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Starting up and running your own business is a tremendously exciting and scary thing to do. Many of us are somewhere along the journey of doing just that and we have all got stories to tell, anecdotes to share and lessons we’ve learned. This blog is about the importance of having the right people around you to support you along the way, as it can be a very lonely and disheartening path, with lots of high and low points. You need a strong support network around you to ensure that you celebrate the good times, manage the bad times, move forward and make your business a success and your dreams come true.
I had the good fortune to meet a very inspirational woman called Catherine Connor who ran a very successful business training professional photographers. She has a way with words that resonates and lifts you up. One of her key talks is about the importance of making sure you have the right people around you to make you and your business flourish. I’m going to borrow two key labels from her and adapt them to my own experience and views.
The first term she uses is TRIBE – loosely a family or group that someone belongs to. She uses it mainly to describe your target customer. I’m going to steal another very good analogy from Naomi Gilmour now; she tells us, that even though there are plenty of fish in the sea, we don’t necessarily want to hook all of them and also they might not like the bait we are offering. So it’s important to focus all your efforts on the type of customers you WANT to do business with and who will want to do business with you. This immediately rules out a lot of people. If you get this formula right, you “gel” and go on to have a great business relationship. Many of my clients go on to become friends because our interests, passions and values are so well matched. These people become part of my tribe.
However, my tribe is made up of more than just my ideal clients. My tribe is a group of people that I belong to who share some common values with me and somehow we give each other something. It might be support, love, advice, they lift us up when we need it and rein us in at other times, or are just simply there when we want them to be. They are in my tribe because they care about me and me about them. We respect each other even though we may be very different.
Your immediate tribe is your family and your closest friends. Then you add people to your tribe because you want to know them, have their friendship, spend time with them, see them as a mentor, meet them a networking group and realize that you can help each other, or just that you “get on”.
You will see some members of your tribe every day and others you will speak to on the phone once a year. But they are no less important members of your tribe. I love the role that social media has played in growing my tribe. I have people in my tribe now that I’ve never met in person but have built a relationship with over time on Facebook. I know they are part of my tribe because I can tell from their comments and posts that they “get” me, like me and want me to be happy and successful. I had a wobble on social media in August when someone who definitely wasn’t in my tribe made a very hurtful comment. But my tribe rallied round me, picked me back up, and were incredibly supportive during a difficult time. Many of the lovely comments came from people I’ve not yet met, but really hope too.
You need to know who your tribe are and make sure you value them too and look after them. Don’t take them for granted. Spend a little time working out who your tribe are. And when you don’t get on with someone, you clash, you rub each other up the wrong way, don’t dwell on it, just accept that you belong to different tribes and that’s fine. I wish I could get my daughter to look at it like this and she’d save herself some heartache. But I think you need to get the ripe old age of 50 before you’ve had enough life experiences to do this.
The other term I picked up from this inspirational woman was Business Angels. These are very important people to you, specifically to your business. They are probably members of your tribe already but they also perform another important role: they are the people that whole-heartedly support your business. They believe in you so much that they readily tell other people about you and recommend you without hesitation. I’m not talking about people who belong to the same networking and who might mention you, I’m talking about your biggest fans. And we all have them if we think about it. They might be existing clients, your best friend, your partner. Although more often than not, the closest members of your tribe are NOT your business angels. My dad, my brothers, for instance, aren’t. They respect what I do, but they would never rave about me. But my niece does and regularly sends clients my way. Her genuine enthusiasm for what I do convinces people that they need my services.
You need to identify who your business angels are and really take care of them. Reward them in whatever manner is appropriate – with my niece I take gorgeous photos of her baby girl whenever I see her and I support her business venture even though I’m probably not a true business angel to her. Some people don’t want to be rewarded but rather to know that you appreciate them. But know who they are and make sure they are the first to know about new offers, products etc. I have a closed Facebook Group for students and I regularly give them useful information and links for free. A good number of them are my business angels and get me new business. If you neglect them they might eventually fade away.
I decided to talk about this at my favourite networking group, because many of of the group are part of my tribe and have supported me, “got” me, played a positive role in getting me through highs and lows with my business and my personal life. A number of you are definitely my business angels and you’ll know who you are – Sue France sprouted her wings a long time ago and even though I know I’m not the only photographer she supports, I know she believes in me and helps me whenever she can. As I do her.
So take some time to think about your tribe and your business angels and nuture and take care of them.