Last week, over on Instagram, I asked: as an entrepreneur, what’s your biggest challenge? There were a number of responses, every single one of which I related to from personal experience. My biggest surprise in reading them, however, was the lightbulb that came to me in response to the questions: every single challenge was a mindset challenge.
An entrepreneur cannot underestimate the importance and value of the right of the mindset. Let me repeat: mindset is the number one most important thing an entrepreneur needs to keep in check to make their business successful. Of course, under the umbrella of “mindset” there are a number of sub-topics, and I wanted to take some time to write up a series of blog posts, this being the second of the series.
On that note, let’s jump into the next challenge: feeling isolated.
Entrepreneurship can feel, first and foremost, isolating, but after you get past the isolation part of it, the fears and frustrations of being an entrepreneur are strikingly similar, no matter what field you are in.
But entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be lonely, but if you’re just starting out and haven’t found your “entrepreneur tribe” yet, it will definitely feel lonely.
My personal experience with finding my “entrepreneur tribe” began one day when I was sitting at my desk, back when I owned and operated a wholesale stationery business. A woman walked in, having recently read an article in the newspaper about my business. She asked to speak to me, and we went to the conference room and chatted. She asked me what MY biggest challenge as a business owner was, and asked me if that challenge could be eased by having a group of like-minded peers with which to discuss it. I can’t remember how I responded to the question, but her visit turned out to be a (welcome) sales pitch to join a group of female entrepreneurs in Oklahoma City.
In hindsight, it changed my life. I joined the group of women, paid my membership fees, and for ten years, those women became my lifelines. The group evolved and changed over time, but the relationships were always there. Someone was always just one phone call away to brainstorm options and deal with a crisis. We met religiously, once a month, rain or shine, and celebrated many of life’s milestones together: weddings and babies, as well as the losses that life will deal all of us eventually. The only reason I dropped out of the group was that I moved away from OKC, but I’ve kept in touch with many of those women and still consider them to be dear, dear friends.
I know what you’re saying now: “Well, I wish someone would just walk into my office and invite me to be a part of their peer group!” It doesn’t always work that way, I get it. But I’m here to tell you that if you feel isolated as an entrepreneur, there is hope. You can find your “entrepreneur tribe”, you may just have to seek it out. And also, you may find several different tribes that help meet different needs in your business in life, and those tribes might look very different.
Let’s discuss: here are 6 ways to find your entrepreneur tribe and beat those isolation blues.
- Search for a “business forum” in your area. If you’re not familiar with the term “forum”, as used in this context, it’s a term used within the business and entrepreneurship world to reference a group of peers, who usually meet on a regular basis. There is usually a fee to join, and there are many different types of groups. In addition to my women’s group, I was also a member of a national forum group called EO for a while, as was my husband, David. Many cities have local-only forums. I love the structure and organization that comes from forums (and the fees associated with them). Members remain committed, support staff is on hand to help with membership, and the rules and guidelines help keep meetings from being gripe sessions—progress is always made, and I always walk away feeling like I’ve both learned something, and provided value for my peers.
- Put yourself out there—ask for recommendations online. This might sound simple, but I just don’t think you can underestimate the value of a blog post or social media post asking for help. Don’t overthink it. Something as simple as, “hey, I’m looking for some entrepreneur meet-ups in my area—know anyone?” might get you a few leads.
- Start your own “forum”. If you’re looking for something specific—a niche industry, for example—you might consider starting your own forum. Even though it’s nice to do things for free, however, I would recommend having a small fee, for two reasons: 1) it makes sure people are serious and stay committed and 2) it helps offset any administrative costs you might incur, like a website, or even the time to organize events or meetings.
- Be prepared to invest financially. You’ll get out of the group what you put into it, and this means dollars as well. In your search for a business networking group or peer-to-peer forum, you may find fees ranging from a few hundred dollars per year to several thousand. I realize not everyone has several thousand dollars with which to buy an “entrepreneur tribe”, but here’s the thing: I believe, one day, you will. And I would recommend being prepared to spend that money when you have it—it’s worth it’s weight in gold.
- Be prepared to invest emotionally. Did your mom every tell you that “to have a friend, you must be a friend”? I think the same philosophy applies here, and is possibly the number one most important factor in preventing isolation: develop an abundance mindset and start giving back. One of my favorite business reads of all time is Give and Take by Adam Grant. He presents a strong argument for “strategic giving”: “You never know where somebody’s going to end up. It’s not just about building your reputation; it really is about being there for other people.” I can’t think of a better way to find community than to give to it. Very simply, just share. Help others. Help locally, and help online. Share info, tips, say hi, have a conversation. Pay compliments, cheer on other entrepreneurs. It’s only lonely at the top if you make competition on the way up. Make friends, instead.
- Final tip: don’t wait for the isolation to hit. I get questions all the time about resources for entrepreneurs and places where they can find community, motivation, and inspiration. It was in this vein that I started the HEART Goals group over on Facebook! I’d love to have you join us there and start beating that entrepreneur isolation today!
And of course, another great way to find community in entrepreneurship would be to join us at Mastermind Intensive this coming September 12-14th, 2018!
And that, my friends, concludes my list of recommendations on how to beat loneliness and isolation in entrepreneurship. What tips would you say have worked for you?
This post is the second in a series on developing the mindset of a successful entrepreneur. For the complete series: