2 Building your network
One of the most important activities you will do to get your venture off the ground and thereafter to sustain it, is to bring other people along with you. If by now you still feel passionate about your business idea, then the chances are this will be obvious to other people you speak to, as well. If you are less sure then you have nothing to lose by testing it out on other people. Maintaining your energy and enthusiasm for your project is an essential part of sustaining it.
Take a moment to think about different ways you could benefit from getting feedback from some people you trust.
Some of the benefits of sharing your ideas might be that you are able to:
- gain more resources to draw upon – people, funding, suggested suppliers or outlets
- spread the risk beyond yourself – you may find that more people want to get involved and hence more people contribute ideas, knowledge, skills, funds and time to it
- tap into more sources of knowledge and creativity – again opening you up to the possibility of improvements, solutions or gaps in your thinking – all useful things to learn from
- access more experience and the means to evolve your original idea – especially those who can prevent you from making costly mistakes
- build confidence in your idea from their feedback and affirmation that you are on to something – which will help with periods of doubt or uncertainty that are bound to occur.
To start building your network, begin by making a list of people you know in your personal, social and professional circles. These may be people who:
- have money they would be prepared to put up
- may be willing to take a risk
- know other people who could help you
- would be fun to work with
- you know are people who get things done
- have a skillset you would find useful – like finance, marketing, communication, administration, attention to detail or experience of building up an enterprise.
Next, you will need to approach and enrol them in your venture. For some people this may be the hardest part of all as it may feel like you are exposing yourself to possible rejection or disappointment. The first thing to remember is that you are not trying to sell these people anything, but rather offering them the chance to do something they may want to do for themselves. There is an important distinction between those who will be excited for you and those for whom your enterprise taps into a desire or a genuine opportunity for them. In an earlier session you considered your own motivation for starting out on your entrepreneurship journey but now you need to think of the motivation of others. If you can see real gains and these are aligned with your contacts, then there is no problem. If they are not, again there is no problem – don’t take it personally.
If you are thinking of working with friends or relations, it is worth thinking through where their motivation comes from. It will be unhelpful in the long run if your friends or family feel pressure to support your venture in any formal way. In Session 2 you considered whether you had any longer term aims around your immediate family (e.g. what might be in jeopardy if the worst happens with your business venture). There are many ways that people can support you personally but lending money or working for you for free, out of obligation to your relationship, is not sustainable. It can create future difficulties if later this is at the expense of their own need for money or time. It is therefore quite useful to discuss the venture more objectively in terms of what is an ‘acceptable risk’ or even ‘acceptable loss’ to them. In this way both parties understand their position.
Enrolling others will require them to understand what it is that you are seeking to do and what you are seeking from them. You will need to ensure that they feel the same enthusiasm and desire to move forwards that you do.
Next you will consider your pitch to those in your personal, social and professional network.