Building a business all by yourself is not only a daunting proposition, it’s also an extremely lonely venture that could potentially be much more fun and effective if only there were a few more brains in the mix.
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We’ve all been there before — searching online for answers to complex questions, naively making the same mistakes that just about every other business owner has made before. But there’s good news: It doesn’t have to be this way.
If you’re running your business alone, it’s imperative and in your best interest to surround yourself regularly with the right people. Fortunately, finding those people is becoming easier and easier — and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go through the difficult task of finding a co-founder or business partner.
Meet with like-minded masterminds
Across the country, a new wave of communities is sprouting up. It’s practically becoming a movement, and it’s committed to supporting small-business owners and entrepreneurs. You can find this taking place at co-working offices, targeted networking events and incubators that host “mastermind” meetings and facilitated problem-solving forums.
“It's hard to achieve anything great alone,” says Lewis Howes, an author and lifestyle entrepreneur. Howes regularly runs “mastermind” meetings, where like-minded people come together and share ideas to help each other reach goals. In a mastermind meeting, which can be held on a weekly, monthly or as-needed basis, everyone is accountable to support each other’s venture and provide constructive feedback based on his or her own expertise.
Seek out formal training and support
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This kind of support isn’t exclusive to Silicon Valley — you can also find it across the country at business incubators and co-working hubs. “Accelerators and incubators are like good MBA programs,” says Christian Renaud, principal of business incubator StartupCity Des Moines.
StartupCity Des Moines was founded to support the explosion of new technology startups in central Iowa and to expose entrepreneurs to other business owners, mentors and educators. “You benefit as much from your peers as you do from the formal curriculum. You end up learning from each other’s successes and failures, so the teams get better, faster,” says Renaud.
When it comes to networking, it’s common to start finding yourself at events where all the faces are familiar and all of the conversations seem to be the same. Fortunately, unique opportunities are now popping up nationwide to assist business owners who are looking to network and talk through their complex business problems.
Problem-solve with people who aren’t exactly like you
“The most brilliant people in the world can't get to a compelling solution if they aren't aligned on how they're getting there and how to talk through it,” says Jason Wisdom, co-founder of The Design Gym. The New York City-based Design Gym is an educational company that teaches a methodology for solving problems creatively. Its community is made up of teachers, novelists, entrepreneurs and bankers.
“Those diverse lenses coming together and looking at the same problem is what makes for unique and interesting solutions,” Wisdom says. “We're seeing the beginning of much more loosely defined teams.”
Network with people you wouldn’t normally meet
Another uniquely designed networking event is Wok+Wine. Here, strangers gather to eat prawns, drink wine and talk business. Over 120 events have been held in 10 countries.
“By having to explain your concept to someone with a very different perspective to you,” says Wok+Wine Chief Engagement Officer Peter Mandeno, “you find gaps that need addressing or opportunities that need exploiting.”
The best communities and events aren’t just about meeting new people — they add value and help attendees gain insights for achieving goals. Whether a mastermind meeting, a co-working environment or a networking event, these gatherings have led to attendees finding business partners, vendors and customers. Some have even found more long-term mentors and advisors.
It may sound intimidating, or you may be wondering why you should invest time in something that isn’t directly related to running your business. But remember — building and maintaining a strong and diverse network can provide a significant boost as your business grows, pivots or looks to transition.
“Even the best entrepreneurs can learn from one another,” says Renaud.