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9 Support Networks All Entrepreneurs Need to Succeed in Business

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support networks for entrepreneurs
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Entrepreneurship is a lonely, but rewarding venture but you don’t have to go at it alone. While new business owners are advised to have an accountant and lawyer on their team, there’s rarely mention about the support networks you need as you start and grow your business. The people in these networks keep you focused, motivated and accountable. They are sources of encouragement, ideas, referrals and resources. Additionally, they give you feedback, constructive criticism and guidance.

Regardless of which stage your business is in, you’re going to need support. It’s best to establish your support systems as soon as you consider starting your own business. Then, cultivate those relationships as your business grows. Following, are the 9 support networks entrepreneurs need to succeed.

1. Mentors

A mentor is someone who has experience in the area in which you need help and is willing to help you. They provide direction and guidance, and shorten your learning curve by months, even years. Mentoring relationships can be formal or informal, in-person or virtual. Generally speaking, the mentor gives more than the mentee. However, the mentee can reciprocate by checking in periodically and asking if he or she needs anything. When contacting your mentor for advice or check-ins, be respectful of his or her time.

2. Accountability Partners (AP)

Accountability partners are the most important support person in your network. They hold you accountable for completing short-term projects. This is either a free or paid virtual relationship that requires commitment from both parties.

Here’s how this relationship works: You tell your AP the project you’re working on, the estimated completion date and desired result. Send a tentative outline of the steps required to complete the project. You both set a mutually convenient check-in schedule.

During check-ins, you will give an update on your progress, discuss challenges and next steps and ask for advice, if needed. You could also brainstorm ideas. Your partner can be a mentor, coach, friend or colleague. Essentially, it is anyone committed and invested in your success.

3. Coaches

Coaches help you develop personally or professionally. You hire and pay them for a set amount of time, although the time could be extended upon agreement by both parties. You can work with multiple coaches simultaneously. Be sure the people you’re considering hiring are qualified to help you before investing in their services. Also remember that you can fire them if they don’t provide the service and support you need.

4. Mastermind Groups

Mastermind groups are small groups that help you move forward professionally and keep you accountable in your endeavor. The group meets on a regular basis and each team member has a turn to discuss his or her successes and challenges, brainstorm ideas and consider possible solutions based on suggestions from team members. They meet in-person or virtually over a long or short-term period. These groups can be formal or informal and with paid or unpaid memberships.

5. Online Groups

Online groups are very convenient when you need help, especially when you spend most of your time online. Most groups are either on Facebook or LinkedIn. The most effective groups have active moderators that post frequently and hold members accountable.

The benefits of these online groups include, but are not limited to, meeting new and cool people, giving and receiving help and accountability. In addition, you’ll develop relationships that may grow offline.

In order to benefit from these groups, though, you have to be active. Don’t just appear with the expectation of getting help or drop in periodically. Be prepared to share your knowledge and experiences consistently. Memberships to online groups are typically free.

6. Meetups

Check out Meetup.com to connect in-person with people with similar interests in business, hobbies or fitness. In addition to meeting people and learning new things, there may opportunities to conduct presentations and workshops. You may also connect with potential partners for business projects. Most meetups are free to attend however, some events require a small fee.

7. Professional Organizations

These member-based organizations cater to professionals in specific professions and industries. Continuing education, updates on industry news and laws, and networking opportunities are just a few benefits they offer. You have to pay annual dues, as well as registration fees for monthly meetings and other events.

8. Friends

Friends are your foundation. They will listen to you, encourage you, and be honest with you, even if you don’t like it. When they may not know what you’re talking about. They may even ask clarifying questions and offer suggestions. Most importantly, they will comfort you during challenging times.

9. Business Development Centers

Your business growth is their priority. They have counselors and partners to help you at all levels of business. They hold workshops, seminars, conferences and networking events, sometimes in partnership with organizations who want to reach business owners. They offer opportunities to pitch and present your business to investors and banks for funding. And they connect you with other business owners who can become clients or partners. Counseling services are free, but you do have to pay for workshops, conferences and other special events and services.

Marcie Hill is a freelance writer, blogger, trainer and author who left her job to pursue her dream of writing. She has written over 3,000 blog posts; self-published eight books; and presented at national and local conferences. Currently, she’s researching Chicago’s roller skating history with a goal of publishing her book soon.

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By investing your time and effort in networking, you will gain more business through the relationships you make

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Are you completely new to networking?

Then this article is a great place to start. Networking isn’t hard on paper…you go along to online and in-person meetings, make new connections and build relationships, and those relationships lead to more work so you can grow your business! The challenge is that in reality, it isn’t quite so straightforward, as our emotions get involved and make things much tougher.

It’s incredibly common for nerves to creep in and to feel overwhelmed and apprehensive when it comes to networking – even when it isn’t new to you. But how can you become more successful at it, feel less self-conscious, and make networking work for you and your business?

Here’s a few tips to help you embrace every business networking opportunity you get, so you can grow your business and achieve your goals.

Rock up with confidence

If you want to keep those nerves at bay and ooze confidence at networking get-togethers, you’ll need to downplay it rather than seeing it as a big occasion. Try not to put pressure on yourself and see it as a casual meet-up with a bunch of people with similar goals to you. To help you relax in the run-up to the event, be sure to set achievable goals and expectations before you go.

Keep your chin up and your goals in mind – positivity is key. One easy goal for your first networking meeting is very simply to speak to one other person and see where the conversation goes. Introduce yourself and your business, but take the time to listen to their story, too. It’ll only take a few minutes and will be over before you know it, so it’s nothing to fear. You may even enjoy it and want to speak to a few more people, too!

“You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie

Where to go networking

If you’ve never been networking before, it might not be very easy to find a group – but only because there’s so much choice and you don’t know where to start your search! Groups come in different sizes and styles, so it’s important to find one that suits you and your business. Informal, formal, big, small… the choice is yours.

For your first meeting, start small to ease yourself in – a big group could prove too daunting, and stop you from feeling comfortable enough to get involved. After all, you want to make a strong first impression!

If you’re wondering which group to opt for in the long-term, give a few a go! Get a feel for them, speak to as many people as you can, and see which one suits! You’ll know when a group feels right for you, and you can see where those all-important relationships are most likely to be built. If a group doesn’t feel like the right for you, give a different one a go.

Get more leads and referrals

This will happen for you, as long as you put the effort into building those relationships. If you take the time to get to know people, and then check in with them and support them, they’ll see you as a trustworthy and reliable contact who they can call on. And when they feel that way, those leads and referrals you’re looking for will come a-knocking.

Once you’ve made relationships with people who you trust, and they’ve had a positive experience working with you, you can even ask for referrals! But don’t rush this, as you don’t want to inadvertently push people away or try and force the relationship along too quickly.

When you do get an opportunity to work with someone you’ve met at a networking group, go above and beyond to offer more value than they’re expecting, as then, they’ll be much more likely recommend you and introduce you to more of their contacts!

Grow your business

By investing your time and effort in networking, you will gain more business through the relationships you make, and you will be able to grow your business.

We know that it’s not easy, going networking for the very first time. And that’s why we want to give you all the advice and tools that you need so you can walk in with confidence and make the most of the opportunity.

2023 is just around the corner, and you have the chance to make it the year you make networking work for your business. And the benefits could be incredibly amazing for your business, just like they have been for ours, and many business owners we have worked with over the years.

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