Where do small business owners go for advice? It’s a challenge for many solo entrepreneurs. The good news is there is a solution. As a matter of fact, there are several.
As far as challenges of small business owners go, here’s one that is not often talked about:
As a solo business owner, where do you turn for a listening ear? How do you find someone to talk to about big decisions? Who can give you a second opinion about a crazy (or genius?) idea? Who can you turn to if you simply want to bounce around ideas?
These are serious questions.
Because the sad fact of the matter is: Having a business can be a lonely place. Especially if you’re doing it all on your own.
So… let’s talk this through.
Business Partnership vs. Sole Proprietorship
When I first started out in business, I worked with a partner. Until she decided she wanted out and I decided I was going to do it on my own.
Do I have regrets? Heck no! But it’s not without its challenges.
As a sole proprietor, it’s me, myself and I.
The flip side of the coin is, of course, that I don’t need to justify anything to anybody. I don’t have to negotiate things I don’t want to. And I also don’t get side-tracked by someone else’s ideas.
BUT to be fair, going alone is not for everybody.
Whether or not sole proprietorship suits you depends on your personality and how you like to operate.
In episode 43 of the podcast, I talk about finding your strengths and your genius zone. If you’re not sure where you sit on social animal spectrum or your preferred mode of collaboration, this is an episode to go back to. It will help you identify if sole proprietorship is an option that would work for you.
But despite the fact that I’m perfectly happy in my skin as a sole business owner, there are undeniably times I look for somebody to talk to. I’m happy to make the decisions, but sometimes I need another human, a sounding board, an objective view.
Only fools think they can do it all on their own, right?!
So, I’m asking you..
Where do small business owners go for advice when they’re steering the ship solo?
Options For A Listening Ear In Sole Proprietorship Decision Making
The good news? I have 4 very workable suggestions.
I’ve used all of them at some stage of my solo business owner career, so I’ll give you my personal experience as well. But what they all have in common is that they’ll ask for some discipline and effort. Sometimes money too.
So here goes....
1. Join A Business Networking Group
These days, these are available EVERYWHERE. In person, online, paid or unpaid. You name it, it exists.
a. Local Business Networking Groups
This is the cradle of the business networking group concept. Although they are now just one of the options, this is where it all started. You can expect monthly gatherings and in-person drinks. Your local Chamber of Commerce is often a good place to start.
My experience: I found the primary focus is on doing business with other local businesses; selling your product, selling your services, growing your sales. It’s not so much a place where small business owners go for advice, so let’s just say it’s no longer my arena.
b. Online Business Networking Groups
Online business networking groups (like Facebook or LinkedIn groups) really allow you to find your tribe. There is a plethora of options. The fact that they are online is an obvious draw. You can within your own timeframe and be as active or as ‘lurking’ as you like.
My experience: As with all Facebook groups, some are more active than others, some are more valuable than others, some groups are better managed and moderated than others. It pays to be specific in your search. For instance, I’m a member of a business podcasting network group. Who knew, right!? All it takes is a search.
c. Business Networking Groups With Paid Membership
Although they differ in the range of services they offer, paid membership business networking groups usually have an aspect of like-minded people meeting each other, expanding contacts, and growing your business. Some groups cast their net fairly wide, others are very fine-tuned.
My experience: I have 2 paid business networking groups that come to mind: The first one, ‘She owns it’, is a paid membership with Facebook group of women supporting other women in business in New Zealand. You can also expect some newsletters, tutorials, etc. as part of the package
The second one is ‘Her-Business’ from Australian Suzi Daphnis. This group is also focussed on women in business. The group provides a network, but also mentors, an online training library, accountability groups, monthly networking sessions, hot seats, etc.
Both are in demand, so expect to go on a waiting list.
2. Join A Paid Mastermind Business Network
They usually offer masterminds as a 12-month program in smaller groups (I would say up to 20 people). Everything is hosted and structured by the host. Usually you get a set of deliverables: hot seats, a masterclass, usually also some one-on-one with the host, and a whole range of other things. The downside: they don’t come cheaply.
My experience: I joined a mastermind for digital business owners a few years ago. Cheap it was not, but I looked at it as a business and personal investment, and had a wonderful experience. As for my best advice, it pays to do your homework before committing. The host is very important, so look for a host who is a few steps ahead of you in experience, and has an expansive network. Enquire who else will be part of the group. My experience was so positive because the other group members were in a similar phase in business as I was. Our struggles were similar, but the skills we brought to the table were very varied, which made it very enriching.
3. Join A Peer-To-Peer Mastermind
First the good news: a peer-to-peer mastermind is usually not paid. Like-minded entrepreneurs who already know each other come together in a container. The aim is usually mutual support, be each other’s ears, exchanging advice. But ultimately, the group decides what your mastermind is for. Some peer masterminds bring in key speakers, other focus on support and advice.
The group can be as big or as small as you want it to be, but in my experience, 6-8 people is ideal.
My experience: This year I am part of a peer-to-peer mastermind. I helped formulate the group with a few other people. Some other online business owners of similar growth made up the total mastermind. Our commitment is for 12 months and once a month, we hold a Zoom meeting at a pre-set date and time. The agreement is to have one question each that the rest of the group helps with. Not everybody always has a question, but it is still the expectation that everybody turns up to help and give feedback. We also operate Voxer as a platform for collaboration in between the Zoom meetings.
4. Engage A Business Coach
This is the final answer to the question: where do small business owners go for advice.
If your time is at a premium and you want to get support, without having to return the service to other business owners, this option is for you. This is also a great choice if you are looking for one-on-one mentoring or if you are working towards a goal and need to be held accountable.
My experience: I’ve been on both sides of the business coach-client relationship. (I’m telling you: a business coach needs a business coach!) Each business coach has his or her own a set of skills. Sometimes they have a coaching certifications and sometimes... they don’t. (It’s an unregulated field, so you need to do your homework!) Also, you need to consider that some are more ‘consultant’ than ‘coach’. Either of them will offer one-on-one feedback, but the packaging will be different. A consultant will give you a solution; ‘This is what I think you should do’, while a coach will help you navigate your decision by asking smart questions. You can also get a mixture of the two where the first half of the session is ‘coaching’ and then the second half is ‘solution offering’. Whatever suits you works.
Here’s How I Work As A Business Coach
How do I work as a business coach for female entrepreneurs?
It very much depends on your needs.
You may need to talk about growing your business. You may be looking at scaling your team. Or you may need a soundboard for a big decision that you are going to make.
- Whenever you book a session, you get my eyes on your business for 60-90 minutes per session, depending on what kind of coaching you need.
- The sessions can be a one-off or it can be a 3 month or 6 month package.
- I like to talk to ‘my people’ every fortnight. It gives you enough time to go away and implement the action. Then we look at the next steps and keep the momentum going.
So, in answer to our question: Where do small business owners go for advice? There are several options. All have pros and cons. What they have in common is that you have to do your homework. But in case you are looking for a certified business coach, here’s where you can book a session with me.