I remember it like it was yesterday. It was February 2006 and I had just left my job to start my own business. On this particularly dark and rainy night I was heading to a diner to meet what would become my first ever business support group.
Organized by my friend Marsha Stone, a native New Yorker who was wiser and more experienced than me in every way, that coming together of like-minded, yet very different people forever changed how I thought about and engaged with others and with my business.
As a veteran business owner herself, Marsha knew I was quietly freaking out as the realization of what I had done set in. She knew I needed support and that I could support others.
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She knew I needed to learn how to ask for help. And she knew that when two or more like-minded people come together amazing things happen.
She knew a lot!
Over the course of the next few years, I learned that having a close-knit group of confidants was THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I could do for myself and as a business owner.
I’ve since made it a priority to find the right groups, mentors, and community to support me wherever I happen to be in my business.
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How about you? Do you have a group of people you can rely on to support you when things are going wrong and celebrate with you when they’re going right?
If the answer’s not a “Hell yeah!” let’s change that! It’s a powerful, yet pretty easy thing to create and I promise, you won’t look back.
Here are 3 ways to grow your community around you and get on the path to success:
1) Groups: join one or build your own
Groups run the gamut from forming or joining an accountability group (free) to investing in high-level coaching or mastermind groups (moderate to high investment).
The great news about groups is you can tailor your experience to meet your needs right here and now. But all groups are not created equal. Here are a few tips I picked up along the way:
- Be discerning about who you invite in. I look for people who are motivated, will show up, have a clear idea of what success looks like to them and are prepared to put in the work, are generous with their time, insights and expertise, and are a few steps ahead of me (but not so far that I feel completely intimidated or will slow the group down).
- Decide on how loose or structured you’d like it to be. You might even want to draft some simple guidelines to share with potential members to ensure you’re all on the same page.
- Meet regularly, ideally the same time and day each week so you don’t waste time going back and forth on times.
Action step: Do some research and check out existing group coaching programs, mastermind groups, even Facebook groups if that’s your thing. Anything appeal to you?
If forming your own group feels like the way to go, list all the things you’d like to get out of a group (remember, you’re investing significant time and energy into this so there needs to be a return on that investment).
What are the shared values and traits of the group? Who would be the dream members? Pitch the idea to those people and see if they’re up for it.
Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel (greatly overrated!), look for associations and gatherings where your people hang out.
For me, those places include Creative Mornings, Freelancer’s Union, and Spark Design Professionals. And those are just the in-person places. There are a bunch of places they’re gathering online too.
Action item: Spend an hour or two doing some research on associations or meetups that cater to you and your tribe.
Of course, look online but ask that person you know (we all have one of them in our orbit) who seems to be out networking all the time and ask where they like to hang out.
Make a plan to go to ONE event a month. Which brings me to….
3) Be a connector
One of the best ways I know to get love is to give love. And it’s really simple to do. When you meet someone new through work, at a networking event, or just in your everyday life, think to yourself, “Who can I introduce this person to?”
There’s always some connection you can make. When you approach others from a place of what you can give rather than get, energetically that love comes right back to you like a boomerang baby!
Action item: Adopt the “give, give, get” philosophy and see how it changes the way you engage with others!
Now it’s your turn! How do you foster community and connection, and what has it done for you personally and professionally?
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