Last year, I did something that I didn’t expect I would ever do. I started my own company.
On both sides of my family, I come from a long line of intelligent, hardworking individuals who spent years working with the same organizations. My dad worked for over thirty years for the same company. My mom did social work for the county government for over two decades. My grandfathers had similar track records. There was only one exception in my life.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have the urge to start my own company. I did, at least conceptually. Yet, I am risk averse, my comfort zone for most of my life has been small. Starting a business is a grand risk that takes self-confidence, courage and a little bit of crazy. Not to mention a lot of resources.
The one exception was my older brother who after getting his MBA and Doctorate decided that working for himself was the best avenue for him. He started a business providing learning solutions to corporations and organizations. Occasionally, we would talk about his business, and although he was proud of his work, at times he was frustrated by the challenges of running a business. A common theme in talking to entrepreneurs.
After being downsized through a corporate reorganization and a move to new city, I decided to take the plunge. Luckily, I had the resources and a loving wife that allow me to make this incredible journey into business ownership. Over the past year, I have pushed my zone of comfort, learned new skills and connected with amazing individuals within my new community.
When I talk to friends, family and old business acquaintances, I am asked how can they assist an entrepreneur like myself.
Here are my answers:
Introduce them to your connections: In the 1950’s they tried an experiment to see how people were connected, their research showed that ever person on the planet was connected by six other people. In today’s world, with Facebook, Twitter, the Internet, and Snapchat, we are now connected by three to four people. Building strong business relationships is critical to the success of start-ups. One of your connections may be the one that allows them to make it big.
Buy them a coffee or an adult beverage and listen: Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey. We are focused on the challenges of starting a business, getting financial support, marketing our products or services, finding partners, and building a team. At times, we need others to remind us that the world is still turning. Although somehow, we will figure out a way to talk about our business. (smile)
Invest in them: The simple form of investment is to purchase their product or services. This simple gesture may provide the necessary motivation to keep the business going. Of course, in my case, I realize that not everyone believes that they need leadership development, although, I know that leaders who use business coaches are more successful. (just saying). However, some of my best clients come from referrals from people I know. Lastly, invest in them directly by donating to their go fund me page or other social funding sites. It is amazing how much funding an individual can raise through their connections.
Give them an audience: Most of my entrepreneur friends have built a good connection by standing up and front of people and telling them their story. I worked for an organization that gave entrepreneurs a chance to stand up in front of millions of people and tell their story. It worked. People are more willing to buy a product or purchase a service when they hear the story of the business owner. Everyone belongs to organizations that need speakers ask your entrepreneur friend to tell their story.
Follow them: Social media is a boon for small business owners because they can connect with their customers, clients, etc. directly, at very little to no cost. Maybe your favorite entrepreneur owns a small shop down the street, perhaps across the country. One of my favorite restaurants is in Bath Maine (a three-day car ride), but I am still connected with them through social media. By following entrepreneurs and small business on social media, you can increase their circle of influence, especially by liking and sharing their posts.
Small Businesses powers are the economy. They are the individuals who are investing in our community. They are the leaders who are serving on boards of local non-profits. They are the people who are hiring employees. None of this will happen unless we invest our resources in making entrepreneurs successful.
John Thalheimer is a leadership expert from Nashville Tennessee. He continues his entrepreneur journey where he runs True Star Leadership and works on guiding individuals to better leadership. He has a master’s degree in organizational leadership and dual certification in leadership coaching. When asked, John will admit he doesn’t drink coffee but has yet to turn down a chance to talk anyone about his adventure.