You may have chosen to be a one-man or one-woman business, but that does not mean you have to do everything yourself. In fact, it is impossible to do so. Get the help you need by actively building a support network. It will make you a better business person and help you maintain your sanity.
Identify the Kind of Help You Need
Take an inventory of your personal skills – where are your strengths and where are your weaknesses? Also, ask yourself: “Among my strengths, what do I really like to do and what would I rather NOT do (even though I can do it pretty well)?”
Have a serious brainstorming session (with yourself or a trusted advisor) and make three lists:
- What things do you do well and want to (must) handle yourself?
- What things do you do well, but would rather not do – if you had the choice – and could be delegated to others.
- What are your areas of weakness that will definitely require help?
List #3 is where you should focus you efforts initially. Identify people who can help you with each function. If you cannot identify specific people, look for freelancers, virtual assistants, and businesses that could help you.
List #2 is one that you will want to save, because even though you may not be able to delegate these functions immediately because of budget constraints, eventually you should plan to find a way to have others handle them.
Ask for Help
Never be afraid to ask for help when you need it. No one can possibly know everything and do everything that is required to run and develop a business. Learn to recognize when you need help and get comfortable reaching out to contacts who can help you.
Prepare Your Elevator Pitch
This is a short, catchy statement that you can deliver in 30 seconds (or less) to capture someone’s interest in what you do. It should be friendly, interesting, memorable, and quickly explain what makes you (or your business) unique.
An effective elevator speech will serve you extremely well when networking one-on- one, introducing yourself (your company) at a meeting, when hiring outside help, etc.
It should be natural and roll off your tongue effortlessly without sounding canned – which may take a little practice. Don’t panic, you will get this. All you have to do is start and have fun with it. Write your first one, begin using it, and slowly but surely, refine it until it works perfectly.
Learn to Network
Develop your networking skills. Put yourself “out there.” Every person you meet or interact with may be helpful to you in some way. Make connections, build relationships, and find a way to add them to your network – as a customer, a colleague, an advisor, a mentor, or valued friend.
Relationships of any kind should be reciprocal. Look for ways to help them – offer them something they can use. Avoid focusing on what they can do for you.
Online networking can be done through social media (of course), through forums, Facebook Group Pages, and Webinars; but, do not restrict yourself to the Internet.
Get to know (and be known) in your community through networking events. Attend them regularly (at least once a month). Networking is most effective when it is scheduled and when you set goals on the number of new contacts you want to establish within a certain time frame.
Join the Chamber of Commerce
Your local Chamber of Commerce is a perfect place to get started networking. Many online businesses forget about this option or think that it is unnecessary because most of their business is done on the Internet.
The Chamber of Commerce is made up of all types of people and works for the mutual benefit of every member. It is ideal for connecting with like-minded business people, to spread awareness locally about what you do, to participate in events, to make great friends, and can be a possible source for joint venture partners, new employees, or even a way to find a mentor.
Join Discussion Groups
Online these are called Forums, but you can also seek out others in your community who are in businesses similar to yours (or share similar interests) with whom you can bounce ideas around, voice your frustrations, solve problems, share failures, and celebrate successes, which helps everyone learn. If you cannot find a group you like, start your own.
Stay in Touch
This is a subject that could be a separate posting, but for now – remember to stay in contact with members of your network even if you are not currently doing business with them.
The easy way to stay in touch is through social media. This is a particularly good method if you have established your own Facebook group. E-mail messages are also effective; but, learn how to do this correctly so that you do not drive people away.
Send occasional casual email messages with updates on your business, or helpful messages that could help them in some way, but NEVER make the mistake of hounding them with “opportunities” to buy – that is a surefire way to lose them.
Find a Mentor
Networking is a valuable activity for expanding your circle of influence and sharing information; but, for specialized personal growth, find a mentor. A mentor should be a role model, a coach, and someone who will tell tell you the truth – no sugar coating. S/he should be further along the path you have chosen to follow than you are – and should have achieved a measure of success. Interacting with a mentor can teach you a lot, including how to avoid the mistakes they have made along the way.
Develop Good Management Skills
If you have been in the business world for anytime at all, you know there are great managers, terrible managers, and a lot of so-so managers. Good management is a skill that you can develop and is critical if you want to grow your business – especially if you plan to eventually have employees and/or use outside help.
Good managers are patient, flexible, kind, good communicators, trustworthy, organized, and enjoy people. Get to know the people you work with. This includes everyone: part-time helpers, full-time staff, vendors, virtual assistants, freelancers, etc.
Be straightforward, clear, and kind in your communication, provide useful feedback to help make things run more smoothly, and give appropriate praise and rewards for a job well done. A sincere “thank you” can work wonders in building strong working relationships. People like to know that they are making a difference and adding value, so let them know when they do.
These are some of the most important relationships you will establish over the years. Treat people well and they will be in your network for a very long time.
©Blurtigo Holdings, LLC