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It’s Not You, It’s Your Support Structure
By Elizabeth Grace Saunders, 14 Mar 2014
Follow Dean Hogarth
When you feel stuck, overwhelmed, or unmotivated, it’s easy to isolate yourself, especially if you have introverted tendencies or work alone. You think: I just need to focus more, work harder, and avoid all distractions until I get this done.
Yet often, the best way to make it through a difficult time in your business is to reach out to others. But what if you don’t have a support network in place?
When you’re already overwhelmed, it can seem intimidating to even begin to think about building one. To provide some extra support for you, I’ve created a guide to assist you in the process. Start with one or two of the following new people, and then gradually integrate more supporters into your life as needed:
Why to have them: Assistants act as stabilizers and release valves by helping you keep life in order when you find yourself in a major time crunch. Also, they can increase your overall quality of life when they take care of items you find stressful or frustrating or simply don’t enjoy, including shipping packages, following up on invoices, picking up supplies, taking measurements of spaces, writing notes during meetings, or making travel arrangements.
Where to find them: Get a referral, search online channels like oDesk, Elance or Craigslist, or simply look around you for people who have time, good work ethic, and the ability to do what you need done. As long as you have clear expectations in place, friends, neighbors, and even family members can provide a great source of support.
How to build the relationships: Define exactly what you want done, decide on the frequency that the tasks need completion, and structure the working arrangement accordingly. For instance, you may hire someone by the hour on an as-needed basis, or you could pay them a weekly or monthly fee for keeping up on certain routine activities.
Why to have them: These individuals act as traveling companions on your entrepreneurial journey. You just “get” one another and can exchange empathy, feedback, ideas, connections and accountability to keep at projects even when they seem tough.
Where to find them: Start by contacting people who have expressed some mutual interest in a professional relationship, but who you have lost touch with. Then look for people at places where you work, where you shop for supplies, or where your “type of people” tend to congregate, such as industry networking events. You can also search for individuals and groups through sites like Twitter or Meetup.com.
How to build the relationship: Find a group that meets on a regular basis and make it a priority to show up. Or set up a one-on-one appointment with a peer, either as a recurring event or with the understanding that you will set up your next time together at the end of each meeting.
Why to have them: People such as trainers, mentors, advisers, coaches, and teachers help you take your life to the next level. You may reach out to these experts for support in your core business endeavors or they may help you stretch in a related area, such as sales training or time management. Typically, these time-bound relationships inspire you to complete a specific project, make it through a transition or master a certain skill.
Where to find them: You want to find a teacher with the knowledge you seek and with a style that resonates with you. To discover who is the right fit, look at blog posts, listen to webinars, attend lunch ‘n’ learns, pay attention to who advances in your company, and think about the people you most respect in your field.
How to build the relationship: In some instances, you will have the ability to enroll in a formal program that will help define and move forward the relationship. But with informal teachers, you’ll need to be more strategic. Try to arrange an initial meeting. If they agree to meet and the conversation goes well, ask if you can keep in touch. Set your next meeting at a mutually agreeable time or make a note in your calendar to follow up on a specific day. Define the goal of your conversations so everyone has the same expectations, and decide on a time when you will reevaluate whether to continue meeting.
As the African proverb goes: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The proper support at all levels is an essential component of unleashing your creative genius.
Do you have a strong support network? If so, how have you built and maintained it?
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