How to use your entrepreneurial connections to grow

By | 2016-12-01T19:13:45+00:00 February 2nd, 2016|Productivity, Startup Culture|

It has been said that entrepreneurship is a lonely journey, but the most successful entrepreneurs and small business owners don’t do it alone. They benefit from having a strong community around them.

Communities offer entrepreneurs and small business owners affirmation that they can succeed, and provide them know-how, advice and role models. Being around others who think bigger, who think differently, and who have the courage to really “go for it” changes how you think. Successful, positive peers help you move beyond self-limiting beliefs.

Yep, there’s an organization for that.

You can access the wisdom of peers through groups like:

  • Entrepreneurs’ Organization
  • OwnersUP
  • Vistage
  • Women Presidents’ Organization
  • Young Presidents’ Organization

Most meet in-person on a monthly basis. But some, like OwnersUp, meet weekly online. Many peer groups have a trained facilitator who guides participants through solving problems by discussing the problem with people who have been there and done that. Some entrepreneurs and small business owners, such as Diana Lovett of Cissé Trading Company, which produces cocoa baking mixes, hot cocoa and ready-to-eat treats, have formed their own peer group, which they manage themselves. Together, members probe, ask questions and make suggestions to help each other generate better results for their businesses.

The benefits of a peer advisory group

Peer advisory groups offer a collaborative learning process that draws on the insight and wisdom of individual participants, resulting in a mix of ideas that benefits the whole. The group widens an individual’s circle of contacts across diverse backgrounds and industries. Members may forge business alliances with other members. The participants commonly see increased revenues in their businesses along with decreased costs.

Lovett’s group uses Slack, a desktop and mobile app that centralizes and organizes all communication in one place. Because they have a shared space in which to communicate, they don’t meet regularly or in-person. Instead, they simply reach out whenever they have a challenge. Lovett’s peer group consists of a small group of mom bosses in the food industry. They discuss everything from what to pay a babysitter to which company in the Rockies they should use for food demonstrations in supermarkets.

The bottom-line is that even if you consider yourself a been-there, done-that kind of person, remember that you can still benefit from peer support for:

  • a fresh perspective
  • help problem solving
  • a new business connection
  • an empathetic ear to listen
  • updated information related to your industry
  • disruptive solutions
  • encouragement when things get hard

No matter how experienced you are, you often need a fresh perspective when problem solving. Going outside your business can better help you see what’s going on inside. Whether it’s an opportunity you are evaluating or a challenge you are facing, many entrepreneurs and small business owners have learned that nothing stimulates their problem-solving process better than brainstorming with peers.

how to use your entrepreneurial connections to grow

Geri Stengel is president of Ventureneer, a marketing research company targeting small business. Geri is a regular Forbes contributor, consultant, Kauffman facilitator and the author of Forget the Glass Ceiling: Building Your Business Without One.