For the entirety of 2014, I have been building the brand and community that is Treehouse Networkshop. A little over three months ago, I decided to leave the security and stability a 9 to 5, full time job provides, and devote more time and energy into this project. Now, more than ever, with technology and perspectives ever-changing, seemed like the right time to take the leap into entrepreneurship and self-employment.
Though many aspiring startups and aspiring entrepreneurs have phenomenal ideas and potential products, there’s always the insecurity and risk that can be terrifying, and prevent making these ideas a reality.
Being only three months into this new lifestyle, I’ve learned a few things that have made the path a little easier.
Friends and Mentors – Luckily, St. Louis (where I’m based), is currently ripe with startups, entrepreneurs, and successful business owners. Prior to leaving my job, I spent months meeting with people I respected who had successfully built businesses and brands. During these early-morning coffees, lunches, and happy hours, I found that most of these people knew of other people and organizations that could help me as I was starting out, and they were happy to make introductions. More importantly, these were people who had been where I am right now, so I was able to learn from their experiences.
I also made sure I meet up with a friend or mentor on a weekly basis. This has become easier, as now I find myself collaborating and socializing with people doing similar things. Every time I meet someone new, I try to learn something from the conversation.
Rely on Your Network – When I’m trying to tackle a project that goes a little bit outside of my expertise, I’ve learned to reach out to the expert in that field. Early on, I’d find myself spending too much time trying to research the technical ins & outs of a project, when I could’ve just learned what I needed to by making a phone call.
Social media has been extremely helpful with this as well. If I’m not able to think of someone within my network that might be able to help, sometimes all it takes is a tweet or two. People want to be the connector and help along the way.
Be Specific and Ask – Friends, family, and supporters of what you’re trying to do want to help you, most of the time, they just don’t know how. I’m a firm believer in that everyone can add value and help in some way. If you’re able to let them know what you want, and be as specific as you can, you tend to get much better results through networking.
If I’m looking to work with a business as a consultant, or spread the word about Treehouse, I decide what type of business and audience I’m trying to reach first. When someone asks how they can help, I have a specific answer to give, and they know exactly what I’m looking for.
This may go without saying, but if you don’t “ask”, you don’t “get.” So if I think someone can help me, I always ask, and I’m happy to return the favor.
Tell the Story of “Why” – When people ask me to tell my story, I believe they really want to know “why.” Why do you choose to pursue a project, business, product, etc.? I was suggested to look up a Ted Talk by Simon Sinek.
“How” and “What” seem to be the easier of the two questions, but “why” is what people really want to know.
If you’re genuine, and passionate about what you’re doing, people will want to share, support, and help in any way they can.
Though I’ve told this story many, many times now, when I start telling someone “why,” I always seem to have more passion.
At the end of the day, I’ve realized that when you’re starting up, your network, time, and energy are your most valuable assets. I’m constantly trying to ask myself who I know who can help me save time, and energy, while I can focus on what’s next. If you’re willing to help someone else do the same, we’re all stronger because of it.