When you first considered starting up your own business, it was just a glimmer in your eye. You perhaps daydreamed about what it would be like to own your own fun, exciting and successful business. You imagined the business community respecting and contacting you for your opinion and community members knocking on your door endlessly, because they want what you have to offer.
Then you decided to act on that dream and suddenly all those exiting dreams and aspirations stopped, fear setting up shop in its place. Your mind suddenly went blank and the doubts became loud voices in your head. What ever were you thinking?
This is very common and you are not alone. Every single entrepreneur goes through periods of self-doubt and blocks at some time or another. However, what you do once those doubts start to show up will make the difference between making that dream a reality or looking back at your life 50 years from now with regrets.
There are three types of support to consider as you embark on your journey to self-employment: Coaching, mentorship and mastermind groups. Let’s look at each of them and talk about the pros and cons of each to help you determine which would work best for you.
Corporate coaching has been around for years. Recently, however, life coaching has started to make its move into mainstream. There is a coach for every occasion; for people who have ADD, parents who want to maintain their sanity, people who want to lose weight and for entrepreneurs who dream of starting up their own business. The one thing all of these people have in common is they need help when something holds them back from the accomplishments they want to see. Hiring a coach can help you achieve these goals faster than muddling through on your own; it’s like retaining a motivator, someone who is your corner, no matter how you progress or regress, helping you look within yourself to answer the big questions that will propel you forward. Quite often the role a coach will play will be that of helping you look at what your fears and blocks are to creating that business of your dreams; to help you overcome these obstacles that may have nothing to do with planning.
Coaching is one of the fastest-growing professions of today. The joy of coaching is that your coach can live anywhere in the world. All that is necessary is to find the type of coach that will best help you achieve your goals and who speaks the same language as you do. People can find a coach to meet their needs in many ways; there are coaches who network with the populations they are interested in coaching, so if you are on a particular network, you may already know of some coaches. You can also go to Coachville, or to The International Coach Federation to search for a coach who meets your needs. The cost of a coach can range from $50/hour to $1000+ per month. The role of a coach can range from just helping you look at your feelings to providing you with the tools and forms necessary to get your business up and running.
The advantage of hiring a coach is that they will ask you questions that perhaps no one else will. They will require you to look deep within yourself to overcome issues that may hold you back from the success you envision. The disadvantage of a coach is spending time to find the right coach for you and for your personality. The best advice is to spend some time searching and taking advantage of the free coaching calls that most coaches offer to get acquainted.
Mentors are people with experience in a particular field and offer council on their experience to someone just starting in that same field. The mentor will provide advice and guidance to help you advance your career or business goals.
Many professional groups have organized mentor groups to help members. One example of business mentors is SCORE, which is a group of retired business professionals who, through the Small Business Association (SBA), offer their support and guidance to others for free. For more information about what they have to offer, their website is; http://www.score.org/. They can help business start-ups create business plans for submission to banks, they can help the small entrepreneur determine how to set up pricing or accounting for their new business. For women, there are more and more organized mentor groups, such as Women Entrepreneur Centers that are generally affiliated with either the SBA or a local university.
It’s not uncommon for organizations to have some type of mentoring program for new or emerging employees. Generally an older and more experienced employee will take a younger person under his/her wing and show him the ropes. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Other options are to contact the professional organization you belong to for information on any mentor program the organization may have. A mentor serves the same purpose as a coach, except generally mentors will provide more hard advice and guidance based on the mentor’s own experience, and mentorship is a volunteer activity. They will point you in the right direction, following your progress as you go.
The advantage of finding a mentor is that you can benefit from the experience that others have had ahead of you. Over the years, I have advised several other professionals who just needed help here and there, and today they now offer the same type of advice and service to others who are coming up behind them. One disadvantage of a mentor program can be if the two have different visions of what the mentoree needs or wants, or if the mentor is offering his/her services for reasons other than just to help.
Mastermind groups are a growing business phenomenon. These groups attract successful professionals, or those just starting out, who seek objective advice, motivation, group synergy and different perspectives in order to accomplish their business or professional goals.
When an entrepreneur is just starting out, she feels a sense of isolation. She is not sure who she can turn to for help or advice. With the growth of the internet, the availability of mastermind groups has exploded. These groups provide means for people to connect with others who are working towards similar goals. They can act as small think tanks and allow members to come together to share challenges, successes, ideas, and information in a confidential and safe environment.
There are endless forms of mastermind groups, yet they all serve similar purposes; to help the members achieve particular goals. There are many groups created for the sole purpose of helping solo entrepreneurs accomplish particular business goals, such as marketing, branding, creating a website, etc. Mastermind groups may also be known as coaching groups, study groups or peer groups. The size and structure of these groups can also vary greatly. The groups could be limited to a small number of people and last for a matter of a few months, or even last for a year or more. Or they can be unlimited in size, allowing anyone interested to join in. Some have a set start and end point to the program, where others are ongoing. Some mastermind groups are free to those who sign up, and others are available for a fee.
Some groups follow a set defined path that has been made available for the members of the group. These may be formal groups that members have signed up to join and are led by a facilitator. Some groups meet in person, others either by telephone or through email. They generally will have certain goals to achieve by certain timelines and will share their progress with the others in their group, receiving feedback and suggestions from others who may be in different professional fields.
Mastermind groups can be extremely effective. The key to success, though, is to develop a group of others who are as committed as you are. There are programs each member can sign up for, which can keep each person in the group on track, or you can create your own plan and benchmarks for success.
Just do it!
No matter where you turn to for help, guidance and support, the key to success for any small business owner is to allow yourself to at least seek that support and guidance. None of us are successful on our own. We are all stronger if we surround ourselves with people who can provide expertise and council. If you are ready to take that plunge into small business, do your research to determine where your support will come from and just what type you need. The possibilities are endless, and sometimes we must be reminded of what we are capable of.