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Tap Your Tribe to Reach the Top

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“Hi. My name is Heather. I’m a marketing consultant, and I’m self-employed.”

You’re familiar with the scene, the one with anxious-looking people sitting in chairs cast in a circle. They each take turns introducing themselves, then follow with the statement that balances any socio-economic inequity and forces attention on the common thread tying them all together. Each person’s individual story will vary – how they came to be in the room – but the fact remains, they all need support and an outlet in order to be successful.

I have the support of a great tribe of people, and my work is both my creative outlet and my means of earning a living.

But I’m new to self-employment. As in, still-rubbing-grit-out-of-my-eyes type new. I may be a veteran in my field – 18 years now – but am a rookie at running the entire show myself. All the talent and skills in the world won’t help me if I can’t establish an operational foundation and a recursive loop of lead development.

So what does one do when they need to hit the ground running? When they have the skills but are lost in a new environment? They call on their network, of course.

Everyone has a network of friends and acquaintances, previous co-workers and friends-of-a-friend and even family. When you’re shingle is so new it shines, it’s crucial to tap into the tribe of who you know to find out what you need to learn. And there’s sure to be a lot to learn.

The Trailblazer

One of the first things I did was have lunch with someone who’s “been there, done that.” This good friend leads an agency of 10 since striking out on her own 5 years ago, shirking the protective cloak provided by a larger, well-steeped institution. She passed along valuable nuggets of advice about finding the right sized CPA firm and how to handle the client who haggles. Her experiences will be invaluable, saving me both time and potential missteps.

The Inside Man

I spent an hour with a well-connected friend, one who recruits talent and advises businesses on training issues. She helped me learn a bit about the mindset of businesses today to help formulate my approach to fresh prospects. She also passed along the contact info for a great resource at the local small business development center. It seems the center has the means to support entrepreneurs like me get set up with an attorney at little to no cost.

The Coach

For a few years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting with a fantastic professional coach in an on-again, off-again fashion. She’s counseled me through some challenging interpersonal issues and helped me learn more about myself through some strengths testing. It can be difficult to explain the benefits a coach can offer because in many ways they’re intangible until the individual begins to apply the lessons and practice them each day. Trust me when I say that an objective, professional opinion and advice will be the best money you ever spend provided you’re committed to learning how to be the best you can be.

The Posse

Ahhh, the people who love you. Like a cup of hot chocolate, there’s comfort in reconnecting with those who want to see you succeed. In my group, there’s a designer and photographer, some web developers, copywriters, and an SEO or two. I’ve found that they’re each happy to pitch in their talents to see that I have nicely designed collateral, a few custom hacks to my web site, and more. I’m conscientious of the time they spend and try to give very clear requests at the start to minimize any revisions. Also, I’m trying to feed paying freelance work their way to help offset the time they spend on my own stuff.

These and many more generous, talented people are helping me navigate the early stages of entrepreneurship, for which I’m very thankful. What types would you add to the list? The Voice Of Reason, The Cheerleader, The Little Engine? Let us know who you’d add and why.

Photo Credit: jimmediaart

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As Principal of Insights & Ingenuity, Heather helps brands earn customer preference. Specializing in digital channels, Heather’s firm provides brand-building positioning and content strategies to B2C and B2B companies. She’s a contributing author to Social Media Explorer, Content Marketing Institute, Shareaholic, MarketingProfs, and other media outlets. Find Heather on Twitter as @heatherrast or circle her up on G+ at gplus.to/heatherrast.