Being a business owner can quite often be a lonely journey. Unless friends or family members have had the experience of owning a business themselves, it’s very hard for them to relate to the issues that I have to deal with on a regular basis. The pressures of managing cash flow, the regulatory requirements of employing people and the process involved in running the day to day operations of a business are not easily understood by those that haven’t been through it themselves.
With a few exceptions, I’ve never been one to talk about business with my family and friends. When they ask me how business is going I tend to just give a general “all is good” comment. To me, it seems a little pointless to go into detail because one, they probably won’t understand me complaining about all the legislation I have to comply with and two, to me it sounds like bragging. Besides, I always seem to find the extremists – the ones that grin and nod at everything I say while daydreaming about their next Facebook status update; or the overly helpful masters that give me suggestions straight out of a textbook they read 15 years ago. Even worse, the ones that started a business with only a half-hearted attempt and complain how badly their business is going.
Not that I don’t like talking about my business and my long term vision for it. On the contrary, once I get started, it’s pretty hard to shut me up. I’m a little picky about whose ears I chew off though. I can talk business ideas and brainstorm all day with other entrepreneurs who I can see have the same passion as I do about what they do.
And that’s one of the great things about providing bookkeeping services. More often than not, I have direct contact with the business owner. I can throw ideas around with them, and learn from their experiences and vice versa. It’s also rewarding when I see my suggestions implemented and producing successful results. I’ve also learnt from some of my clients and applied their processes within my own business.
However, I didn’t always have access to these inspirational people. While I was still in the process of setting it all up, I actively looked for an environment where I could engage with other business owners and talk about the issues that I had to deal with on a daily basis. I started off with my local small business council. I also researched some networking groups that held regular events. There are also small business forums on the internet that one can participate in. However, as someone who prefers face to face contact, I don’t participate in these very often.
I’m a little shy when I first meet people, so when I first started networking, I attended these events by myself instead of going with a friend. That way, I was forced to mingle and meet new people. I was way out of my comfort zone and terrified about what I was going to say. I still feel like that now. My palms still get a little sweaty and I still freak out that other people are going to brush me off. I do get over it once I’m there though, because the energy just pulls you along and you can’t help but get excited.
Sadly, there are some networking groups where it’s not always a pleasant experience. I remember reading an article about networking and the owner of Kogan Technologies said that he attended a networking session where his idea was shot down by the others in the group. Unfortunate, but it does happen. In my search to find kindred spirits, I have been to 2 groups myself where it felt like I was intruding as everyone seemed to know each other. Needless to say, I didn’t stay very long.
I think these are the exceptions rather than the norm though. There are some great networking groups out there, like Women’s Network Australia and Business Chicks. These are obviously geared toward women, but since I’m still working on my networking skills, these are the ones that I think have been effective for me. As people who know me can confirm, I won’t recommend anything I haven’t tried myself and know that it works.
I always applaud other people who have the drive, courage and ambition to follow their hearts. Meeting and talking to these people and hearing their stories always inspire me to achieve even more with my own business. So if you’re starting out in business, or needing to find other people who can relate to your situation as a business owner, why not start with attending a networking event. If nothing else, attending will allow you to build your contact base and generate some leads.
If anyone can recommend other groups out there, please feel free to comment and tell us all about it.