Starting and running a new business can be lonely and scary. There’s no longer a boss to manage things during a crisis. No more clocking out at 5 p.m. and leaving the job behind. Entrepreneurship means your work is your life—and when there’s too much to handle, having an entrepreneurial support system is crucial to your business’s success.
Your support system can be internal, external, or a combination of the two. My partners and I are in perfect harmony on the big things in our business, such as setting goals, working hard, and supporting each other in times of crisis. When it comes to organizing our time or dealing with stress, however, we sometimes need to reach outside of our inner circle to get advice.
Don’t wait to establish your support system until a crisis happens. You need an entrepreneurial support system in place to help you quickly resolve your issue and move on. Here are a few ideas about who should be on your team and where to find support.
1. Other business owners are an obvious entrepreneurial support system
It’s always a smart business move to get opinions and advice from other business owners—even if they’re not in your industry. Make the time to connect over coffee, lunch, or even the phone if there are location or time restrictions. I’ve recently met with several of my former employees, who are now entrepreneurs themselves, which has led to new business. One of my former staffers is my go-to IT person, which saves me time and money.
2. Mentors are great too
A psychologist friend of mine once told me, “People are afraid to ask for help because they don’t like feeling vulnerable.” Asking for help from others often feels like we’re relinquishing some degree of control over our own businesses. That’s especially hard for entrepreneurs to do, but the value of having mentors is worth momentarily feeling vulnerable. I depend on my mentors for advice and am happy to mentor others. It’s a win-win situation. If you don’t already have a mentor, you can find free mentors at organizations like SCORE and networking organizations such as MeetUp or your industry trade association. Once you have a mentor on your support team, help is just a phone call or email away.
3. Professionals in other industries
According to a Barlow Research study conducted last year, when business owners were asked who they turn to for advice, the number-one response was overwhelmingly their accountants. Professionals such as accountants and attorneys are indispensable to have in your support system. If you don’t want to pay fees to have these pros on contract, you can always pay on an as-needed basis or sign up for online services such as LegalZoom, RocketLawyer, or SmallBizAccountants.com.
4. Online communities are highly accessible
You’ve probably already figured out you can find almost everything online, even a community of like-minded entrepreneurs looking for (and willing to offer) advice and support. There are hundreds of online communities you can join (such as American Express OPEN) and benefit from. Check with your industry trade association for online communities specific to your market.
There are many times entrepreneurship can feel like a lonely pursuit. By creating a support system, you’ll be better prepared to handle the inevitable highs and lows of business ownership.
(Disclosure: American Express OPEN and SCORE are my company’s clients.)