The numbers you need in your business support system


opinions expressed by entrepreneur Contributors are their own.

If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you love to build. Handcraft. Experiment. Grow. Changing the direction of your business and trying new things is natural.

It is human nature to let others carry out their ideas. But who really gets it? Being overly creative or experimental with your business can feel isolating and even stressful without the right support system.

Sometimes it feels like sharing ideas with other professionals could create competition for your ideas. Brainstorming ideas with your employees can create confusion within the organization or undermine your leadership as you may not sound confident in your direction. And no matter how well-intentioned your family or spouse may be, sometimes they just can’t help you with the nuanced details.

But being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean you have to be alone.

It’s important to have a network of people – some in the business, some outside – who challenge you as much as relate to you. Honesty is what you are looking for and if you choose the right support system, that is exactly what you will get.

Consider the following pros and cons of what you might expect from these groups in your network.

friends and family

The benefit of confiding in your friends and family is that it gives you (that all too often underestimated) emotional support for your entrepreneurial journey. These are the people who are closest to you and who you love despite your flaws.

Ideally, sharing with friends and family means you can share openly and with less fear of rejection or failure. This creates a positive environment in which to practice, brainstorm your approach to new ideas, and weigh the pros and cons of your thought patterns.

On the other hand, your friends and family may lack objectivity. Although they care deeply about you, they don’t always have the most relevant advice for your challenges. They weren’t there and in most cases they weren’t. They’re ready to cheer you on – but may have no idea how else to help you.

In situations where company-specific advice is most important, it is best to consult a mentor.

See also: How to become your own mentor


These are the people in your network who were there and did that. Mentors can also be friends or family members, former bosses, professors or industry experts that you have contacted yourself.

What makes a great mentor is someone who has seen your industry through the ups and downs or has built an empire (or cranked out a business in the past). They can be more objective about solutions to your challenges and share their own experiences from the front lines. The most connected mentors will want to see you do well and may even find joy in helping you succeed.

When reaching out to your mentors, make sure you don’t overwhelm them or exhaust their willingness to help. A mentor’s time is valuable and often has its limits, unlike your friends and family. Make sure to be organized and intentional when talking to them.

See also: 10 tips to find (and keep) the perfect mentor.

clients or customers

In a perfect world, your best bet is to reach out to your customers for support. Your customers have already voted for you financially—that is, they believed in you enough to buy your services or products. They may even have referred you to others and brought you more business.

When you have a good relationship with your customers, they share their own needs and wants—and their feedback can help you improve your business or validate new ideas you have.

Your customers often know more people like themselves, and confiding in them could open up more potential deals for you, especially if they had a say in your business operations. You could confide in your customers and build advocates at the same time.

In many ways, customers also know your product inside out and the real-world implications of any changes you might make. As the most “connected” to your support system, they also have the most unvarnished opinions, especially if they’ve seen the impact of the service or product themselves.

On the other hand, beware of taking too much advice from clients. Sometimes they ask too much and offer ideas that actually only improve your business for themselves. Experimenting too much can dilute the appeal of your business and result in diminishing returns.

How to set up your support system

In your early days as an entrepreneur, you’ll likely start with friends and family as you become more comfortable sharing your business. At the same time, you should start reaching out to other business owners either through your local community, on LinkedIn, or by reaching out to some of the Entrepreneur contributors on this site to build your mentors.

Keep in mind that your mentors will likely change as your business grows. Someone who helped you in the beginning may not be as helpful as your business grows. So make sure that finding mentors is not a static process.

Over time, you will have customers to turn to for feedback and support. Similar to mentoring, remember that you shouldn’t confide in the same group of clients over and over again. You need to be diverse and speak to many different types of customers at different stages to avoid outdated information that can stall your growth.

Finally, remember: do not be afraid. Sure, you’re a little crazy being an entrepreneur. It is not easy. You take risks to live a fuller life. That takes courage.

It can certainly be an isolating experience as an entrepreneur, with feelings of being misunderstood or alienated. This need not be. Taking risks and disrupting the status quo is something everyone in business should do – just make sure you can turn to others along the way.

Related: 4 Benefits of Finding a Mentor


Comments are closed.