Wednesday, 19 February 2014

A problem shared is a problem halved?

Setting up your own business can be one of the most rewarding things you can do.  To be your own boss, make your own decisions around work / life balance and, hopefully, to experience the satisfaction of building something from nothing.

That said, in my experience it is also harder work than any job that I’ve ever had as I suddenly have to become a jack of all trades.  And while languishing around in a sea of business skills that I do not have, it’s very easy to start to feel somewhat isolated.

So what’s the solution?

The truth is that while I may be feeling all alone there are plenty of other people who are in the same boat.  Well, not exactly the same boat because they’re struggling with a lack of the skills that I have and, of course, they have skills that I don’t.  So if we were to work together, we would have a significantly smaller skills gap than we do alone. 

So this is the value of networking for the owner of a new business.  To get together with like minded business people who are in a similar boat and support each other, benefiting from both the skills and the experiences of the group as a whole. 

Of course, meeting other people and talking about your business is also a great marketing strategy.  You can convey face to face the benefits of buying from your business which, although small scale, is a very powerful method of getting your message out.  After all, people prefer to buy from (and recommend) people they like and it’s difficult to like someone you’ve never met.  From my own experience, the best source of clients by far has been people I’ve networked with, either directly or by referral.

That said, it’s not just about connecting with potential customers.  I have also made the effort to connect with other people in my profession.  In some ways we are competitors, but they are the people who know my market and the challenges specific to my chosen field.  If properly managed, these relationships are so valuable as these are the people who have experienced and overcome the very issues I’m facing and who can offer the solutions I need to help me do the same.

I love networking.  I really enjoy meeting with other people and hearing about their businesses as well as having the opportunity to bounce around ideas for my own.  I have met some great people who have supported me tremendously, sometimes without even knowing just how much.

So my advice for anyone starting out in business is to get involved in some networking groups, build some relationships and realise that you are far from alone.

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