Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, the community of friendships I’ve created over the years has been my support system, my social network, and my go-to for brainstorming ideas and obstacles. Some of my closest friends are other founders and entrepreneurs. We’ve connected at trade shows, industry summits, entrepreneur networks (like YPO) and even through Instagram. I’ve also met so many incredible people through friends of friends and the social gatherings that brought us all together. Our bond is built upon shared experiences and a mutual understanding of the dynamics we’re both tackling – whether personal or professional.
Community is a crucial aspect of entrepreneurship, but amidst the triumphs, setbacks, and challenges, it can often take a backseat to our entrepreneurial pursuit. Why? With limited time, building community can easily feel like an afterthought. Yet, it’s precisely this hidden gem that can make all the difference.
The Significance of Community
As someone who’s experienced every stage of the entrepreneurial journey, I intimately understand the isolation that so many entrepreneurs experience. However, finding and nurturing a supportive network provides us with a compass and support system that can guide us through the challenges and triumphs of entrepreneurship.
Here’s why community matters and how it can make our journey as entrepreneurs more enriching.
Shared Experiences, Collective Wisdom
A community brings diverse experiences and perspectives, enhancing your decision-making process and providing insights you might not have considered.
Safety Net of Support
In the most overwhelming and challenging times, your community is a safe space to discuss struggles and setbacks without judgment. Friends who are also entrepreneurs will likely resonate with what you’re going through and may also be able to share perspective from learned experience to help you bounce back stronger.
Expansion of Opportunities
Your network can open doors to collaborations, partnerships, and ventures that can elevate your business. I can’t tell you how often the best opportunities came my way by leveraging my community of friends and their network. It’s a two-way street, and nurturing relationships means actively looking for ways you can help support others with their goals, too.
Accountability and Growth
I’m a big believer that who you surround yourself with shapes your reality. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals encourages you to set higher goals, challenge yourself, and continuously strive for growth.
Diversifying Your Relationships
Community is where wisdom, support, opportunities, growth, and memorable times come together in one special package. But you might be wondering about the different types of community that can create a well-rounded network as an entrepreneur. The answer lies in achieving a delicate balance. Many entrepreneurs begin enhancing their network by fostering professional connections within their industry. These ties are invaluable for brainstorming, knowledge sharing, and broadening perspectives.
However, here’s the caveat: Your network shouldn’t be confined to just your industry. Network with individuals outside of your field; they’ll bring fresh viewpoints & novel ideas and can help you further diversify your network.
As you think about ways to expand your network and build community as an entrepreneur, think about exploring a few of these different community types:
Connecting with other entrepreneurs who share your field is a powerful way to build community. Industry peers grasp the intricacies of your space and can offer perspectives specific to your niche. Platforms like LinkedIn offer a useful avenue to discover peers and initiate informal introductions. Additionally, attending industry networking events and meetups is a great approach to building a community driven by similar goals and passions.
It’s understandable that seeking mentorship can feel daunting, but having mentors can steer you away from mistakes and speed up your learning process. Build a community of mentors by connecting with individuals you look up to and can gain knowledge from. This might include people who are further along on the entrepreneurial journey than you, investors, advisors, or even influential thought leaders you respect.
Personal Development Groups
Personal growth and well-being are priorities that have been incredibly important to me as an entrepreneur. Consider connecting with communities that center on these pillars as a way to nurture your own development, which will in turn help position you to fuel your business with greater strength. Reflecting on my own experiences, my participation in YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) has been transformative. This remarkable community of founders and CEOs, though not limited to my particular field, has given me access to a diverse tapestry of insights and perspectives that profoundly impacted my growth both professionally and personally. It’s through connections like these that we expand our horizons and enrich our entrepreneurial journey.
Supportive Friends and Family
Your OG community should be a permanent fixture in your entrepreneurial journey – even when some of the nuances you’re going through may not always be relatable to them. Surrounding yourself with people who uplift you and know your history is so valuable. Their emotional support can keep you motivated through the challenges. And as your success develops, they can keep you grounded and balanced.
“Remember, diversity in your community is key. Each connection brings a unique perspective and collectively forms a safety net of advice, encouragement, and opportunities.” – Nancy Twine
Nurturing Your Connections
I understand firsthand how challenging time management can be while operating and scaling a business.. Bearing this in mind, I’ve learned that building and sustaining a community requires a thoughtful allocation of time for cultivating relationships along with my other tasks and commitments. Just as you schedule business meetings, dedicate time for nurturing your community. Consider this an integral aspect of your entrepreneurial growth strategy.
Forming and nurturing adult relationships as an entrepreneur doesn’t need to be a challenging or arduous “task”. Here are some simple ways to dedicate time to your networks with less stress, even in your busiest seasons:
To maintain connections, scheduling regular catch-ups (whether over Zoom or an in-person dinner) is a part of my weekly routine. Set a goal to connect 1:1 with at least one person from your network each week. Whether virtual or in-person, consistent contact keeps the connection alive.
Attend Virtual Events
Virtual events are a great way to stay connected in your industry when time is scarce. Join webinars, online meet-ups, or participate in industry panels. You’ll expand your network and gain insights without the need for travel. This is also a great way to give back to communities you want to support but cannot always physically reach. Offer to speak on digital panels or participate in Q&As to spread awareness of your business and network.
Scheduled Coffee or Tea Chats
Pencil in a monthly virtual or in-person coffee/tea date with another entrepreneur in your community. It’s a laid-back way to catch up and swap insights, even when schedules are tight. Coffee or tea dates also set realistic boundaries on time (whereas a more formal dinner may take hours), so pick a location and window of time to connect and caffeinate (or hydrate!).
Combine Work and Play
Have a work trip in another city? Try to preserve time blocks during your trip to connect with out-of-state members of your community. Traveling is an investment of time and money, and I recommend maximizing travel by taking advantage of opportunities to strengthen relationships in-person while you’re on the road.
“Remember, building a well-rounded community isn’t about quantity. It’s about quality.” – Nancy Twine
Despite limited bandwidth as a busy entrepreneur, these small efforts can greatly impact maintaining and enriching your connections.
Community is Good for Business
Building and nurturing connections is as integral as crafting your business strategy. Entrepreneurship can be a challenging path and when obstacles arise, your community will be your support system. A well-balanced community network provides valuable perspectives and support that can help you navigate uncharted territories. Community will also remind you to celebrate your wins — which is often overlooked when we’re focused on the next milestone ahead of us.
As I’ve grown as a person and an entrepreneur, my appreciation for community has only deepened. I’m a firm believer that connections are what enrich your personal and professional life and how much you ultimately achieve with your business. Your journey is illuminated by the bonds you forge.
How will building a well-rounded community help you thrive as an entrepreneur? Let me know in the comments!