When none of your friends are flying solo, it can be tough. It means there’s no one in your life you can talk to (or vent with!) about the unique challenges of running a small business … and there’s also no one who just ‘gets it’ when there are wins to celebrate.
It can be very isolating.
So, is it time to ditch your current friends and find some new ones? Well no, (unless your current crop of friends is a bunch of dream killers determined to hold you back from success).
What you actually need is a business tribe – a group of people heading in the same direction as you, from whom you can draw support.
Where does one find a business tribe? Here are four suggestions:
1. Online forums
Online forums such as the Flying Solo community have been around for over 20 years now and are unrivalled for their ability to facilitate robust discussion around niche topics in a safe environment. The ‘safe’ feeling comes from the fact that forums are generally well-moderated (ie the rules of discussion and engagement are clearly defined) and if you need additional privacy, you can operate under a pseudonym if you desire. From a business point of view, they’re great places for a like-minded group of people to bend their collective mind to a problem you have, and also provide a bit of cheerleading and inspiration.
While Flying Solo’s community is free to join (for now!) many online forums these days are paid services and I can sum up why it’s worth ponying up the cash to be part of those in one word: access.
Let’s say you really dig the online personas of people like Chris Ducker, Tim Reid, James Schramko or Michaela and Warrick from the Tradies Business Show. Well, being part of their paid communities gives you direct access to both those individuals and the smart, motivated people they tend to attract.
The other great thing about these online communities is they often have offline meetups. This presents an opportunity to take the relationships you’ve formed in the forums to the next level.
2. Facebook groups
Many people preference these kinds of groups over online forums these days because hey, we’re all on Facebook all the time anyway right? Well, this is both a good and bad thing.
It’s good because we don’t have to try too hard to be active members of these groups. Facebook tells us when there’s something new going on and we can quickly dip in and out as time allows. It’s also good because there are Facebook groups for every business niche you can imagine. (I, personally, belong to groups related to start-ups, freelance writing, writing in general, blogging, online business, visual marketing and small business.)
It’s bad, however, because there are too many distractions on Facebook. You could be in the middle of typing a helpful response to someone, see that little red notification light up, scamper off to check out what new thing just happened … and never come back to finish that helpful post you were typing. The way posts are organised in Facebook groups also means if you post a question, and that question doesn’t get a response immediately, it very quickly floats away into obscurity.
I’ve also found that while paid, or invite-only Facebook groups are great, the unpaid/anyone can join types tend to be very noisy, poorly moderated and full of self-promotion. So choose your group wisely!
3. Conferences and festivals
I’ll never forget my first conference (which happened to be a blogging conference). It was so liberating being in a room where I didn’t have to explain to anyone what blogging was, or justify why I was spending money on something I wasn’t actually making money from. It was also hugely inspiring being around people who just ‘got it’. I had the same feeling when attending the Tropical Think Tank conference for the past two years and also whenever I go to a Perth Writers Festival.
That feeling of being around ‘my kind of people’ is just the best and even though I’m a mega-introvert, I’ve managed to form incredible relationships at these events; relationships that have definitely underpinned any success I’ve had in my professional life.
Local meetups are also great for finding your business tribe and Meetup.com is a brilliant website for finding meetups that are relevant to you both from a geographical, and specific interest, point of view. When I went to the Meetup.com home page and typed in ‘small business’ it offered me no less than 100 groups I could be part of depending on what part of Perth I live in and whether I consider myself a ‘small business owner’ or ‘entrepreneur’. A few meetups have been started by Flying Solo community members. They can be found here. And if you’re interested in starting a meetup of your own – we’ve written a guide on that here.
Why it’s worth finding your business tribe
I’m a firm believer that it’s very hard to be what you can’t see. Say you’re trying to run a successful online retail business, for example. If you don’t actually know someone who is doing that, it’s hard to achieve that goal yourself.
When you do personally know, and have access to, people who are achieving the goals you’re striving for, however, it’s a complete game-changer.
Finding your tribe puts you in contact with people who are either currently facing, or have faced the same challenges as you. It gives you the chance to both benefit from their experience … and enjoy the power of belief that comes from knowing that the thing you’re striving for is not some distant dream, but a very real possibility.
Have you found your business tribe? How has that helped your business?