A strong support network is crucial for the success of any entrepreneur, especially when they're just starting out and need all the guidance they can get in running and growing their business. A support system can provide both business and emotional support in an entrepreneur's hour of need -- and ultimately make a world of difference when it comes to their success or failure.

These six entrepreneurs share some of their best tips for building long-lasting relationships with peers, mentors, friends and employees that every business leader can rely on.

Don't be afraid to start looking.

As with most things in life and business, getting started may be the most difficult part of the process. But the sooner you start, the more benefits you'll reap, according to FreeeUp Co-Founder and CMO Connor Gillivan.

"Go on LinkedIn and identify a group of key people you'd want to be your mentors. Reach out to each of them with a custom message explaining that you are looking for guidance and that you'd love to buy them a coffee (if local) or have a brief call together to learn about their story," Gillivan advises. "I did this early on and was able to build an amazing support network that I still tap into 10 years later."

Ask for help.

"Asking for help makes a huge difference for entrepreneurs just starting out," says Rachel Beider, CEO of PRESS Modern Massage. That's why the importance of having a strong support network cannot be overstated.

Beider recounts that when she opened the first location of her business, she looked for mentors in her field and in unrelated fields. "I created an unofficial 'board of advisers' who helped me problem-solve, plan more strategically and look at the bigger picture," she adds.

Keep your circle tight.

When building your support system, Matthew Capala, founder and managing director of Alphametic, recommends keeping your circle small. After all, it's about building long-term relationships with a few people who can have a big impact on your life.

"All you need is a handful of mentors -- sometimes one will do -- who are carefully selected, rather than networking with many people," Capala explains. "Networking is important, but for critical advice about business issues, too many opinions will confuse rather than comfort you."

Seek out people in the same life stage as you.

Another key aspect to remember is to surround yourself with people who will empathize with your situation and unique challenges, according to Vision Tech Team CEO James Guldan.

"When I was starting my company at 19, I hated that all the people in the business groups I was in were always talking about their kids or their wives. I was a decade away from their life problems," he explains. "Almost all of my scalability problems have been life-related, and having people who are in the same life stage as you helps a ton."

Get a business partner you can rely on.

For many entrepreneurs, the best way to start building a support network is to find a business partner with whom to share the highs and lows of the business. "The best decision I made when starting my business was to trick a co-founder into joining me," says Han-Gwon Lung, CEO and co-founder of Tailored Ink.

Lung taught his partner everything he knew at the time, and that paid off in countless closed deals and new business. "Perhaps more importantly, we weather the tough times together -- which makes them a whole lot easier to deal with," he underlines. "Our girlfriends often joke that we're married. They're not wrong."

Attend industry conferences.

"When I first started out as an entrepreneur, I went to a few conferences in my niche. It was a fantastic way to meet people in a similar place as myself and far ahead as well," explains Justin Faerman, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Conscious Lifestyle Magazine.

The key thing to keep in mind when building your network is not only to ask for help, but also to offer it. "During and after conferences, I had conversations and phone calls with the people I met and asked how I could support them," he says. "This led to many powerful collaborations that built strong relationships."

Published on: May 6, 2019
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