By Karen Peacock
SVP and Small Business Segment Leader at Intuit
Running a small business can be lonely. There will be times when you don’t know who to turn to with your questions, and your support system can feel as small as your shop.
My advice: Ask others for help, and broaden your network to get it.
Seeking counsel — from mentors, peers, even your suppliers and vendors — is simply another way of taking charge of your business. Rather than being thought of as a weakness, reaching out can help your chances for success. I always say, “If you don’t ask, you won’t get.” One Intuit study found that 41 percent of small business owners feel lonely in their work life. That same survey found that 70 percent of small business owners say networking with other business owners is important.
In my experience, while it may seem daunting, pushing through your comfort zone can pay big rewards.
Connecting can energize you
Even beyond your immediate need to solve a particular problem, listening to how others approach their business or even their lives can flick on a switch in your own thinking. That can lead to a breakthrough insight into something you weren’t even considering.
A friend of mine who left corporate America to start her own consulting business told me that when she first struck out on her own, she missed the camaraderie that comes with being around other people every day. She’s a bit of an extrovert, and a joiner! To help fulfill her need to interact beyond one-on-ones with clients, she joined a group for working moms in her community. She also joined an organization for marketing consultants in the Bay Area and another sponsored by her business school alma mater.
Today, she’s part of probably four different groups that get together on a regular basis. They provide her with a real sense of community and the connectedness that she was missing.She’s been able to rebuild in this new chapter of her life; and she’s also getting business leads, which wasn’t even her main intent.
In your own community, you can find local organizations — like America’s nationwide network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) — to begin networking with neighboring business people.
If you’re shy or unaccustomed to reaching out to ask for help from fellow entrepreneurs in real-world one-on-one scenarios, find a network online.
Intuit built one called the Own It Network, an online community of small business owners supporting each other in growing their businesses. I love hearing stories about the relationships they build. The community has more than 100,000 members connecting to and learning from each other every day on topics like getting customers, goal setting, pricing and cash flow.
Think about where you’d like help
Find great people you can learn from, whether you know them directly or not. And make sure you have strategic partners who know what it’s like to run a small business and can offer you valuable advice.
For example, one of the most beneficial partnerships is the one you have with your accountant, who has insights into your business through a terrific window — your data. Chances are you already have a comfort level with someone who knows you on one of the most intimate levels of all — your finances — so it’s a great place to start. Your accountant probably has other clients who have faced the same issues as you. Ask for help, or for a helpful connection.
You don’t know what you don’t know
You should never stop learning. Take time to find and invest in relationships. There are plenty of people who have gone through similar experiences, have had others help them and would love to pay it forward by helping you.
All you have to do is ask.
This post first ran in Entrpreneur magazine on July 26, 2016 and is re-published with permission.