Being an entrepreneur and the leader of a small business can be a lonely experience. I have personally struggled with many critical and challenging business decisions, with just my own thoughts and the dimly lit ceiling I stared at during a night of not being able to sleep. Whether it was hiring my first controller, making payroll, or any of the hundreds of difficult decisions and challenges I have had to make as a small business owner, I recognized early on that working through these issues on your own is wrought with danger.
When you decided to become a business owner, you may not have realized how many business decisions you would have to make in any given week, or how ill prepared you were to make them. Your friends and family, while good intentioned, are typically not equipped to offer you advice on the issues which you grapple with, although that doesn’t stop them! Often the best advice they can offer to you is to “stop this crazy idea and to go and get a real job”. After all, they have real jobs. They have a steady paycheck, and they don’t understand the burning desire that you have to build your Company and shape it to your own vision.
Over the years, I have carefully crafted a peer group of other business owners and entrepreneur friends that are my regular sounding boards on a wide variety of business, sales, financing, and operational issues that I grapple with. In fact, I can say today that most of my friends are either entrepreneurs or at least very entrepreneurially minded. They deal with many of the day to day issues that I do, and by sharing our experiences we provide real value and support to each other, in a completely non-judgmental manner. After all, we recognize that we have all gone through the same issues, or we will soon.
Anyone who is considering starting a business or currently has a small business should begin assembling a peer group of other small business owners to share ideas and experiences. It is not hard to do. They could be within your industry or out of it, it doesn’t really matter. The principles of running a business are universal, and while the industries may change, the principles do not, and you can benefit from the first-hand knowledge of another entrepreneur. Write down an initial list of business owners that you know, or want to know, and call them up. Tell them that you would like to meet with no agenda other than you are interested in a developing a friendly peer to peer relationship with them where you can occasionally bounce ideas off each other and you feel you could benefit from their advice. Ask them for their experience, you will be amazed at the positive response you will get.
Entrepreneurs are the most positive, forward thinking group of individuals I know. Think about it, how could you not be and optimistic and a positive person and be an entrepreneur. It just couldn’t happen. Surround yourself with these types of people. Build a group of peers around you that can help you navigate the minefields of running your own business, and give you the confidence that you can do it. When you decide to make your peer group a priority, you will begin to find it a little less lonely at the top, and a lot more fun being an entrepreneur.