Dear business owner, do you ever feel….alone? Do you feel like you could be doing so much better if only you had a little more…support, knowledge, time?
Starting and running a business by yourself sure can feel like a solitary endeavor. I know.
There’s so much to learn, most of which has nothing to do with what your business actually does. Do you know how to build a website? Do you know what to do with an email list? Do you know which of your expenses are tax deductible?
I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if you don’t. Because I don’t. Well, I’ve got a pretty good handle on the tax one, but I’m still figuring out the rest. And, a lot of other business owners are too.
I promise, it’s not as hopeless as it feels.
Most people decide to start a business because they like doing what they do. They like to give massages or they like to style hair. But, they aren’t as excited to do all the business-y things.
You don’t have to go it alone, though. There are many great places to get help.
When You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
One of the things that can make owning a business seem so lonely is that there is so much to learn. And it can be tough to know where to start.
You already know your craft pretty well, but now you have to learn about running a business, too.
On top of that, lots of people are willing to help you…for a price. But how can you make sure that you’re focusing your money, and your time, where it will serve you the best? Especially when you don’t even know what you don’t know.
Google can be a good source of information. But, sometimes it can be tough to figure out which search terms to use when you don’t know what you’re looking for.
So, where do you turn when you just want some straight information?
S.C.O.R.E. – I’m sure you’ve heard of the Small Business Administration, but have you heard about the S.C.O.R.E. program that they run? It pairs up small business owners with retired executives as mentors. It can be a great way for an inexperienced business owner to have an ear to bend about her new business. Did I mention that it’s totally free, too?
Your personal results may vary based on the mentor that you get paired with (humans come in all types, of course). But if nothing else, listening to someone else’s story can give you ideas and inspiration for your own journey.
Local Community College – Your local community college probably offers business classes. There, you’ll find low cost, beginner level classes on everything from Business Basics to Web Design.
Industry Organizations – Whatever industry you’re in, there is probably some sort of organization around it. For example, here is a link to business classes offered by the American Massage Therapy Association. Check out what is available in your industry. You might be surprised at what you find.
One of biggest benefits of classes through your industry is that they are tailored to your specific needs. And, if it’s an in-person class, your classmates will all be people on same journey you are. Networking with them could be as valuable as the class itself!
When you want to know more
As you make progress on your journey as an entrepreneur, you’re going to find certain topics that you want, or need, to learn more about.
Once you’ve got the basics down, some things will be interesting enough that you’ll want to learn more. Others will be so important to your business that you’ll need to know them well, or find someone that does.
In those cases, you’ll want to find someone you can trust to give you the right information. But, unless you have a wide and varied network to reach out to (If you do, yay you!) you might not even know where to start.
You’re going to want to find an expert. Someone who is trained at bookkeeping or marketing or whatever it is that you need. Someone who can teach you what you need to know. Or, maybe even, someone you can hire to perform that function for your business.
These days, the internet is full of experts. Anyone who can make a webpage can claim to be an expert. This is an issue for us as much as it is for you trying to find one. We need a way to stand out as much as you need help finding us.
So, how can you find an expert you can trust?
Online Publications – Many experts attempt to ‘prove’ their skills by creating ‘content’. Content can be anything. This blog post is part of my content where I am trying to prove that I really am a smart cookie.
There is a side effects to so many people trying to prove how smart and helpful they are. There is now a wide array of blog posts, webinars, ebooks, podcasts, etc. created on any subject you can think of. With a little Googling you can find anything you want.
One warning, though. Just because someone has created a lot of content, doesn’t mean it’s good content. You will want to compare several sources, and make sure that they agree before you trust that expert.
Chamber of Commerce – Of course, not all experts create content and post it online. So, sometimes, you’ll have to take your search offline. Your local chamber of commerce can be a great place to get a personal recommendation. Even if there are no members in the industry you’re looking for, they still might be able to make a recommendation.
And, you could join the chamber yourself. Then, you would have regular opportunities to network with lots of other business owners. Business owners who have encountered many of the same issues you might face. That alone is worth the cost of joining.
LinkedIn – LinkedIn is like Facebook for professionals. You can connect with other business owners, or follow thought leaders in your industry. You will form a network that you can ask for recommendations or help. And, many people post their content directly to LinkedIn. So, you won’t have to go far to find lots of great information.
When You’re Ready to Take It to the Next Level
You could spend all day trying to learn about owning a business and still not get through everything out there. In fact, with how much new stuff is constantly being written, there’s no way you could ever get ahead of it.
And, honestly, there are too many things you’re going to have to know how to do. You can be a beginner at a lot of things, but you can’t be an expert at everything.
The next level is working WITH other people. That is how you achieve more than you could on your own. It’s more than hiring an employee, it’s working alongside someone who has the same goals that you do.
But you’ll want to find someone you can trust. Someone that wants to change the world in the same way that you do. By working with someone like that, you’ll effect more change than either of you could alone.
So, how can you move past learning stuff and start changing the world?
Free Consultations – Many businesses offer a free consultation. This can be a great opportunity for you in two different ways. First, you can get some of that expert’s knowledge for free. Even if you end up not purchasing further services, you might end up with some good ideas.
Now, obviously you don’t want to take advantage of an expert. Arranging free consultations with several different web designers, so you can get some ideas for your website is a scummy thing to do.
But, don’t feel obligated to hire an expert that isn’t a good fit for your business. And, if you happen to be able to use some of their ideas on your own, there’s nothing wrong with that.
There is another, more nuanced message you can take from a free consultation, though. You can gauge the expert’s communication style and their feelings about cooperation. When you find someone that shares your own goals and values, you will feel the connection. That is the person you need to work with.
Referral Network – If you’re looking for an expert to work with, a good way to find one is by asking your friends. A personal reference is always powerful. And, since your friend trusts that expert, it’s reasonable for you to too.
But, sometimes it’s more powerful to give than to get. Referring your clients to other experts can be a great way to build relationships. You’ll gain the expert’s trust at the same time as you’ll get to see the expert in action (maybe even before you’ve hired them to do work for you).
Synergize – Working together, we can create something bigger than we could on our own. That’s what synergy is.
A great example of this is the show “Small Business Revolution” on Hulu. A group of small businesses in the same town work together, with some expert guidance, to change their town and their lives. The results they achieve are remarkable.
True synergy is more than referring clients to each other. It’s more than utilizing each other’s services. It’s creating projects that couldn’t exist without the contributions of all of the members. It’s using our strengths to create something that is bigger than you or I. You’ll know synergy when you find it because it’ll feel like you’re doing something awesome.
Bringing it all together
Being a business owner can feel lonely. There are so many things to learn. And it can be scary and frustrating to try to do it all yourself. I know because I’ve been there.
But, there are so many amazing resources that can help you. The important thing to remember is that you’re only as alone as you let yourself feel.
There are lots of great places that can help you when you need more general information. Classes at your local community college, a mentor through the S.C.O.R.E. program, or an offering from an organization in your industry can be a great way to help you figure out what you don’t know.
Online publications like blog posts, webinars, and podcasts are great sources of more in-depth information. However, keep in mind that anyone can put anything out on the internet. So, always review enough content to make sure you can trust that expert.
Your local chamber of commerce and LinkedIn can also be great ways to network with experts that can help you learn more.
To really banish the business owner blues, though, you’ll need to go to the next level. The way you do this is by working with other business owners. You can learn a lot about someone by sitting through a free consultation with them. But, the real magic lies in freely giving referrals and by synergizing with other business owners.
By working with others, you’ll learn that even when it feels like you’re fighting this dragon alone, there are tons of other people fighting their own dragons too. And, by working alongside them, you gain allies for your own fight. That’s how we’re going to change the world, by working together.
If you’re ready to find some help on your business ownership journey, schedule a free consultation with me. I want to help you.