Similar to the popular proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” it truly does take a village to start a business. If you have ever started your own business, you know the importance of reaching deep into your personal and professional networks to ask anyone and everyone for help. Whether it is a request for an introduction to a potential customer or advice on a potential partnership strategy, startups and new businesses depend heavily on the support of “a village” to get up and running. We at Pluie are no different. We are forever grateful to everyone who has offered to help or answered an email over the last few years since our launch in early 2021. We have made many new friends along the way and received an overwhelming amount of support from others.
When starting a new venture or business, consider these tips for growing your village:
- Hiring the right contractors as an expansion of your team, especially as you continue to run lean in the first few years, is critical. Then ensuring you are hiring team members who have diverse, broad networks should also be a consideration.
- There is a significant difference between a start up business and a corporation – you don’t have that automatic built in support system and network like you do at a corporation. Departments composed of experts in the field don’t exist at a start up. You are typically flying the plane while building it versus going through what seems like an endless amount of executive reviews with structured phase/gate processes. Consider who will be your “experts” and make sure their experience is a good fit for your needs. Don’t hesitate to ask people for help even if you can’t compensate them appropriately – we have found so many “experts” that are willing to help because of their belief in our purpose.
- Expanding your network must be a priority for any new business owner as your network can only go so far. It truly does take a village and your network is the foundation for this village. Being willing to allocate time to this is critical despite already feeling like the hours during the day are not enough. Ask for help and introductions but also that you are allocating time to give back in return.
- Ensure that you are building authentic relationships and following up with the contacts who have made introductions on your behalf. Those people will want to know the outcome of their introductions and be sure to express your gratitude.
- Don’t hesitate to initiate cold outreach via LinkedIn – we continued to be surprised by the responses from a short message on the platform. And we will never forget when Mara Smith, founder of Inspiro, answered our connection request and shared that she never turns one down, especially from a fellow female founder.
Villages are made up of all different kinds of individuals, so consider these types of people when building your village:
Someone who makes introductions: these people have vastly different networks and can open doors specific to sales opportunities, strategic partnerships and potential mentors.
Someone who is on a similar journey: these people can relate on a personal level to what you are experiencing in real time and can serve as a sounding board and support system.
Someone who understands your industry: these people can give you critical information that will help you accelerate your business that you may not find in a book or article.
Someone who has been there before: these people can share their lessons learned and give you unique insights that only someone who has been there before can share.
Someone who has the experience and expertise: these people/organizations can add significant value especially in the early stages launching a business, especially one that involves creating an world’s first (Pluie is the world’s first and only self-sanitizing diaper changing table for public restrooms).
Someone who holds you accountable and challenges your thinking: these people can give you a unique perspective given their leadership and professionalism – also add strategic thinking as not tied to the day-to-day business.
For Pluie, this was our friends, family, and professional network that ultimately made up our Advisory Board. These people are already in your corner, so don’t be afraid to ask for their support and guidance more formally!