Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely pursuit. Sure, you might have employees or you might spend your days surrounded by other customers at the coffee shops you work out of, but when it comes down to your business’s ultimate success or failure, you’re on your own.
To make matters worse, it can be hard to explain the challenges that the solo nature of this pursuit presents to people who haven’t traveled the entrepreneur path. Friends and relatives might listen with interest, but they just aren’t able to relate to the pressure running a business puts on a person.
The best solution I’ve found is to join entrepreneurial organizations -- membership programs that allow me to connect to fellow business owners. I’m currently a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and YEC, but others such as the Young Presidents’ Organization and the Women Presidents’ Organization, can help you take advantage of all of the following benefits:
1. Targeted Q&As and networking
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into questions that only other entrepreneurs could answer. Whether it’s a recommendation for a product to meet a specific need or a question on how to handle a particular business challenge, it should go without saying that people who have been through the issues you’re facing are the best people to answer your questions.
Entrepreneurial organizations can help you answer these questions through user forums, member Q&A sessions and more. But if you need more personal assistance, there’s another powerful benefit that many networks offer: targeted warm-lead introductions.
Say I was an entrepreneur looking to pursue a seed fundraising round. I could read articles about how to best approach the process, or, if I was a member of an entrepreneurial network, I could reach out and ask to be introduced to people who have successfully gone through the process themselves. The entrepreneurial organization could then make introductions for me, giving me a much better chance of initiating a meeting than if I reached out on my own to make a cold introduction.
2. Mentorships and menteeships
Most entrepreneurial organizations offer meetup events -- either online or in person -- that help members to connect. In many other cases, the warm-lead introductions made by these networks can lead to powerful relationships in both directions.
Finding mentors who can guide you through your business’s challenges is a major perk for members of all entrepreneurial organizations. However, it can be just as powerful to be introduced to a fellow growing business owner who is seeking information you can provide. In my experience, I’ve found that becoming a mentor to these up-and-coming entrepreneurs is a great way to reignite my own passion for business and to keep my skill set and knowledge as sharp as possible.
3. Special discounts and educational opportunities
Certainly, one of the biggest benefits of joining any type of member’s-only organization is the discounts it provides. And entrepreneurial organizations are no exception!
Take, for example, the “EO Marketplace” offered by the Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO). In this special area of the website, the more than 10,000 members can post listings offering discounts off their products or free upgrades for other EO members. Not all of the ads posted will interest all members, but if you stumble across something good, you can easily make back the cost of your membership fee!
Many of these networks also offer educational partnerships that help members either gain access to certain programs or receive tuition discounts. Just take a look at the benefits offered by YEC, which has partnerships with Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, UNC’s Kenan-Flager Business School, UC Berkeley’s School of Information, the USC Rossier School of Education and the American University's School of International Service.
4. Brand-building resources
Finally, I can absolutely say that I’ve benefited from the editorial programs that many entrepreneurial organizations run, which allow me to share my knowledge on sites such as VentureBeat, Yahoo! and more. Because the content I share on these sites helps me establish myself as a leader on digital marketing strategy, they contribute positively to my lead generation activities and help me make enough sales to cover the costs of my member fees.
Depending on the particular networks you decide to join, you may encounter other brand-building opportunities, including mentions in press releases put out by the organizations, speaker-panel inclusions and more. My advice to you would be take advantage of as many of these opportunities as you encounter. You never know how a particular piece of press will contribute to your business’s growth!
Now I want to hear from you. Do you belong to any entrepreneurial organizations? If so, share the benefits you’ve experienced in the comments section below!