I was lucky that starting a business in PR meant I could work from my kitchen table, quite literally. Back in January 2016 I had a laptop, a phone, contacts and experience, and I didn’t need much else besides that at the start. Working on my own to build a PR consultancy around two small children was manageable (naptime permitting) and it was a good way to begin Carnsight.
But something I did miss initially (aside from a night or two of unbroken sleep!) was company. I sometimes cherish time on my own to focus on writing and proposals, but more frequently I love working alongside other people – discussing ideas, chatting about approaches, sharing contacts or even just sharing a cup of coffee.
Before I began to grow the business and took on my first employee, I found it invaluable to work alongside others. I quite quickly found that it’s possible to create a tribe even as a sole trader. This is where I found mine:
Pre-pandemic, meeting clients face-to-face was the norm, and I relished the opportunity of getting together, discussing their challenges and also deepening relationships. Many of our clients are fellow small business owners and we may work in very different industries but there are a lot of parallels. We certainly work best with clients with whom we have mutual respect – we like to act as partners. So client meetings are generally fruitful and enjoyable.
Friends who are small business owners
As a new business owner, suddenly you’ll have even more in common with friends who also run their own businesses. But whereas you might not have talked about accountancy software together before, you will now! Mine include marketing professionals, photographers, videographers, florists and many more besides. It’s great to meet and chat and also support each other. That could be through social media, on your websites or even by exchanging services.
Local small business owners
I’ve found small business owners gravitate towards each other in a community and there’s often common ground. We had a local business owner Christmas dinner in our local pub a while ago, for example. Since we were missing out on lavish company parties we made sure we got together and enjoyed ourselves. It’s a good idea to keep in touch with local business owners and they’re also a great source of recommendations on services and companies to use in the area.
Business owners in your building
When we moved into our offices a few years ago, I didn’t know many of the business owners, but now it’s like having a whole new network of friends, not just contacts. It’s nice to have a quick break from work and catch up with them on their businesses and get another perspective on business challenges. It also helps that our offices are dog-friendly and that there are some lovely four-legged friends in the building.
Groups or networking
There are also groups set up to help you create a network – but I found you often don’t know about them until you start working for yourself. These include local networking groups, national networking groups, even global networking groups (made possible by the Zoom era we live in). There are sector-only groups, female-only, council-run, walking and talking groups and many, many more. My recommendation would be to ask around and try a few – you’ll soon find out what works for you. A good national one is Enterprise Nation which runs brilliant events as well as having a supportive community. Attending an event is also nice to get out, chat with some new people and hopefully make interesting contacts along the way.
Good luck in finding your tribe. It will be invaluable as you grow and develop as a business.
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