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With a Little Help From My Friends A strong support system will see you through the start-up phase and beyond.

By Nichole L. Torres

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Starting a business can be one of the most exciting--and yetscary--times of your life. To get through the tough start-up phase,every entrepreneur needs a great support system. Just ask TerriLevine, a business coach and founder of Comprehensive Coaching U in North Wales, Pennsylvania."Think about creating your own network from day one,"says Levine.

For instance, find other businesspeople in your industry throughyour local chamber of commerce or Young Entrepreneurs'Organization (YEO) chapter. You don't have to actually jointhese organizations-just meet people through open mixers andsimilar events. This worked well for Jeff Behrens, founder ofThe TellurideGroup Inc., a technology management company in Newton,Massachusetts. When he incorporated his company in 1995, henetworked every way he could-through YEO, with a local group ofCEOs . . . everywhere. "The more people I talk to, the more Ilearn," says Behrens, 35. "Invite them out for lunch orcoffee--it's remarkably rewarding and surprisingly easy todo." He found people were more than willing to advise a youngstart-up. All he had to do was ask. Even now, Behrens says hediscusses both his business and personal life with his trustedsupport network.

Ideally, your support system should include mentors and advisorsas well as business peers. Even people you don't know in theflesh can be a support, says Levine. You don't have tophysically know a person; you just need to keep their words in yourmental arsenal for when the voices in your head shout you down. Theessays of an entrepreneurial guru, perhaps, or even a cartooncharacter can help. One of Levine's clients put Mickey Mouse onhis team--to serve as a supportive mind-set to return to when theentrepreneur needed to remember to have more fun in his venture. Hewould just ask himself: What would Mickey Mouse do in thissituation? Says Levine, "I really invite people to getcreative."

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