Keep your ears open for experienced people within your industry or local area who you admire and whose opinion you would respect. Then get in touch with them to explain what you are trying to do, and ask them if they would be willing to give you some advice.
Don’t be too demanding and don’t pester – few successful people can commit to a long-term mentoring role, but they may be willing to have a conversation every now and then if they think they can be of assistance. Remember, the worst they can do is say no.
If you can’t find a mentor this way, you may be able to find one through Mentorsme.co.uk, a website set up by the Business Finance Taskforce which provides a searchable list of organisations which provide mentors services to small businesses.
A good mentor can improve your chance of success too. A survey commissioned by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills in 2013 looking into the usefulness of mentoring for small and medium-sized businesses found that 49% of firms using a mentor said it had helped them achieve a better outcome, while 36% said a mentor had helped them achieve a faster outcome.
You can find more about the benefits of a mentor, in;
4. Get networking
A glass of warm white wine, illegible name badges and a roomful of people clutching business cards may not be your idea of a fun evening. However networking remains one of the best ways of bringing you into contact with people who may be able to help and support your business, whether they be potential investors, business partners, advisors, suppliers or customers.
To make the most of a networking event, find out in advance who has been invited, make sure you don’t get stuck talking to the same person all evening, and follow up the interesting conversations with an email the next day to re-establish contact.
For more networking tips, read these other ByteStart guides;
- 5 networking secrets used by professionals
- Want to get more out of your networking than passable plonk and the occasional first-class canapé? Here’s how to build a strong, powerful, strategic network
- The “Magic 10” Tips on networking – how the experts build great networks
- The best way to make business networking work for you
5. Beware negative influences
Take a moment to think about the people you spend time with, both in your business and outside of it. Are they upbeat, optimistic and supportive of your plans, or do they dismiss them and squash them down?
This is not about ignoring sensible constructive advice, or blocking out people who can point out any mistakes you make. It can be extremely useful to have constructive feedback from someone you trust. But if someone is always mocking or criticising your ambitions, it can be really draining.
Make a conscious decision to keep such people at a distance because otherwise you will never find the confidence and the courage to pursue your goal.
About the author
This guide has been written for ByteStart by journalist, author and public speaker, Rachel Bridge. The former Enterprise Editor at The Sunday Times, Rachel currently writes about entrepreneurs and successful people for The Telegraph and The Times. Her latest book, Ambition: Why It’s Good to Want More and How to Get It (published by Capstone, £10.99), is available now.
Help on starting and running a successful new business
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