3 essential support networks for entrepreneurs

The life of an entrepreneur, especially in the initial stages of founding and growing a new company, is often marked by long, gruelling hours spent working alone. Though being your own boss is one of the main attractions to starting your own business, it is an inherently risky endeavour that can leave you making critical decisions alone, and ultimately shouldering a lot of responsibility.

We are social creatures by nature, and the ability to connect, collaborate and foster positive professional relationships is directly linked to the success and longevity of your business. As John Donne famously said, “No man is an island”, and we tend to do worse when we isolate ourselves from others, in both a personal and professional context.

Surrounding yourself with the right people and influences as you develop not only your business but your own skills as an entrepreneur can help to keep you focused and motivated, and on track to success.

Accountability and mastermind groups

Though being an entrepreneur is ultimately a solo endeavour, being a part of a mastermind group can restore the feeling of belonging to a team. Mastermind groups are essentially groups of like-minded business owners and entrepreneurs that gather to share and discuss problems, challenges and successes, and support one another’s professional development with practical ideas and solutions.

Surrounding yourself with those on a similar trajectory is particularly important to keeping your enthusiasm and motivation from stalling, and preventing your personal growth along with the growth of your company from slowing or halting completely. Such groups are also an invaluable means of learning from others on the same path, and forge meaningful business connections along the way.

Working with an accountability partner is another great way to stay on track in your business journey, and ensure you both hold each other accountable to your projects and goals. Having input from someone who is prepared to tell you the things you may not want to hear, while challenging you to continue pushing forward can be an important source of motivation during tougher times.

Business mentors and coaches

In the early stages of any new business, much of your time is taken up with the operational aspects of running your company. This often intensive workload requires a huge amount of drive and dedication, and having a mentor who has experienced and overcome similar challenges can provide invaluable insight and support.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that 94% of SMEs using external support saw benefits including increased ambition and higher turnover rates, while 71% of Fortune 500 companies use a mentoring program.

Being so entrenched in your own business, it may be easy for you to overlook areas which require improvement, whereas a mentor is more readily placed to identify weaknesses, and offer insight into the strategic aspects of your business with the benefit of their own extensive experience.

As an entrepreneur, the pressure of feeling that you must be an expert in all areas can quickly become overwhelming. Investing in a coach to improve certain key skills can help alleviate this, and developing your skills both personally and professionally can enable you to steer your growing business in the right direction, without becoming burnt out.

The role of family

A 2016 report from Bank of America on small business owners found that 57% of 1000 respondents said they relied on family members for emotional support, while 35% said family and friends help them the most with running their business.

Families can provide financial help in the critical initial stages of starting your business when capital is often severely limited, and it is hard to secure funding from financial institutions that may be reluctant to invest in a new venture with no proven track record.

While this financial safety net is no doubt important, it tends to be the emotional support that families provide that truly makes the difference to entrepreneurs. Having a support system not only at work but also at home is critical during times of increased pressure, and families can provide a much-needed respite from the daily stresses of a running a growing business. Whether it’s through simply lending a sympathetic ear, or providing the encouragement and understanding you need to keep going when you might otherwise feel like giving up, families play a crucial role in supporting developing entrepreneurs.