20 February 2009

Being an entrepreneur, running a business, is inherently a lonely existence. Whilst you are at the centre of everything that is happening in your company and aware of changes within your industry, all too often there is no-one to turn to when making vital decisions. I equate running a business to completing a marathon – it is a long journey; at the start there are high levels of enthusiasm, excitement and anticipation; difficult challenges to encounter and overcome but there is always a goal in sight and the sense of achievement in reaching it is difficult to describe to anyone who has not run the race.

Any serious and dedicated athlete realises the need for a coach and mentor to help them reach their goals and yet in business so few entrepreneurs follow the same path. No doubt without a coach you could run a marathon but will you ever realise your true potential? Why is it, when it has been proved that businesses which take advice and support fare better than those which do not, that there is an inherent reluctance to access these extra “tools” which may give you a competitive advantage?

Perhaps it is the popular hunt for instant success that makes many people treat business like a sprint. I would argue that, in business, long term sustainability is far more important than short term glory. The current example of many banks should highlight the damage that can be done by the lack of long term planning – learn from their mistakes.

So how can you help combat the feeling of isolation and tone your entrepreneurial abilities ready for the marathon ahead? Accessing help is easier than you would expect – finding quality support is slightly harder.

Firstly do not get hung up on the definitions of advice, mentoring, support, incubation etc – let the academics worry about such minutiae – most people want a combination of all of these at different points in their business life. You need your own personal “coach”. Source someone who you can trust; they should be independent, impartial, experienced and most of all approachable.

The next step is to use them effectively. They are not there to run your company but to help you develop your skills, hone your decision making and to bounce ideas off. Their role is essentially passive and most of the effort should be made by you but through their guidance you will develop solutions to business issues.

So being an entrepreneur can be lonely at times but those who seek out help and support along the way will develop faster and most importantly reach their goal before their competitors beat them to it.

How do you start such a search? Scour your networks to find someone who meets the above criteria or contact a leading independent business support organisation such as NWES who can help you.

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