People you need in your life as an entrepreneur
One of the hardest things I find about being an entrepreneur and a solo-founder is not having a team around me every day. Lots of people think running your own business, even if you have a big team supporting you, is really glamourous and you live a life of luxury being in control of your time and calendar. And although to some extent that is true, being an entrepreneur can be very lonely. This is especially relevant when raising investment as you are often entering into unchartered waters for yourself and your business.
Recently I have learnt how important it is to build your own entrepreneurial tribe (ET) around you who can support you on your journey even if you do have a team of employees. So who do you need in your ET?
Your mentor has been there and done that. They’ve done and seen it all and although your business and your entrepreneurial journey may be different to theirs, they have years of experience that only time can buy you. Finding a good mentor is like finding a good pair of jeans – look after them, and if you can get more than one. You should nurture the relationship and be appreciative of their time and guidance. That’s not to say that your mentor is your new boss! A mentor is there to support you and impart some of their wisdom and knowledge they have picked up along the way. Additionally, a good mentor will be doing this out of the goodness of their heart and paying it forward, it’s there way of giving back to the entrepreneurial community.
The one thing a lot of entrepreneurs flounder at is knowing their numbers. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to get to grips with your numbers as early on as possible.
Trust me, I know. When I started running my first real e-commerce business I let my numbers run away from me. I was terrible at keeping track of my receipts and forecasting my revenue and was totally focused on the marketing and PR side of my business, which unsurprisingly was the area of my business I loved. It got to the stage where I ended up having to pay out a lot more in accountancy fees than I would have needed to if I had kept on top of my numbers from the outset.
A good entrepreneur knows their weaknesses and numbers are mine. I’ve been running various businesses for a long time now and over the years I have eventually got to grips with managing a (profitable!) profit and loss account (P&L) and forecasting sales. But despite knowing what I need to do with my numbers and knowing what sales I need to generate in my business, I still don’t like doing the accountancy bit. It’s far easier to build a team around you to fill in your skills gaps.
Finding a good accountant, much like finding a good investor, is like entering into a marriage. You have to trust this person to help you build strong foundations for your business. A good accountant will keep you accountable! They will work with you on your sales targets and give you goals to work towards. They will help you manage your cashflow and they will also help you do all the boring stuff like filing tax returns and end of year accounts!
Not everyone will need to have a lawyer from the get-go, although the sooner you consult a lawyer on your business, the better your relationship will be when it comes to actually needing their help. Some businesses however will need to seek legal advice as soon as possible. For example if you have developed a piece of technology is there a way a lawyer can help you protect the rights to use or replicate that technology? Getting good legal advice is also really important when it comes to choosing a brand name and securing a trademark. The last thing you need is to be challenged on your branding by a company far bigger than yours.
Having a lawyer is also imperative when it comes to raising private finance too. There are just some things you should never attempt to learn from Google and do yourself and anything involving legals ticks that box.
Everyone needs a cheerleader. Even the steeliest of entrepreneurs need people they can lean on when things get tough and to remind them just how far they have come.
A challenger is someone who will do just that. They will challenge your vision and your plans, ideate will you and help you think outside the box. They will pick apart your business and help you put it back together and push you further and harder to achieve your goals. This might be in the form of a business coach, mentor or even a fellow entrepreneur. I now have a number of “challengers” in my tribe including one I live with in the form of my other half! These people will ask you why until they can’t ask why anymore.
Why are you going to make this business a success? Why will these customers buy from you? Why are you different? Why is that better than your competitors?
The common thread with these people are that they will all offer you unwavering support on your entrepreneurial journey as you grow your business.
So how do you find them? The old-fashioned way! You’ve built relationships with them. They may be your friends, former colleagues or people you have met at a networking event. When it comes to finding a mentor or a group of mentors, try reaching out to people online who are in a similar space to you but further down the line. I’m constantly overwhelmed by how generous people are with their time and knowledge when you are truly appreciative and grateful for their help.
Starting and running your own business will undoubtedly be one of the hardest things you ever do and not even Mark Zuckerberg could do it alone. By surrounding yourself with an entrepreneurial team, building your personal tribe and utilising the resources in your network you will be well on your way to success.
In your experience, what other people are important to surround yourself with as an entrepreneur?