You are who you surround yourself with.
That quote is attributed to no one in particular, but it is widely quoted in business, professional, academic, and self-improvement circles. You might know it as the basis for the law of attraction. The core concept actually goes back to Confucius, who had something to say about surrounding yourself with good people: “If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.”
For anyone with ambitions of life-changing personal or business growth, that begs the question of whether you have taken inventory of the people around you to understand if they are lifting you up or keeping you down. As you survey the contact list of your inner circle, are there people who share a similar vision as yours? Positively influence you and others? Help to improve yourself in some way?
Equally importantly, are there people who do the opposite—whose very existence in your life creates a negative cloud that stifles your progress and cares not about your success?
Studies have shown that having the right people around you is crucial for self-development, expanding your business, and increasing your visibility as an entrepreneur. It could be the reason why you meet your next ideal client, close a major deal, or are given more opportunities to grow. Your immediate goal should be “to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.”*
Building Your Support Network Around the Right People
If you don’t have enough of the right people around you, you may be holding yourself back. Fortunately, as a business owner, you have many opportunities to rectify that and build a solid support network.
Building a solid business support network doesn’t take a major effort, and the benefits can help business owners keep their sanity while growing their businesses.
All five of these business support mechanisms can be easily accessed and work in concert to provide an optimal amount of support:
Join the industry: Starting with the obvious, if your business is associated with a trade group or association, you must join it. Industry groups are often the best resource for timely information, business tools, and marketing data. They usually sponsor local or regional meetings that are gold mines for networking and gathering vital business information.
Networking meetings: People of all walks gather in weekly or monthly social settings where ideas are exchanged, pitches are made, relationships are developed, and business is conducted. Networking meetings can be found that match your business purpose, your occupational specialty, and even your target market. It is probably the best setting to share in the tribulations and successes of other like-minded people.
Online networking: The more obvious networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn provide avenues for people to join niche communities where people gather online in forums and chat rooms to exchange ideas and ask questions. By participating in forums attended by your customers, you have a chance to make your presence and expertise known by providing answers and information. If you have a web presence, active forum participation can increase traffic to your site.
Join support groups: A more high-level, focused support group can be spawned from relationships built from networking meetings or online forums. This is a more formal meeting of half a dozen people conducted monthly. They are typically designed as workshops that include a few hours of discussion on topics of interest to the group. Each month, one member is responsible for bringing in a guest speaker who offers a unique perspective or expertise.
Find a mentor: The most effective and direct source of support and advice is through a mentor or coach, ideally one who shares either your business purpose or your entrepreneurial vision. A mentor is someone who is successful but, more importantly, is seasoned in the trials and tribulations of running a business. A good mentor speaks his mind and provides invaluable feedback on your business’s positive and negative aspects. They are also known to take your phone call at just about any time of day.
If you feel your progress has slowed to a crawl and you find yourself doing the same thing repeatedly, expecting different results, stop driving yourself insane and get to work surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you.
*From the song, “Accentuate the Positive” by Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer and popularized by Bing Crosby.