By Hugo Schreuder, Group CMO
If you’ve ever thought about starting a business, you’ve probably heard a million times that it will be the best decision you’ll ever make and one of the most rewarding, exciting chapters of your life.
What you may not have heard is that before building your business, you must first build your support network. Comprised of yourself, your family, your customers, your mentors and your team, here’s how to establish the most important thing your business will ever need.
5 Steps for Building Your Support Network
1. Believe in Yourself
The moment you plan to start a new business, everything may feel completely unknown. All you have to work with is the vision that you have - a mental picture that you must communicate to others. As the gatekeeper of this vision, you have to believe in yourself and your ability to bring it to life. One of the toughest decisions you’ll need to make is how to communicate your vision to others in a way that makes them get behind you. Once you’ve achieved that, you’ll have set the foundation for a support network that will continue to strengthen as your plans grow.
2. Lean on Your family
Out of your vision for a new business will come a whole new life that you’ll throw yourself into. You’ll spend almost every minute of every day inside the world you’ve created, and right next to it will sit another world that’s been there throughout - your family. The impact your plans will have on them is enormous. This is when that old cliche about the necessity of having a strong partner in life rings true. You cannot underestimate the power of a supportive family when building a new business. There is nothing as unfortunate as putting so much time and energy into your days only to have an upset or disappointed family at home waiting for you. Building this kind of support takes a lot of time and communication; it’s not something that happens overnight. In your earliest, hardest days, always make the effort to keep your loved ones in the loop and to let them know they’re not far from your mind.
3. Put Your Customer First
It’s true that at the front, centre and heart of any brand is the customer, but too often the customer is seen as the reason a brand exists rather than the fuel that it needs to keeps going. Your customer will offer you a kind of support that no one else can; it’s called loyalty. Their enthusiasm for your brand is what will keep your vision and passion alive. This is why long before you create a business plan, you must take the time to get to know who your customers are and what they want. What makes them happy? What are they looking for? How can you make their day a little brighter? Once you have all of that figured out, you can start creating your business plan around their needs. And once you deliver on those needs, you’ll have more than just their support; you’ll have the recognition that this whole idea you created has helped someone, somewhere.
4. Look to Your Mentors
Every so often, you’ll need to hear a completely unbiased opinion or learn a lesson from someone who’s been down your road before. It’s so important to have mentors around you who you completely trust and who you can go to for advice, guidance, and an objective, professional view. This is especially critical when you’re uncertain about what to do or when you’re wrestling with an idea in your head. Mentors can guide you down the right path by teaching you the lessons they’ve learned, mistakes they’ve made and challenges they’ve faced. Don’t ever be afraid to lean on them when the going gets tough. They want to help you through those times.
5. Trust in Your Co-workers
While mentors are great to tap into when you need them, co-workers are there for you day in and day out - they’re right there fighting the battle with you. They have the same objectives, the same goals and they share the same vision. When assembling your team, hire based on a cultural fit. Seek out those who value the same things in life, who truly believe in whatever it is your business sets out to do. Find people who are comfortable collaborating in a world where everything can be questioned, and who proactively try to add value in all areas of the business, not just their own. These are the kind of people you know you can count on at any given time to step up to the plate. They will be your most reliable daily support, and your greatest asset.
Above all when starting a new business, you must go into it knowing that mistakes will be made. Sometimes you won’t be able to deliver as you planned, or to reach the service standard you hoped for. That’s when you’ll need your support network the most. Each pillar will play a role, from your mentors sharing their advice to your co-workers reinforcing your company values, to your family standing behind you and your customers realising you’re committed to making things better. If you can build that network and if you can make it all come together at once, then you’ll have the assurance of knowing that you’re supported through all the ups and downs a new business has to offer.