Thursday July 12, 2012
Fellow entrepreneurs are often ready to lend a hand to newbies
By JEANISHA WAN
What is the best way to start your own business? By yourself as a one-man-show or together with a group of friends?
There is no one right answer, but one thing is definitely clear — none of us can do it alone.
Maybe you started your business with the support of family and friends, but in essence, you are on on your own.
For example, you may have held a very high position in a big company before starting out on your own.
When you passed around your namecard in meetings back then, people would look at your namecard and give you a look of respect.
If your old company was one of the biggest in the world, people might even have been afraid to offend you. They were nice to you and to some extent, treated you like their best friend.
Yet all this changes when you come out on your own. A new friend of mine who used to hold a high position with a large publication discovered this.
In a recent interview about his new venture, he mentioned that for the first time in 17 years of his working life, he experienced people being curt to him when he tried to pitch ideas to them.
Yes, things change. You no longer have a big company’s name to lean on. Make or break, it all rests on you. It is a very vulnerable feeling indeed because you are an entrepreneur, you are on your own.
But you have also joined a new family. I call it the family of entrepreneurs, where we instinctively look out for, and if possible, help each other out.
When I started my business two years ago, my first two clients were IT business owners. They were also people I knew.
One of them was the distributor of my former company’s products while the other was one of my former bosses.
Getting that first client is of course difficult when you have nothing to show and especially since I was just a one-woman-show in that first few months.
By becoming my clients, these two had supported me in helping me to kickstart my business.
I did not really understand why at the time, but I guess one of the reasons is because they are also entrepreneurs themselves.
They know how it is when someone is just starting out and somehow, there is this esprit de corp that persuades them to spur another entrepreneur on.
Throughout the course of running my business so far, I dare say I would not have made it if not for the help of all the other entrepreneurs out there whom I knew or got to know.
Some helped by giving me business, others by introducing me to new contacts and yet others in terms of moral support by commenting on the many blog postings I wrote about my business when I first started out.
Then of course, another reason is that my first two clients and I already knew each other.
They had seen my work during my time as an employee and had no reason to doubt the quality and delivery of my work.
And, as if the tables were turned, some of the people I knew who used to provide services to me and my company during my time as an employee later joined corporations that were my pros-pective clients.
Now I am pitching to them instead of the other way round!
I learned that in entrepreneurship, we may be on our own when we start our business but we definitely cannot do it all by ourselves. Thankfully, more often than not, other more experienced and seasoned entrepreneurs will rally around us to offer some kind of support.
I also learned that we must never underestimate the power of contacts and being able to connect with all sorts of people, regardless of who they are and where they work. We may never know just how valuable that connection may be to us one day when we are all by ourselves.
Jeanisha feels this is much like her university days where she had kind seniors who passed on to her their books, clothes, apartment room and even part-time jobs so she did not need to start from zero.