5 Reasons Why You Need a Support Network
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We all know the disastrous success rate of start-ups. I’ve spent the past 20 years working with thousands of entrepreneurs trying to understand the key factors that determine whether a business will be one of the 4% that succeed or one of the 96% that fail.
One of my observations has been that most successful entrepreneurs deliberately surround themselves with a support ecosystem during their early growth years. US research firm, Dun & Bradstreet discovered that only 10% of all businesses that fail close down involuntarily.
In other words, 90% of entrepreneurs who close their businesses simply give up. Anyone who has been on the entrepreneurial journey knows how many times we wake up in the morning wondering if it’s worthwhile continuing.
It’s particularly difficult when we’ve lost a major client or a key staff member, or we’ve had a quarrel with our partner, not to mention the stresses of managing that all-too-elusive cash flow.
Many entrepreneurs interpret having a support system as simply having a mentor. Although this is part of a support ecosystem, it is by no means the entire thing. Below are five types of support that I believe every entrepreneur should deliberately build into their journey.
1. STRATEGIC SUPPORT
As entrepreneurs, especially in the early years, we find ourselves deep in the operational aspects of the business and spend far too little time in the strategic mind-set. Surround yourself with at least two strategic thinkers who can give you perspective and ask the hard questions around the why, the how, the where and the what of your business.
This will give you a more holistic approach on how to think through your strategy; you can borrow from both to finesse your own.
2. OPERATIONAL SUPPORT
It’s important to find two — or preferably three — people who have either direct or similar experience in your industry. They can give you practical insights into the pitfalls to avoid, the opportunities to look out for or even just the lay of the land.
I use my operational-support advisors to help me think through scaling my business, since all of them have created their own scaled ventures. I trust their experience, their intellect and their advice.
3. EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
Positive friends and family are critical to a successful entrepreneurial journey. To be in a position where you can be vulnerable and honest and feel emotionally supported is priceless. Had my wife doubted me once during the start-up years, my knees would have buckled and I’m not sure I would have had the strength to stand up again.
An important nuance to emotional support is to ensure that you remove all the negative people from your inner circle. Stay away from the naysayers, the jealous and the know-it-alls. They erode your confidence and defocus you from your mission.
4. ‘SPIRITUAL' SUPPORT
In the humdrum or chaos of the daily fight and the monotony of the paperwork, you can very easily forget your why, your purpose and the reason you got into the business in the first place. I’ve found that by having a ‘spiritual’ mentor, I can reconnect to my why and the purpose of my business.
As clichéd as it may sound, one of the most important contributions such a mentor can make is to remind you to enjoy the journey, and to observe its gifts, its challenges and its teachings.
Surviving month-end is a serious matter. Not being able to pay salaries is a serious matter. Making promises to clients and not knowing how to deliver is a serious matter. As a result, too many entrepreneurs become serious themselves, the fun slowly squeezed out of them over time.
Their smiley faces of the past become the grimaces of the present. I have what I call my ‘fun mentor’ — someone I can spend time with who gives me space to be childlike, immature and sometimes even naughty. The release when spending time with such people, and the consequential balance it provides, is extremely important in ensuring that we maintain our sanity during the long and arduous process of starting a business.
Being deliberate about creating your support ecosystem should be one of your early aspirations when starting up a business — but it’s never too late! In my experience, it’s relatively easy to set up a support circle. The people you need exist within your direct or indirect networks, and I find that most people are very happy to help a young entrepreneur on his or her journey to success. Who wouldn’t want the kudos of saying, “I was Mark Zuckerberg’s mentor”?