We are social beings. We live in an interconnected world. Even in today’s information age, the importance of collaborative networks has not diminished, but rather merely changed form.
The business world is no different: It runs on social connectivity, expanding networks and fostering connections. In an era where the newest iPhone acts as our event planner and chauffeur, we still value face-to-face meetings and the structure that a collaborative environment offers.
So where do entrepreneurs fit into all of this? Simply put, entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of a steadily growing economy. Following the 2008 financial crisis, the idea of making your own way appealed to young people en masse. This can be viewed as a boon, as the world needs young entrepreneurs and their innovative ways of thinking. But just as much as the world needs them, they too need our support.
Why a Support System?
Becoming an entrepreneur is inherently risky: That’s precisely why that path is often not touted (and even discouraged). But that’s a major mistake, and it’s an attitude that needs to change on a cultural level.
The world needs those individuals — those highly creative thinkers — who can offer a bird’s eye view of the larger business world. Innovative figures in history, like Madame C. J. Walker and Henry Ford, were cunning, original thinkers who dove headfirst into uncertainty. Decades later, we see their results as part of the mainstream. This is how the entrepreneurial spirit truly thrives, and will always continue to do so.
No great entrepreneur of the past has ever succeeded without feedback and support. Successful entrepreneurs surround themselves with like-minded peers who challenge them, push them and brainstorm with them. Anyone who has achieved business renown has done so by working together with others, and constantly opening themselves up to new ideas.
It takes drive, gumption and intent to get involved in a dynamic support system. This is where outside mentors can step in and act as guides to young entrepreneurs so that they can mature into well-rounded business people. These mentors could be industry veterans, peers, or even former clients! Connections form in surprising ways.
How to Find Support
Before you set out to find a mentor, you need to understand where you are in the entrepreneurial process. Do you know the first thing about running your own business? You need thorough guidance: someone who has been through those initial first steps. This isn’t necessarily so they can hold your hand along the way, but instead to show you what works and what doesn’t.
Even if you are a few years in and have the basics down, a more seasoned mentor can evaluate your business model (marketing, SEO, services, etc.) and offer some critique. Many young entrepreneurs fall into the trap of being satisfied with preliminary, initial success. That’s a mistake. In order to fine-tune your skills and reach the next level, you need to keep on learning, and you do that by remaining open to the “student” mindset. Pride will only hurt you in the long run.
That’s exactly why, at my company, we’re so keen on “Monday Morning Meetings,” our own support system for entrepreneurial clients. Rather than simply offering a solution and walking away, we consult with them in a collaborative environment and make sure that they are on the right track.
We start with a refresher on sales training and strategies, then open up the floor for questions. We find that there are many, and that’s why this is the perfect way to start off the week: sessions like these lead to a motivated and empowered mindset to tackle those problems ahead.
Networking is also key, not only for finding a mentor but for connecting with peers and future business associates. In addition to establishing your brand via a social media presence, you must reach out to others through live networking events in order to make your presence known and get noticed.
Whether you’re running a startup or an established brand, you should always be connecting. LinkedIn is a prime example of a goldmine resource for young entrepreneurs. Locate and engage with your peers or find prospective clients. While Twitter and Facebook are more “social,” they also offer similar benefits.
There are many more digital tools that aid young entrepreneurs immensely: Buffer, for example, is a valuable time saver. By managing and optimizing your social media presence, this tool affords supreme organization to entrepreneurs, and organization is a necessary prerequisite to success. Additionally, consider setting up a presence on professional entrepreneur websites like StartupNation. Utilizing forums to chat and connect with like-minded peers and business owners is a no-brainer.
As a young entrepreneur, you need to foster that creative, unique spirit of business innovation. Prioritize networking and building rapport with others, utilize social media to join groups, reach out to others and make connections.
It’s good — necessary, even — to get out of your shell as an entrepreneur. You’ll thank yourself for it in the long run.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.