Being a solopreneur does not mean that you have to go it alone. We all need to build a Board of Directors, a community or even an army to help us thrive. Having the right people around you, and access to the right expertise, can make the difference between you and your business thriving or not.
In this blog, I will explain why building a community for you and your business is so important and the four big areas where you really need to have the right support network in place.
This blog article is a summary of the related podcast episode.
One of my mentors told me many years ago that to succeed as an entrepreneur, I needed to build a Board of Directors for my business. He did not mean this in the tradition or legal sense of Directors. He meant that I needed connections, friendships, mentors for my personal and business growth.
I also realize that we all need people around us to support, encourage, motivate and inspire us. We simply cannot do it all alone!
It is so important not to be isolated and alone as an entrepreneur – it really can make the difference between success and growth and not making any progress.
Even as a solopreneur just starting out, you can learn a lot about building your community from CEOs of larger businesses. Just a little research online will show you that those running major businesses surround themselves with a team of great people. It is time to behave like these CEOs!
These CEOs know that building a community around your business is about more than just having a supportive family and friends – though those are important. You need to be proactive and intentional about finding the right support. You need to think about what may be holding you back, what expertise you need to move forward and what support you need to meet potential challenges in your business.
You also need to think about the relationship between your personal life and your business life. I know from experience that it is difficult to separate these aspects of your life – one will always have an impact on the other. So, you need to think about what you need to grow personally as well as what your business needs to thrive.
Finally, as a globally mobile entrepreneur with a portable business, you also need to think about how you build your community. Relocating can make it hard to sustain relationships unless you are very intentional about your communication and investing time and energy into them. You need to think about building a personal and professional community that is sustainable, no matter where you move to.
Building your community
Building your community is not something that is done in a day. You need to proactively search for the right people and expertise to give you what you need. You also need to recognize that those needs will continue to evolve and therefore so should your support network.
Here are my tips for finding the resources you need:
- Research your industry and the globally mobile community: look for membership bodies in your specific sector but also look for support from those who understand what it means to be globally mobile. I recommend Families in Global Transition, which has been an amazing community for me, as an entrepreneur and personally. Check out their membership and their annual conference – www.figt.org
- Be ready to give: if you want to build a tribe around you, you need to be ready to be there for your tribe too. Building a community around you is not a one-way street. You need to be ready to support others and to give back to your community. You can learn more about the importance of giving in business in Bob Burg’s The Go-Giver: https://thegogiver.com/the-go-giver/
- Be curious: do not hesitate to ask people about their journeys. Ask questions of those around you and learn from their experiences and what they have found useful on their journey. This will also help you clarify what you need in terms of support and possible referrals to resources and expertise that you can use too.
- Ask for specific referrals and recommendations: if you need specific support or expertise, ask for referrals. Do not try to figure it out alone. Someone you know will be able to point you in the right direction or introduce you to someone who has the expertise you need.
- Try it out: take the time to see if a coach, an online community, a resource is right for you. Do not leap in and commit immediately. Just take a little time to find out if it is really what you need.
Above all, the best way to find the right people is to be curious and open-minded.
The four big areas where you need support
So now you know how to build your community, what kind of people should you look for? There are four big areas where I think all entrepreneurs need support.
1. Your home
I have talked a lot on the Tandem Nomads podcast about the importance of building your support system at home. If you are a parent, and running a business from home, you cannot juggle it all. You will never be able to grow your business if you are expected to do everything because you are the one ‘at home’. You need to have open conversations with your family about what you need for yourself and your business. You may need to set some boundaries or bring in some outside help with childcare or laundry. No matter what you decide you need practically, you have to make your family part of your support system.
And do not forget your friends. Think about those friends who can support you and perhaps even give you feedback about your business ideas and plans.
Finally, when this is not enough, be ready to invest in the support you need at home. Once you do this, whether in your business or in childcare, you will start to see things happening in your business. I have so many clients who have experienced growth as soon as they started to delegate some of their ‘at home’ responsibilities.
Often if you are in a partnership, you will need to talk this over with your partner. Do not be afraid to have those conversations. Be clear about why this investment is so important to you and how it will make a difference to your business and your relationship with your family.
2. Your body
This is important and something that I have really learned about as part of my own journey as an entrepreneur. In the past, I have not paid attention to my mental and physical health because I was too busy in my business. In the last few years, I have become much more intentional about looking after my health. Your wellbeing and self-care are huge pillars of your business and you need to make them a priority!
Your Board of Directors for your business needs to include some experts who will help you maintain your physical and mental wellbeing. Whether you live on the move or not, you need to get the right doctors and specialists around you. Ideally you need a regular family doctor that you can call just to check on whether something really is a problem, even if you have relocated! I did that last year and it made a huge difference – just being able to talk about something small that was worrying me opened up so much space for better health and better self-care.
And do not underestimate the importance of your mental health. Mindset and mental health are everything to your success as an entrepreneur. If you do not have your mindset right, it will be so hard for you to get where you want to be. Any kind of anxiety, depression or even just not feeling okay can stop you and your business. Make sure you reach out to a therapist or a coach who can help with your mindset shift if you need help and support of any kind.
If you are looking for a therapist, check out Expat Nest, which has a network of therapists around the world.
3. Your soul
I think that our soul is what inspires our business and our relationships with our clients. But what does it mean to surround yourself with people who nourish your soul?
It can mean taking care of your spirituality. Whether you are religious or not, your spirituality can help you feel mindful and grounded. Spiritually is very personal but it does not have to be something you work on alone. Find people who are positive and who inspire you spiritually – whether that’s through your beliefs, creativity or even through fun! Finding people who nourish you spiritually will make you feel so much better, give you energy and lift you up.
Nourishing your soul is also about your friendships. When you find people that inspire and energize you, make sure that you take the time to nourish them in return. Be intentional about spending time with them. Being globally mobile and running a business can mean that we do not always make time to sustain and build friendships. And yet, our friends can be such a support of joy and connection for us. Take the time to really work on cultivating these precious relationships.
For advice and tips on doing this, check out Sundae Bean’s Expats on Purpose Facebook group.
Connecting with like-minded people also feeds your soul. This is not the same as people who always agree with you or think the same as you – you want people who will also challenge you and help you grow! This is about people who share the same experiences and values, and who make you feel supported and loved. These are people with whom you can collaborate, particularly if you have common interests and complimentary services. For example, our shared values and approach have allowed my friend and expat coach Sundae Bean and I to collaborate regularly, even though to some people it may look like we are competitors!
Finally, if at any time, you are struggling to feel grounded, to feel happy or to feel energized, I strongly recommend that you invest in your personal development and your mindset growth. There are different ways to do this, depending on what works best for you. You might want to work with a coach to tackle some of your own limiting beliefs and mindset, or to manage your spirituality better. You may find it more useful to work with a mindfulness expert or a yoga teacher to help you find some peace and perspective.
These are very personal choices, and you will have to really ask yourself about what you need. What do you need to thrive at this soul level?
Here are two resources that may help you:
Mindfulness: World Tree Coaching
Yoga and energy: Interval Life Coach
4. Your business
This is the big one. Solopreneurship is not about being solo. You need to have a team around you. Even if these aren’t people working with you in your business, you need people you can pick up the phone to or reach out to by email when you need help.
There are four types of team members you need in your business community.
Business buddies: these are people who are in your industry and who you meet with regularly. It can be one person or a group, but the main thing is that you have regular, structured time together. Often these relationships are called masterminds or accountability partners. For example, for the last year I have met with a group of other female entrepreneurs every Thursday. We each have 15 minutes every week to share our business challenges, questions, wins and concerns. We can also reach out to each other for support in between our weekly calls. I think this sort of mastermind support is something every entrepreneur needs to have!
You can learn more about how to find accountability partners and manage a mastermind, in this episode:
Business network: you need to be intentional about building your business network and your business partners. You need to look for opportunities to collaborate with people who can help you grow your business. For example, I regularly work with my friend and expat coach, Sundae Bean. We do very different things but because we have overlapping interests, we have been able to build interesting projects together.
One of the ways to really build your network successfully is to focus on giving. I talked to Bob Burg, co-author of ‘The Go-Giver’ about this, and why giving is good for business.
Business assistance: one thing you need to do as soon as possible is to start delegating! Start investing in a virtual assistant to help you work on your business, not in your business.
You should look for a virtual assistant who can not only perform key tasks for you but who really cares about your business. You want someone who can give you feedback and ideas as well as helping you carry the workload.
It is not easy to build the right team and the sooner you start, the easier it will be. You will also learn from experience what you really need for your business to grow.
Business mentor and coach: I do believe that the entrepreneurs I know who are truly serious about growing their business have all invested in a business coach and surrounded themselves with business mentors.
Business mentors are people who have more experience than you and who are willing to support you in your journey. You need a mentor who is willing to hop on a call or answer your emails when you have questions. This is another example of the importance of being intentional about building your business network. Sometimes the easiest way to find a mentor is to ask someone you admire if they would be willing to help you. You can negotiate terms with them – it does not have to be more than a 15-minute call occasionally. Some people are willing to do this for free, but you may find that others who are in great demand as mentors will charge a fee.
Think about where you would benefit from having mentor support. Generally, the more mentors you have, the better. You can arrange to have one mentor per topic in your business, for example, one for sales, one for building a team, so that you have access to a range of expertise and experience.
As well as finding the right mentors, I highly recommend investing in a business coach. I have invested in a coach or a mastermind program every year and every year my business has grown, I believe, as a result. I know that if you are just starting out as an entrepreneur, it can be scary to make an investment on this scale when you are not yet generating any revenue. I know – I have been there too! And the truth is there is no guarantee of a return on your investment in immediate sales or revenue.
However, I do know this – trying to work everything out on your own will end up costing you more. You will spend so much time, energy and money trying to figure everything out by yourself. Yes, you can learn a lot online and there are lots of free resources but if nothing is happening and you are not generating regular revenue, you need to invest in yourself to start getting some results!
Make sure to do your research when it comes to choosing your coach and mentors. Not all coaches are the right fit for everyone. You do not want to invest a lot of money in working with someone who is not right for you. Most coaches are happy to get on an initial call with you before you commit to working with them. Ask lots of questions and take time to decide if you have found the right person to help you transform your business.
Building your tribe is not a one-time thing. This is something you need to continue building as your business grows and your needs evolve. I hope you feel inspired to build a community which supports your business, your home, your body and soul.
Don’t forget to join the Tandem Nomads community – this is a supportive and caring group of solopreneurs and portable business owners. You can find the Nomad Nation on Facebook.