Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Two years after launching my consulting business, I hit 2X growth and had built multiple high exposure brand partnerships. This was a bittersweet moment for me. Professionally, I had achieved many of the goals I set in motion, both financial and strategic, but it was also to the detriment of my physical, mental, and at times, emotional well-being. Hardly anyone noticed. No one sent flowers. And that’s ok.
I get asked a great deal, “Do you find it hard to keep your business going without the support of friends and family?” Not only do I get asked this, but I see this come up in online business communities constantly. My answer is always the same — friends and family don’t pay your bills. Focusing on the lack of support from friends and family is a distraction. Your focus should instead be what your needs are. Often, people who don’t have the same career ambition or background won’t understand. The last thing an entrepreneur wants to hear is “Why don’t you just go find a real job?” or “Is it really worth it?” Let’s pretend the conversation is not about business. If I was struggling in my marriage or with my physical health, would you advise me to quit as soon as the going got tough? Likely not. So never ask someone to quit their dreams early on.
Admittedly, within the first six months, I paid close attention to who liked, shared, and sang my praises when I jumped into the more public side of the business. As time went on, my little list of shame grew. Who hasn’t read my book? Who has sat across a table from me and said they didn’t know what I actually did for a living (nor did they follow up and ask). I had to stop. This was wasting mental capacity that would never yield any tangible results for my business and truly that’s what I needed to spend my time worrying about if it was all going to come together.
Instead, I put my head down and started strategizing about my brand and experience and where I needed to position myself to turn my ideas and skills into revenue. Again, unless your friends are part of large networks that align with your business or are offering up capital for your business, the likelihood that their support will yield something tangible for your business is slim. Learn where your target audience lives and move towards them.
I started formulating very specific partnerships and collaborations. I poured every ounce of myself into my consulting engagements. From a revenue perspective, my business grew. From a branding perspective, my business grew. But none of my family and friends had any idea what I was doing — and I didn’t care.
There is no one real answer as to why those closest to you may behave in the way that they do. My honest opinion is that being an entrepreneur is like being a part of an ongoing social experiment. In private, you have wonderful cheerleaders who believe in you and will pump you up to keep going. In public, it’s different. People are very selective about what they will choose to support and align themselves with. For example, I have shared more pieces of content publicly than I can recall. My professional network has become a stronger force in engagement, which is very important when you are building a brand. And these are mostly people who I have never met or even spoken to. Recently, I shared the news that I had become an official partner with Amazon. Because of Amazon’s high viability, I assume, this news was ok to support. Engagement across the board was extremely high, professionally and personally. I’ve accepted, that’s just the way it goes.
When people say it costs nothing to support your friend or family member in public, understand that to some people they may be looking to protect their image and align with very specific people/content/ideas and you have to respect that. Our careers and image are equally important to all of us, entrepreneur or not.
So, what can you do to get the support you need to grow? Focus on these three areas.
1. Build your reputation
To grow your business, you need a strong reputation. How can you do this? Raise the bar high for your ethics and standards. Treat every client, regardless of size, like they are the most important in your portfolio. This is how you build retention and long-term engagements. Treat your business partners with respect. This means anyone who is a part of keeping your business in operation. If you mistreat a key business partner who then slows down or holds back their services, how will that impact your business and, in turn, your customers? To keep your business cycle moving, you must treat everyone who touches your business with respect and kindness. This is how you build a reputation and get the referrals that lead to sales conversion. Client testimonials carry significant weight over your best friend or mom and dad. Aim for these.
2. Network in like-minded communities, in-person and online
Go where you are understood and where you can have conversations that will add value. Now, I say this with all the respect in the world, but I personally have a hard time getting into the weeds of what I am trying to achieve with individuals who don’t come from a business or technology background. I don’t have time to teach others out of curiosity and who won’t be able to offer me advice that I can put into use. Be intentional with your conversations. When you are looking for business advice, go to the right people to get it. When you are looking for a morale boost, friends and family could definitely help out. Position yourself where you can find answers, get support, connect with the right people and grow.
3. Support and validate yourself
Understand that you are capable of giving yourself the validation and morale boost that you need. A mistake that many of us make is ignoring the small victories in favor of waiting for the big moments and giving setbacks more mental space than they need. Learn the lessons, make the changes and move on.
The path to success is based on many small milestones. Sit back as often as possible and reflect on them. When you do this, you will recognize that you are succeeding and creating your pathway to success, it is the journey, not the final destination that builds us.
At the end of the day, no one knows better than you what it has taken to get where you are. The world’s most successful entrepreneurs don’t sit around worrying about why people aren’t patting them on the back. They’re out there working hard and finding motivation in the right places.