I’ve been a small business owner for eight years now, and I’ve been given so much advice that I’ve forgotten more of it than I can remember. Growing my freelance web writing business from one writer to a team of ten has been challenging, rewarding, fulfilling, scary and totally fun. I couldn’t have done it without having my own personal team; a group of people who are truly dedicated to seeing me win.
Every single small business owner needs these five roles in your corner. They can be friends, family, neighbors, colleagues or competitors and more than one person can play a role. But you must have all five to see your business grow without completely losing your sense of self and sanity. I call them the 4 P’s and 1 C:
When you’re running a small business, there’s always more work to do—more to learn, more people to network with, more systems to learn—just more. It can get exhausting. The Pusher keeps you pushing the envelope, teasing from you what you’re truly capable of. For me, this is my accountability partner, Kim, who reminds me about my goals and what I need to do to reach them. Identify the person or people in your life who always points to the brass ring and push you to grow stronger.
On the flip side, when you have a Pusher, you’re also going to need a Pacer. He or she reminds you that too much growth all at once might not be the right thing for the business. Typically, the Pacer is someone who truly cares about the health of your business. And I don’t mean in a nagging type of way, “Do you think you’re doing too much?” Rather, The Pacer listens carefully to your business challenges and responds with thoughtful analyses of your current challenges.
The Protectors feel close enough to you to remind you of the life you might be neglecting why you try to grow your business. Their role is to encourage you to find some balance in your life. They might be the people who say, “Maybe it really doesn’t make sense to travel to six cities in five weeks.” Small business owners by their natures push themselves; the Protector reminds you that you work to live, not live to work.
This person could be a colleague, competitor or someone you turn to when the day just isn’t going well. But he or she is a peer—someone who understands the intricate challenges you face in your field.
I once had a terrible client meeting and I walked out and called my friend Matt, crying. He works in my field and he totally got what I was saying about why the meeting went so poorly—he talked it out with me. He agreed I didn’t handle certain parts of the meeting well, but he also reminded me that client engagements in our industry are complex. The Peerleader will give you the truth without the sugarcoat, but will remind you that you are human. Having someone who truly understands your field is critical when you’re a small business owner, and you don’t necessarily have ten other colleagues with whom you can share your daily challenges.
Everyone needs the person who tells you are fantastically talented and up for the challenge of running a business. The Cheerleader probably doesn’t understand the ins and outs of your field or your business, but knows you and what you want to represent to the world. He or she can function as the person you call when you don’t want to rehash all the gory details, but just want someone to remind you that you’re awesome. Every single one of us—small business owner or not—needs a cheerleader (many, preferably). Don’t forget to find the person—or people—in your life who remind you that you’re doing exactly what you should be doing.
With the 4 P’s and 1 C in your corner, you’ll be able to keep your audacity of spirit—the very thing in you that pushed you to jump into the roaring currents of business and pull yourself up the ladder of success.
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Photo by Sarah Shreves