With the storms and upset of 2020 more than ever before, people seem to be “giving it a go” and starting their own business. Whether they have always wanted to start their own business and are doing it with purpose or lost their job which provided the nudge they needed, it’s exciting and, at times, also a worrying experience.
We all like to believe we will be the Unicorn. The one (almost mythical) company that hits it big overnight because of our amazing idea, skill set, personality, or passion. But the reality is the statistics are against us from the beginning, and most Unicorns are indeed a fable or became an overnight success due to the five years of hard work nobody saw while no one knew they existed.
But how about if we had a map to do the right things rather than the wrong things? The reason Indiana Jones was so successful as a treasure hunter was because he always had a map and he knew his stuff! He knew where the traps were and skillfully avoided them to get the treasure, where so many had failed in the past.
The Common Factor
After working with hundreds of small business owners, I decided to research business failure and expected to see hundreds of reasons for it. I was surprised to discover that it was the same seven reasons showing up time and time again. It prompted me to write the Se7en Deadly Start-Up Sins to share my discoveries. Rather than re-write the book here because there isn’t space, I am sharing the one common factor that most people were missing.
The biggest of my tips would be to surround yourself with the right people in the same way I did when starting my business which is now in its 14th year and which was self-funded or bootstrapped! While there was my own share of mistakes, I was saved from the severity of many or, at times, even wholly avoided them because I was able to tap into my close network of friends, colleagues, and business owner contacts who were able to share their experiences. We have to be humble enough not to believe we know it all, listen, and learn. We were given two ears and one mouth and should use them proportionately.
When we can surround ourselves with the right people, we can do what we have always done as human beings – learning. Learn from more experienced people. People who have been there and done that. Succeeded in this and failed at that. We learn from our parents, our teachers, our friends, and we can learn from other business owners. Unfortunately, we often ignore much of this sage advice, but hopefully not this time.
The Two Entrepreneurial Types
Overall, I have met two kinds of people who start their own businesses:
Someone who is born into an entrepreneurial family and has been surrounded by the skills and often has finance available to them and on the other hand people who are the first person to start a business in their family. Their experience is often more product/skill-based, and they come from doing a job. They often self-finance or bootstrap.
If both can learn to utilize their networks effectively, then the journey can be easier. For the second type of person starting a business, they often have to build this network because it doesn’t come naturally in the form of the Entrepreneurial family. Their contacts are their best friends, an ex-colleague at work, and family. There is a considerable gap in the kind of contacts needed to advise them on how to run a business or help them to do it.
There will be people reading this who have no intention of building a support and information network, preferring to do it themselves through hard work or hustling. Some are just not into people and like to go at it alone, and that’s ok. Both types of people can be successful, the networker or “team builder” and the individual “go it alone.”
I put it to you that the individual probably has to work a lot harder and spend more money to grow their business if doing it alone. Whereas the team player or “networker” is able to access information, best practices, referrals, and grow their business through their contacts.
A famous African saying sings out: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
Pick Up The Keys
If I had to leave you with two key tips to help you build this resource, it would be the below. Without these two key points building your trusted, highly connected network become next to impossible:
You give back what you put out there. If you want other people to help, you need to find ways to help them, or even better, help them first. It’s the same concept as if I buy you a cup of coffee you want to buy me one back. Reciprocity is ingrained in most people. For many people, it can be a substantial driver. If you find people don’t want to help you, then this is a good time to consider if you need them in your network. Imagine that you are building your dream team for your business support people who will lift you and not pull you back.
Credibility is everything. Do what you say you will do both in your business delivery, service, and quality and in your personal behavior. Return phone calls and email. Be on time for meetings and treat people with respect. Our staff will often behave in the same way we do, and so poor behavior is often exponentially copied to the detriment of the business.
These days make sure your social media profiles and behavior back up what you are promising in all of your marketing. People will help and build relationships with people they know, like, and trust. Looking back at my life, and I challenge you, the reader, to do that same, look at the most of the best opportunities that have happened to you. The majority will be linked to help from a person or a contact. You can continue to apply this lifelong learning to your future business. You never know where the next trap will come from or when the treasure is just around the corner.
No one was ever successful alone.
Phil can be reached at [email protected]