Being a small business owner can be isolating. By creating your own personal support system, you can combat that feeling, get guidance with business next steps and find the motivation to take action.
Here are four personal support strategies that are simple to set-up, easy to maintain, have a built-in accountability factor and are proven to work!
1. Support Partner
The support partner is your unconditional “business friend”. Ideally, this person is someone in business like you who can listen, give emotional support for your business issues, and provide constructive feedback on business dilemmas and opportunities. The relationship is bi-directional – each support partner helps the other. You each take turns listening and giving/getting advice. You may agree to meet weekly, catch-up, share problems and successes, and then use your partner as an objective reviewer for your weekly plans. During this pandemic, you can meet in person outside appropriately distanced, or by phone or video chat. The meeting should be a check-in for ongoing support and follow-up. It is important that this relationship is on-going (at least bi-weekly) and long-term (at least 6 months). That way, your support partner gets exposed to your business issues and understands the context and the players in your world. Your meetings can be a catalyst for positive change and an opportunity to talk discreetly about business issues outside of your own business environment.
2. Peer Support Group
This strategy involves gathering several “business friends” into a support group of peers – people in business at similar stages of growth and open to getting and giving help to colleagues. They could be in the same industry but they don’t have to be. This group could meet monthly on Zoom to share concerns and common goals and to provide one another with useful information. Like the support partner strategy, each member of the support group gets encouragement but to an even greater extent, since the support is coming from a group of three to six people. You can prepare for a meeting ahead of time and focus on a work-related goal. At the meeting you can get creative brainstorming support from a small group of people all focused on you. You will provide the same support and business feedback for them – each person taking 15-30 minutes of group time to discuss the issues, present some options, take feedback and promise to implement a solution. Before the next meeting, you will complete your tasks, as there are other people waiting for your results! This accountability factor is very helpful. Your support group will be expecting to hear about your progress at the next meeting and your success related to implementing next steps.
3. Business Mentor
We all know people who know more about being in business than we do. These are people that we approach as our advisors or “business mentors”. This person could be a small business owner or business professional like a banker or an accountant, a larger (and friendly) competitor, or simply a friend wise to the ways of business. The relationship is usually very professional, managed carefully, and used only when appropriate. Once a mentor has been located and established (even if informally), you must respect the advisor’s time (which, after all, they are giving you for free). Show that you value their time and professional advice by staying within the meeting timeframe agreed upon, communicating your appreciation for their support, and following up by email to share your progress and the results of their advice.
4. Team of Advisors
This group is a voluntary board or team of advisors that may only meet annually. This is a broad-based group of people who volunteer to meet together for you, follow your agenda, review your issues, and give their individual and collective advice. This group may include a senior manager in your industry, a successful entrepreneur, your friendly attorney or accountant, or even an established competitor in your field – who wants to give back and help you!
You need to find and invite the right mix of experts and set up the meeting. You will want to prepare an agenda beforehand. The idea is that there is time for you to talk about your business and key issues/challenges and then have time for them to share their advice. You will have a group of incredible experts focused specifically on you and your success for 1 to 2 hours. Their compensation is that you will take in their advice, implement it and follow-up about the results. They will delight in your progress and success. In addition, they may get to develop a new network of peer supporters for their own businesses.
Each of these four business support strategies are valuable. Depending on your needs, you can use just one or all four to support yourself and your business. Start by picking the one that most appeals to you, seems the simplest to get going, and has the most potential to bring you tangible results. By committing to this process, you are committing to make your business work. Asking for and getting help from others will help you succeed!