by Jim Martin
Even a one person business needs a support network. Every business owner needs someone to talk to (or listen to) other than family members who have no clue as to what managing the business entails. You can’t just hang a sign in the window “confidant wanted.” But you don’t have to do it all alone. Here are some ideas you might consider:
The most obvious is to join an organization where you might find kindred souls. Your local Chamber of Commerce would be one possibility. Chambers have mixers that let you meet and befriend people with business problems and concerns similar to yours. Chamber meetings may raise issues about which you have concerns. You could also join a professional group or attend professional conferences. Both also offer speaking opportunities that might lead others to seek you out. Many of these opportunities are found in on-line chat rooms and blogs.
But professional organizations are not the only groups that could let you network. Alumni associations are valuable (particularly if you are a profession like accounting or law. You can meet like-minded people in groups like your child’s school’s PTA or at your church. Sports groups, volunteer groups and the like offer surprising opportunities for professional interface. I have made a number of contacts playing duplicate bridge. And don’t ignore the relationships you could develop with members of your religious community.
If your business grew out of your former employment, you might want to consider keeping in contact with your fellow workers. They might have ideas that would help you. They could also provide a “talking post” for solutions you might have under consideration. One caution: avoid making your visits appear like recruiting sessions. Trying to hire people from your ex-employer often proves counter-productive in two ways.
Lastly, a key part of your professional network should be a SCORE mentor. SCORE volunteers have decades of experience, often across multiple disciplines. Unlike some other members of your business network, SCORE mentors will never discuss your business or any aspect of it with anyone else. SCORE mentors can also guide you in trying to broaden your network.