Updated: Apr 3, 2021
Why having a good support network will make or break your business
We won’t sugar-coat it; starting a business is f**king hard work. It’s worth it, however not unlike childbirth, things may not go to plan, you may need more help than you thought, it’s often more painful than you anticipate, and you may need to apologise for swearing at people who didn’t really deserve it.
There are times it will be tough and you will be craving a good network of people who can help you through. Some of these may be people within your industry who can give you wise advice, some may be people who you can lean on and ugly cry with zero judgement. You will need someone who understands your journey, or at the very least doesn't judge you for bad decisions and always has a full bottle of tequila on hand, just in case. This journey you are embarking on will be infinitely easier if you have a network of people on hand who are able to fill your energy tanks and keep you on the right path.
Of course, having those people in your life may not always be so simple. Perhaps you live in an area where you don’t know many people and you are away from the people you care about the most. Maybe making new friends (or opening up to existing ones) doesn’t come easy to you. Maybe people have let you down in the past and trusting others is a big problem. Never fear! To help you along the way, here are our top ideas on how to build your best support network!
1. Let’s start with the most obvious: get a mentor or champion. Ok, so we are professional coaches that sell our time, so we are bound to advocate this, right? Sure, but in all honesty, we did this, and it was a game-changer for us. Having someone impartial, who has some good advice and experience to share and who can help you in a way that makes sense to you is worth every penny. And sometimes you don’t even need to pay for it. If there is a local businessperson you admire, see if they are open to you buying them a coffee in exchange for some of their time and advice. Most people would be really honoured that you sought them out and the worst they can say is no - so be brave.
2. Next, think about your personal support needs. Go through your address book/social media friends list and ‘feel’ your way through the names. Who makes you feel positive and energised? Who has given you good advice in the past or has been involved positively in picking you back up? They don’t have to live locally to you - everyone is but a video-call away - this is your hit list for relationship building 101. These are great people to know and have in your life, so invest in these relationships. Build bridges, be brave and reach out. These are the people you can tell about your business in an honest way; all your concerns and excitement, ambitions and fears. If you have people in your life you can open up to without fear, they are most definitely keepers.
3. On the flip side of this, the brutal truth is that you may need to begin distancing yourself from some other people in your life while you figure out your new direction. If you have people in your life who drain significant amounts of your time, or are seemingly negative about your choices, it may be worth distancing yourself from them to make space for those people who can help you in your new direction. It may sound harsh, but in reality, you will have less time as you set up your new business and need to ensure you are prioritising yourself to give yourself the best chance of success.
4. This is a follow-on point from above. Distance can of course be tricky if those people not supporting you are family. Family are often the ones that are most cautious and seemingly negative as they want to protect you from a fall. This is from a good place, but sometimes you need the space to do things your own way - you don’t learn to fly without a few bumps along the way. If you feel comfortable, take some time to explain to them about your business ideas, what the potential could be and how you will need some help to stay positive and energised. If you feel that this is not possible, then try to steer clear of talk about the business for now and compartmentalise your new business for those people who really understand and support your goals.
5. Think about people who will successfully distract you from your work and provide you with much needed light relief. Running your own business can all to often consume you and mean you never really switch off. Having people to help you switch off and do something else you enjoy can be a real help to ensure you practice work-life balance. If you don’t have many people near you, think about joining a club you would enjoy. A dance class, gym, a book club? Anything you enjoy that will provide you with much needed regular space from your business.
6. Sometimes we don’t want to speak to others when we feel crap, but we still need to drag ourselves out of a fug. In these instances, you need to be your own support network until you feel ready to let people in. Start building a collection of positive quotes, books and images (we have a ‘Wall of Awesome’ with framed pictures of funny and empowering quotes). Create a Spotify playlist of all your favourite uplifting tunes that you can push play on anytime you need a lift. Take a break and shift perspective by watching a great film or going for a walk/run (whatever lifts you). Comedy works for me; compiling some great skits you can tap into when you just need a good laugh. Laughter (after all) is the best medicine!
7. You knew it would be in the list, but networking really is a great way to meet people and get support for your business. Finding a great local networking group can be brilliant, and I have yet to attend an event where people aren’t genuinely friendly and interested in others. Mixing with people who have started businesses and totally understand what you are feeling will be an asset to your support arsenal. Be open and honest with what you are struggling most with to the people you are drawn to, and most people would be thrilled to help in some way; even if it is introducing you to someone that would be useful to know. Sharing my own experiences here, I went to a super scary networking event at the NEC a couple of years ago and everyone seemed to know everyone else. I knew no one. The first thing I did was take a deep breath, walk up to a couple of women who were talking and said “Excuse me, apologies for interrupting but I don’t know a soul here and feel a bit self-conscious. Do you mind if I join you for a bit?”. They welcomed me with open arms and after asking me who I was and what I did, introduced me to a shed load of people. The scariest bit was walking up and starting to talk. When that was over, everything else unfolded. Try it!
8. Join an online support group. Maybe there is a ‘women in business’ online group, or a local support group; somewhere that is a safe space for you to ask questions and vent when you need to, with really supportive people on the other side of your screen. Sometimes it is easier to ask for help when you can’t see their faces! People want to help and feel useful, so get involved in a few online groups and try them out. Keep the best ones and use them!
These steps will help you to find a network of people that can support you in a variety of ways as you start and run your exciting new business. Sometimes it may seem daunting to take these steps - believe me, having had anxiety attacks at the prospect of entering a busy room, I really do get it. But the benefits of building your network really do outweigh the five seconds of courage it takes to build those connections that can last a lifetime.
Is something stopping you reaching out to (or even building) your support network? We have launched a FREE course helping you to uncover and practically tackle what may be holding you back. Click here to find out more.
Want more help with starting or growing your business? Did you know we offer affordable 1:1 coaching and have packages of support that you can complete in your own time. Think of us as a knowledgable friend who asks the right questions and isn't afraid to give you that kick up the bum when you need it!
Why not drop us an email to schedule in a FREE short chat to see how we can help you?