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How to build your very own entrepreneurial life support system

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Do you have a partner in crime? That one person you can count on to join you on your adventures even when the adventure sounds a little dubious or is fairly unappealing to most? They’re the Sam to your Frodo? The Robin to your Batman? Dare I say it, the Thelma to your Louise? Although, with any luck it’ll turn out better for you than it did for them. Although possible, it’s not all that probable that our romantic partner or best friend is going to have the expertise to also be our entrepreneurial life support system.

We can all agree that being an entrepreneur requires rock solid support from those closest to us – partner, friends and family. They have to be willing to understand and accept just how obsessed, dedicated and crazy we really are. They have to be prepared to ride the highs of our triumphs, the lows of our defeats and listen to us hold court. You don’t have to be a genius to work out that’s why we like to congregate with other entrepreneurs and regale each other with tales of our valiant triumphs over evil – we love the guilt-free delight of talking shop with other entrepreneurs.

It’s not our fault that not everyone gets it. You can’t be as passionate and focused as we are and hold it all in. We’d explode! Sadly, the guilt gets to us, and so it should. Our partners really do endure more than their fair share sometimes. It’s often easy to forget that, even though we don’t always make a clear distinction between work and play, they might not always feel the same way.

Since becoming a single lady (cue Beyonce) and not having my partner around to bore the crap out of, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a massive ask (so maybe we shouldn’t) to expect one person to be both romantic partner and our entrepreneurial life support system, too. Sure our partner can provide a sympathetic ear and be a great sounding board for our ideas, but I believe we need to draw a line and remember that everyone has their limits. If you make yourself responsible for setting those limits, your partner or best friend won’t have to do it for you. Enough said.

I was listening to Domenic Carosa speak at the recent Capital Raising Conference in Sydney. He was extolling to the crowd of nearly 1,000 entrepreneurs the benefits of a having a ‘board’ and it reminded of Napoleon Hill’s Mastermind principle that Joshua Moore covered in his recent series on Hill’s book ‘Laws of Success‘. Inspired, I got out a pen and started writing down the names of my ‘board’ on the back of my conference pack.

As I wrote, another thing occurred to me: almost everyone on the list was there because I had gone out of my way to reach out to them. I’d knocked on their door, either literally or via the web, and made it clear that I admired their expertise and approach to business.

If I’m going to be defined by the company I keep, then I’d prefer to be the one who’s maybe a little out of place in a room full of awesomeness rather than being the tallest poppy in the field. There’s no real incentive to grow if you’re always sticking to your comfort zone.

So here are a couple of things worth considering from my lessons learned about building relationships and keeping them intact as you continue to enjoy your journey as an entrepreneur.

Building your life-support system: your Board or Mastermind Group

Reach out to people you admire and tell them why you admire them. Not in a creepy stalker way – just state the facts, be specific, be brief (everyone’s busy, so respect their time and increase your chances of a response), be professional and give them something worth replying to.

Two of my most valued relationships began in this way. Four years ago, my mentor was the author of an article on ‘focus’ and I’d emailed him to say specifically what I liked about his article. Three years ago my business partner was the Marketing Manager I had emailed at a company I admired for it’s originality and values. I even emailed Henry Rollins a few years ago when I wanted to ask his opinion on ‘conscious capitalism’, and he even replied! I could go on and on about making these types of connections, but I think you get the point. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Give your partner a break

Your partner loves you, and along with you comes your business – you’re a two-for-one package deal. They’ve no doubt accepted that but, from time to time, give them a break from being your partner in crime and helping you to take on the world. Get out of the office and get yourself along to one of the many events that happen pretty much most nights of the week and often on weekends in major cities.

Last night, for example, there were at least three events in Sydney I could have attended. I chose to go to the Digital Citizens ‘Social Media for Social Good’ event and met some fabulous Tweeps and got some great inspiration for a post about positive engagement on Twitter. You can’t beat the buzz of hanging out with other entrepreneurs. It’s superbly uplifting and totally addictive.

If you see me at an event any time soon, come say hello. You’re welcome to spend 20 minutes excitedly telling me about your latest idea and I wont mind a bit. As long as you’re passionate and articulate, we’ll both get something positive out of the exchange.

And you never know, I might know someone you’re looking to add to your board? Chances are, if I don’t know them personally, then I’ll know someone who knows someone who does. If not, the next person you talk to might.

Lesley-Ann Trow is a seasoned bootstrapping entrepreneur who loves to share what she learns with other SMEs. Her Consulting talents range from asking ‘why?’ roughly 17 consecutive times to assist clients develop their razor sharp cut-through WOM marketing message to helping SMEs protect their reputation and bank balance as they navigate the online world. Start following Lesley-Ann on Twitter @150dominos and please tell her if she makes a mistake.

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