By Alyssa Gregory
We’ve all heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a village to grow a small business, too. Sure, it’s possible to become successful on your own, but the small business journey can be easier, smoother, and more satisfying when you have a support network. Think of it as your own small business village.
Right off the bat, your village should include business partners, investors, and employees – that’s your foundation. From there, you need to surround yourself with people who help you stay on track, find new opportunities, and get outside of your own head. Here are some types of support you may want to consider for your small business village.
Mentors are people who have been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale. Most mentors wear many different hats, including sounding board, cheerleader, devil’s advocate, trainer, public supporter, introducer, and more. For most mentors, the ultimate goal is to demonstrate positive behaviors that will help you reach success.
The right mentor has experience related to your business, industry, challenges and – most importantly – wants to share advice when you need it, support you through problems, and help you become better at what you do.
A business coach may serve a similar function to a mentor, but there is one major difference: you pay for the services of a business coach. A mentor generally provides all-around support and encouragement, while a business coach’s job is not to pat you on the back and make you feel warm and fuzzy.
You hire a coach for a specific purpose – to improve your time management, become a better public speaker, refine your marketing strategy, etc. – and his or her job is to do what it takes to address that challenge. Sometimes it takes tough love, but this makes your coach an invaluable member of your village.
Some of the best people you can have in your small business village are your peers. They could be colleagues, industry contacts, and even competitors. By forging collaborative relationships with peers, you will have companions in the trenches with you who are probably experiencing very similar challenges. Together, you can learn from each other, form alliances, and put the power of group thinking to work for you.
To start building your small business village, consider joining the local Chamber of Commerce or professional networking groups to get in contact with the right people. Join online communities and network whenever possible. Once you have your village in place, you will be ready to tackle your next big challenge.
This post was written in partnership with Progressive Insurance. I have been compensated, but the thoughts and ideas are my own. For additional small business tips, check out Progressive’s Small Business Big Dreams program.