“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.”
~ Reid Hoffman
I wanted to talk to you about building a solid business network so that you can feel less alone on your business journey as well as reap the benefits of having more income, opportunities for support and collaboration and growth.
Operating as a solopreneur can be a lonely business indeed. Many of us spend all day home alone, working in front of a computer with nobody to bounce ideas off, share our coffee breaks with or to give us encouragement when we start to doubt ourselves.
It’s for this reason that I believe it’s so important to consciously create a business community to surround ourselves with. That is, a group of people who support and have an influence (directly or indirectly) on your business. Whether we do this or not, there will always be people who influence our business but not necessarily always in positive ways. I’d like to make the case for getting intentional about creating a business network that includes the following people:
- Your ideal clients.
- Your mentors.
- Your collaborators.
- Your Mastermind.
Your Ideal Clients
I know that you’ve probably already heard this a million times already, but it bears repeating. Having clarity on who your ideal client is, is incredibly important for your business. If you don’t get intentional about who your business serves and then making serious efforts to be in touch with those people on a regular basis, your business simply won’t grow. A lot of people get stuck trying to define their ideal client – with client avatar exercises a plenty on the internet, it can sometimes feel impossible to get down to the level of detail that we’re expected to. I have a few suggestions to make this process easier.
- Think about your ideal client for now. When we feel pressured to come up with our perfect ideal client for evermore, it can feel overwhelming and restrictive at the same time. Don’t worry about whether or not this is going to be your one and only, simply think about who you feel called to work with now. This takes some of the pressure off.
- Forget about demographics. Something that trips many entrepreneurs up when it comes to identifying and reaching their ideal client is nailing down the demographics such as age, ethnicity, location, gender, income etc, but I’m here to tell you that these matter far less than who your ideal client is on the inside. I much prefer to focus in on characteristics, traits, personal values and ways of being. Are they introverts or extroverts? Which do they value more, wealth or having an impact? Are they ambitious action-takers or are they currently feeling stuck and confused?
- Where are they on the journey? If the work you do supports people on a journey to get some place, where in the journey do you and your services come into the equation? For example, if you’re a coach who helps people get better at self care, is your ideal client someone who is heading for burnt out and needs urgent support before it’s too late, or someone who has already experienced burnout and is ready to finally start practicing self care to avoid it happening again? Knowing where your ideal clients are on the journey, really helps you to not only tailor your products and services to them, but to more easily find and connect with them.
Once you have this clarity, your next step is to begin forming relationships with these people, reaching out to them, offering your support, finding out more about what they are struggling with. Ideally, you’ll want the people in your community, who like and follow you on social media and who subscribe to your newsletter to be as close as possible to your ideal client.
Having mentors to support you on your entrepreneurial journey is absolutely crucial to your business success and your sanity. I certainly would not have the business I have today without the support and guidance of several incredible mentors along the way.
Now whilst I am, of course, an advocate for investing in business coaching, it’s not always the right time to hire somebody, nor it is it always feasible, for many small business owners to do so. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have mentors.
For the purposes of your business network, I would consider a mentor to be anyone whose business advice you are listening to and acting upon on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes we unconsciously create business mentors just by listening to their advice, perhaps it’s by subscribing to a newsletter (like this one!), reading their blog or listening to their podcast, without even realising, we begin buying into the approach they are sharing.
I believe it’s absolutely essential that we get intentional about whose advice we are listening to. I realised that much of the “business advice” I was consuming ran contrary to my own personal and professional values and beliefs. When I began to pay closer attention to whose blogs and newsletters I was reading, I was surprised to realise what advice I was allowing to filter into my consciousness. Now I’m much more intentional about the advice and information I consume, I’m especially mindful of who I allow into my inbox.
My suggestion is that you consider your business and select 5 people whose advice you want to follow, both when it comes to business in general and your industry specifically and then unsubscribe from everyone else. Not only does this help with inbox overwhelm but it ensures that you’re conscious of what advice you’re listening to.
Once you have identified your list of mentors, make efforts to connect and engage with their content and courses. Have them know that they are in your tribe by sharing the impact of their work on you and your business.
Having fellow business owners to collaborate with can be a wonderful thing indeed and collaborations can come in many forms. Back in 2018, I made collaboration one of my strategic priorities because I knew that my habit of going it alone was only ever going to get me so far. Nothing could have prepared me for the countless benefits that came as a result of the collaborations I have since formed. To give you a few examples, from my business, of how and who you might collaborate with.
- You can collaborate with people on content – for example I have over the years interviewed several amazing women and you can see examples of the results here and here. Or if playing the role of interviewer doesn’t appeal, you can collaborate by being the curator of content which I did for a 2-part blog series on creating clients which you can read here and here.
- You can collaborate with people on products – I co-created and co-hosted a 3-part online workshop series called The Business of Coaching with a former client, friend and mastermind partner. Helen and I created an enormous amount of content for this series, which took us half the time than it would have, had we done it alone. We were also always there to cheer each other on, when the task before us felt too huge.
- You can collaborate with people on services – you might invite your peers, for example to be guest experts for your program or membership, giving them more exposure at the same time as providing valuable content to your people. This is what I occasionally do in the Conscious Business Mastermind and as a result the breadth of teaching I’ve been able to provide for my members is richer than if I taught all of the classes myself.
The key here is to look at your peers and consider those people who you admire and perhaps those who are doing similar work and reaching a similar audience. Rather than view them as competitors, see the opportunity to collaborate instead.
A business mastermind needn’t be a paid for program like mine, it can be a small group of business owners who meet regularly to share mutual advice, feedback and support. I’m a huge fan of being in mastermind with others and for much of my career as a business owner, I’ve been in a such a group.
If you are going to set up your own mastermind group with some of your peers, I recommend discussing the following with your potential mastermind partners before you begin:
- The purpose of the mastermind and what you hope to get out of it. For example do you want compassion and nurturing or do you want to be challenged and held accountable? Are you all on the same page?
- How often and for how long you’ll meet. What can you each commit to?
- How you will organise the mastermind sessions? For example, with you have an agenda or a chair? Will you have set topics or see what comes up on each call?
- How will you dissolve the mastermind? It’s always good to discuss up front how you will end the mastermind, should it no longer feel like a fit for one or all of you?
Once you’ve thought about who you would like to be in mastermind with, don’t be shy, reach out and see if they feel the same way. You might be surprised how many of your peers could use the support of a mastermind too.
Then of course there are paid masterminds, just like my Conscious Business Mastermind, where you not only get the support and encouragement from peers but guidance and training from a professional in your field. I’ve utilised both paid and free masterminds over the years and found both to be extremely valuable.
So there you have it, 4 sets of people you want to begin consciously identifying and cultivating deeper connections with as you navigate the road of entrepreneurship. On the tough days, nothing helps you more than having a solid group of people in your corner.
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