How Can Entrepreneurs and Sole Proprietors Help Each Other?

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There’s an African proverb that says “It takes a village to raise a child”. What does it take for an entrepreneur or small business owner to successfully raise an idea into a profitable business? In a previous post, “How Do Entrepreneurs and Sole Proprietors Juggle All Those Balls?”, I wrote about dealing with all of the different aspects of a business including technology, marketing, sales and finance – on top of your core business. Ideally, you have a budget and can hire professionals. But what if you’re an “accidental entrepreneur” (Thanks to Jeannette Paladino for coining that term.) and you find yourself suddenly out of work . . . or maybe you’re looking for a way to earn extra income but you don’t have money to invest? What if you’re just testing the waters to see if there’s an interest in a product that you make or you want to see if you can make money through affiliate programs or Google AdSense advertising? How can you find people who are willing to help you when you can’t afford to pay them?

Well, for starters, what sort of help are you looking for? Do you have specific areas where you need help? There are so many online resources to tap into. No matter what you’re looking for, you should be able to do an online search and come up with an answer or at least a forum that you can post your question to. There are lots of eBooks and people who offer their services for reasonable fees. Are you looking for a support system?

Coming from a fairly large organization with a board of directors, volunteers and a staff of peers who I could turn to, I miss the collaboration, ideas and advice that are a normal part of working in an organization. (My cats tend to not contribute well when I try to brainstorm.) So, personally, I look for like-minded people. I read blogs and comment. I reply to comments here. I’m looking for meaningful conversations and long-term relationships that will be beneficial to both of us. And I’m finding them.

Part of the inspiration for this post came from Kathy who recently posted the article “Does That Blogger Know That You Like Them?” When I read her article, I found myself relating to her. As I scrolled through and read the comments, I recognized some of the faces as other people who I follow. I started to realize that a lot of these people are becoming my peers – my support system and I’m happy for that.

How can you find an online-support system?

  • Join a couple of social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Follow a few blogs and join in the conversation.
  • Look for posts, tweets and comments that make you think or teach you something new.
  • Contribute. Offer something of value. Share experiences (both good and bad) that we all can learn from.

I’d love to hear about your online experiences. What sort of friendships and relationships (business that is) have you found online? Are there any groups or sites that work well for you? I’ve recently started participating in the Wild Web Women group on LinkedIn and have already made some solid connections. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Let’s get connected and see if we can help each other succeed!

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Published by Sherryl Perry

Welcome! If you're looking for help building an Internet presence that fits your needs and works for you, you're in the right place. I blog common sense articles about WordPress, social media and SEO. My goal is to help small business owners and entrepreneurs understand their core business. Together, we can develop and implement business strategies that make sense to you.

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31 Comments

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  1. This is a really good piece. You hit the nail on the head with how lonely it can be, especially if you previously worked for a large organisation with resources you could call on. All of a sudden, you find you have to do everything yourself. As you highlight, the key is to get advice, and there are more ways than ever to find that advice. I’m in a lucky position where my business is established and I can spend more time on Twitter trying to help small businesses, as the informal (and social) networks tend to be more affoirdable, another important aspect for start ups.

  2. Nice post!

    Here in Brazil, the entrepreneurs are very individualistic, but over time we have found some more friendly.

  3. I have been fortunate enough to meet several friends and fellow entrepreneurs in person using MeetUp.com. It’s a great way to find people in your local area who have similar interests and similar goals. If you live in a large city there are probably doznes of groups you couls join. The contacts I’ve made have lead to the development of quite a MasterMind Group.

    For those of you who are like me and miss the freindships andcollaboration of an office environment it’s a great way to meet like minded people. And since you only see them in person about once a month most of your contact is still online.

    1. MeetUp.com is a wonderful suggestion Pat. I have looked into it before but have never acted on it. It never occurred to me that the connections could possibly lead to a MasterMind Group. I’m going to put seriously looking into getting involved in a MeetUp.com event as one of my 2011 goals. Thanks!

  4. I’m lucky to most people I’ve found online. Whenever I have some questions, they answer it right away. Just imagine how they are open to share some of their knowledge for me to grow online. Also friendship is starting to build up because of constant communication. Personally, that makes the difference.

    1. Mike, That’s a good observation. Online conversations can lead to friendships as well as mutually beneficial relationships. Many of the people that I have met online possess skills that are complimentary to mine. We can all learn something from each other.

      1. I’m glad that we actually found some people who are willing to share what they know to us. On the other hand, there are people who find others as a threat to their online future so they just simply keep their online knowledge.

        1. I was taught to look at competition as being healthy. There’s plenty of business to go around and we can all learn from each other. Even the so-called experts can learn something new every day. I’m glad you’re finding people who you can learn from. Are you on LinkedIn? I’ve made some great connections there.

  5. Absolutely! Not everyone will become a client or customer but they very well may know someone who will. Networking online is very much similar to networking face-to-face. Joining and contributing to the conversation benefits all of us. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  6. It has taken me awhile to learn how to use each social networking platform. I like each of them for different reasons. . I have met so many interesting people. Most of me web friends are givers each with their own expertise. Even when I find someone in my industry I dont feel threatened. It is fun to learn from bloggers with more experience and then in turn teaching someone else that is just beginning.

    I still like personal contact. I am planning an online training but I want to try it with a live audience first. I need to the live feedback.

    1. You’re testing online training with a live audience first? I’ll be interested in seeing how you translate live training for an online audience.

      I’m doing the reverse. I’m going to be taking some of my blog content and teaching workshops.

  7. The challenge of meeting people online or in person is a tough one. You need to determine what you are looking to get out of the interaction, plan for it and then put yourself in the correct place. One key to getting some of the interaction you miss from corporate life is to join a non-profit board. Many desperately could use your expertise. Bonus is that you are meeting well connected people.

    Rob

    1. Nonprofit boards….. if only I had the time! I actually worked for the United Way of RI for over 14 years. So, I hear what you’re saying. For now, I do what I can online and sitting on a board will have to wait until I’m retired (and all that residual income starts coming in).

  8. Great post Sherryl. Sent you a request to connect on Linkedin. It’s about time!

    My blog and social media has put me in touch with many interesting people, such as yourself. In the year since I started my blog I have accepted about 1,000 invitations to connect and declined probably about 200-500 (not sure since I haven’t counted) but most of those connections are for the birds.

    It’s when you get to know someone online that you get an online support system, which is great and enbable you to learn and grow on a continous basis.

    1. Thanks for the LinkedIn invitation (which of course, I immediately accepted). Getting to know someone before connecting with them is absolutely the best way to form meaningful online relationships.

      If it hadn’t been for LinkedIn, I don’t think we would have ever found each other because we blog about such different topics. I think that the fact that we do have different niches is one of the reasons that we can learn from each other. I love reading your blog. I can’t always comment – usually because I’m not versed enough on the topic to contribute but I chime in when I can. 🙂

  9. Like this post Sherryl and I have met people from around the world and collaborated. Often it started from leaving comments, social sites and also from Twitter. Another marketer and I bounce ideas off each other quite often which is the way I used to work in marketing in large companies. I was also asked to part of a venture with people in the US soley from leaving comments on a forum.

    What i have found is that the ones you connect with you grow the realtionship offline as well and all I can say is I am glad Skype is around.

  10. Back in the olden days, we used to attend business breakfasts and after-work mixers. Now much of this activity happens online.

    It beats having to travel, though 🙂

    Some websites aren’t equipped to deal with the interaction possible with WordPress, but even with some sites that are able, well, who would want to…

    When I spent most of my time daytrading we had live chat rooms where we would meet people, make friends, and lose all of our money together, lol. With many eyes looking at the charts from different points of view, the individual trader was able to trade live with some very experienced people. It was always interesting to see that we all would come to same conclusions about what would most likely happen next by using completely different methodologies. This would give all involved a lot more confidence than attempting to figure out the complexities of the Markets while all alone.

    Business is changing. At least a couple times a month I attend a live Web Meeting. The possibilities are incredible now to build a community of peers with diverse business experience.

    Rick

    1. Those live chat rooms must have been very interesting to keep up with. Business is definitely changing. I haven’t attended a live Web Meeting yet. I need to check one out. Sounds like a good opportunity.

  11. What a great topic of conversation.

    Well, in a nutshell I’ll share that over 95% of my business connections and partnerships come from teaming up and developing friendships with people I meet via facebook or through participating in blog challenges.

    My favorite collaborative project turned into a 9-week guest blogging tour.
    By being a guest blogger and hosting guest bloggers you expand your reach and really have the opportunity to get to know one another.

    1. That is awesome Dvorah! I have yet to find the time to guest blog. I’m still trying to find a good rhythm for commenting and social networking sites. It’s very distracting and time consuming to keep up with. 95% is an impressive number. Do you have any tips you can share? I find Facebook is getting a little out of control for me. Some people post too often. (I’ve actually hidden a couple on my wall.)

  12. Hi Sherryl,

    You bring up some great points here – especially about your cat. My poodle Sebrina must have gone to the same school as your cat – they are no help when it comes to brainstorming but sure make a great cuddle buddy 🙂

    As you know, I come from the same corporate background surrounded by peers and staff – always having someone around to bounce ideas off of. Making connections online and off from networking provides a great source of idea sharing, opinion & and taking, and sharing of knowledge. I met you (and many others) and for that I am grateful.

    1. I’m glad you and I started bouncing ideas off of each other. Our strengths are complimentary. As for our pets, sometimes it’s very difficult to key with a cat draped across my wrist and her head resting dangerously close to the keyboard. Definitely not a productivity boost – but (usually) a welcome distraction.

  13. Hey Sherryl,

    I’ve found that being very genuine wherever I am, whether it’s on Facebook, or Twitter, or when commenting on other people’s blogs really helps. I’m also as genuine as I can be in the style of writing on my blog. That opens a lot of doors. That’s how I met both you and Kathy. 🙂

    Cheers,
    Tia

  14. Sherryl — thanks for mentioning me in your post and my coining the term “accidental entrepreneur.” I wholeheartedly support your premise that we need the support of others — and need to offer support to them in return — to be successful. I have made many friends through social media — and important business contacts. When I had a problem with upgrading to WordPress 3.0.1, I turned to the Word Press Group on LinkedIn and got all kinds of valuable advice. It was there I met John Sawyer, who was so helpful that I’m now using his services as my IT consultant. He’s a primary example that to get you need to give first.

    1. Jeanette, I didn’t know there was a WordPress group on LinkedIn! Thanks for the tip. I haven’t upgraded WP because I’m using the Thesis Theme and I haven’t had the time to thoroughly check out whether there are any compatibility glitches. (I’ll have to look for John.)

  15. Sherryl,

    Having friends makes a huge difference online. The easiest way to make them is to just go around reading and commenting on other people’s blogs. You will get a lot more visitors. Once they see that you write great content, some of them will stick.

    I could not do this without friends. I tried doing everything myself years ago without help and it is a major struggle. Very few can accomplish that. It is easy to make friends too. Just be nice and be generous as you have been by mentioning me here. (Thank you) People appreciate that. And try to keep in mind how hard it is to get a point across using words only. It is really easy to be misunderstood. Once people get to know who you really are though, they will give you the benefit of the doubt.

    Your writing skills are excellent. I am looking forward to a long mutually beneficial friendship with you. If you ever write that one post that you really love and want a little help getting it noticed, just let me know. I will gladly lend a hand.

    1. Thanks Kathy! What you say about commenting on other people’s blogs is so true. I found you from following Tia’s BizChickBlogs.com. I haven’t been blogging for all that long and I’ve already made some wonderful connections! I really appreciate your offer and I look forward to a mutually beneficial friendship too. 🙂