Building Support Networks

I was recently interviewed for a FastCompany .com article about asking for support as we return to the office. You can find that interview here. But I wanted to talk about this idea from a broader, business owner perspective. Specifically, what network of people do business owners need to intentionally build in order to feel supported?

We should always be intentional about our network – who’s in it, who we add, who we’ve outgrown, and who has outgrown us. But there’s also an element of support that we get from our network, and I think it’s important to know the kinds of people we need in our network to feel supported.

Three People In My Business Owner Support Network

For me, I need a mix of peers, mentors, and people I am teaching or guiding in my professional network to feel supported. I also need to talk with these people on a fairly regular basis, at least once a quarter. Right now, I have two peers, one mentor, and two people I’m guiding with whom I talk with regularly. That’s 5 people. It’s about the quality of conversations and connections, not the quantity of them, that really matters when we’re talking about support.

The Peers In My Support Network

The peers I look for are in the same or similar line of business as I am. To someone from the outside looking in, these peers might look like competitors – but they aren’t. We all do our own thing within our industry – we each have our own differentiators. A good client for me likely wouldn’t be a fit for either of them, and vice versa. We all understand that yes, we could compete directly for business, but there’s more than enough to go around. So we don’t compete.

The peers I have in my support network are a wealth of knowledge. They help me be more efficient in finding answers, I can reach out and talk to them about things like market conditions and what they’re seeing in specific areas of their business, like sales or hiring talent. They help me grow, but also help me check myself before I wreck myself. Who doesn’t need that?

The Mentors & Mentees In My Support Network

These are the people who have been there, done that, and have wisdom that only comes with experience. My mentor challenges me to think differently and asks questions that no one else asks. She also has a BS radar that is so accurate it’s scary. Which is good, because sometimes I can talk myself into or out of something that really needs to be further explored. The mentor helps me stay on my path, because she has, in part, already walked it. She’s made it easier for me. AND she also recognizes I have my own path to walk. She may not be on that same path or plan, but she’s cheering me on as I go.

And finally, the third key role in my support network are people I guide and mentor. These individuals look to me as a mentor for many of the same reasons I just listed about my own. The reason I need these individuals to feel supported is that they help me grow as a leader. They help me appreciate how far I’ve come. They often teach me new things and after talking with them, I often have new insights into my own life that I wouldn’t have had before.

I also believe in paying it forward. I had a lot of people guide me when I was starting out in business – most I’ll never directly repay. Being a mentor is how I honor those who have helped me.

Not the Only Formula for Business Owners

This formula may not work for every business owner – but that’s not the point. The takeaway today is this –  know the type of people you need in your network to feel supported in your business, and then intentionally build your network to include them.

If you’d like to discuss this further, please check out my VIP consulting plan – short-term help that creates a long-term solution. My key employee coaching may also be of interest. I’m also an engaging public speaker on this topic and may be a good fit for your next event. As always, please feel free to contact me at any time!