It’s rare that anyone who starts their own business has a totally smooth ride. Ask any entrepreneur what they learn most from, and they’re bound to say their mistakes – and the lessons they learnt.
And I’m no different. I have experienced the entrepreneurial roller coaster.
Since 2001, I’ve launched a business in three European countries and have also lost a business, restarted it, rebuilt it, merged the business with my largest competitor and exited.
In 2014, I started my current business, Bold Clarity.
Regardless of where you are in your entrepreneurial journey, it’s vital to have a network around you who understand what you’re going through, can revel in the good times, and can help and support you through the bad.
Throughout this journey, I have had a supportive peer group of entrepreneurs.
There are many different networking and support groups aimed at business owners, both non-profit and some are for profit.
A few include: the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Entrepreneurs Organisation, the Young Presidents Organisation, Vistage, the Academy of Chief Executives, the Academy of Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs, BNI, Supper Club, chambers of commerce, breakfast clubs, dinner clubs, plus a whole host dedicated to specific industries and gender: female, tech and marketing entrepreneurs, and accelerators aimed at start-ups.
The one I joined, and have been a member of for 14 years plus, is the global non-profit, the Entrepreneurs Organisation (EO), whose members all own businesses turning over in excess of $1m.
Throughout the time I’ve been building and running my businesses, it’s been there to advise, support and inspire me – even when I was going through the very worst times.
Four things I have learned about joining the right peer group:
- Find the right peer group for you
In my experience, entrepreneurs need an independent, objective, conflict free, support group which can offer different perspectives and experiences on the opportunities and challenges they face. It is important to research and find a peer group that matches your values, vision and aspirations for how quickly and how big you want to grow your business.
2. Get involved and give back
You’re probably too busy, don’t have any time for your hobbies, don’t see your friends or even family, and then somebody asks you to get involved. Do it. Work expands to fill the time you have.
I thought I was too busy, and then I realised how much I could learn, and how much money, time and wasted energy it would save me.
I grew my leadership, coaching and communication skills, as well as built a network of like-minded business owners, who I could call on when I needed help.
3. Stay connected in tough times
When you are facing a difficult time, your instinct might be to turn inward and shut yourself away. In my experience, that was the time when I needed to stay involved, stay in touch and be connected.
Don’t be afraid to reach out, ask for help and show your vulnerability, as this is the time when you need the support of your peers the most. And they will respond.
4. The most surprising result
One of the most surprising, and enriching benefits of belonging to a peer group is the lasting friendships I have developed. I have found people who are like-minded, have aspirational views, and really want to give back, support and nurture me as I take on new challenges and face the ups and downs of running a business.
I have shared some of the most important moments of people’s lives, by attending weddings, seeing children born, and having the connection and support, even when I lost my father.
For entrepreneurs, their business is their whole life. The best peer groups treat the whole entrepreneur in a 360 approach – business, personal, family and community.
It is worth taking the effort to find the right one.