During this summer's blog series, we've discussed some of the jugular issues budding business owners must evaluate before opening their doors: Paying themselves; building profit margins; and setting their pricing. Say you've worked through some or all of these things. There is one more step to increase your probability for success: Having "Accountability Partners."
When conceiving and planning the creation of Bshapiro Financial, I looked for six people successful in their own right whose thinking I admired and opinions I respected. Some knew me well; others were business owners and professionals I knew casually through networking. I invited each of them to meet with me over a breakfast or lunch or a scheduled phone call every couple of months. My hope was they would evaluate my plans, offer recommendations and share their strategies for success.
The results with these mentors were tremendous. Here's why:
- If you do your homework—come to the meeting focused and prepared; respect their time; and limit your ask—successful people will help you. However, don't go to the meeting asking, "I’d like to start a business and I don't know what to do. Can you help me build it?" Instead, describe on paper and in words the specific issue and listen to their comments.
- It forced me to be more detailed about my plans and receptive to feedback. When you ask important people for their time, you can't be vague or coy. You've got to share your goals, your strategies and your numbers. And you cannot be defensive if they hit a nerve. Otherwise this is not going to work.
- I wound up becoming friends with the people I initially didn't know well. I'd like to think that being clear and open helped me earn their respect and friendship during the process.
- It motivated me to take action. If I publicly shared my plans with these people and then didn't do anything or even chickened out, I'd be so embarrassed. As a result, there was no thought of turning back; I really wanted to make my business happen. In addition, when I did what I said I would, or followed through with something they suggested, it also kept these individuals engaged while leading me to results.
- My mentors introduced me to others who offered their time and wisdom, which serendipitously grew my network and provided introductions to new business.
- I made sure to keep the mentors informed. Their email replies made me feel like I had a cheering section.
- We helped each other. I never solicited business from the mentors who did not initially know me well, though I did explain what I do as part of the conversation about the issue I wanted to discuss. However, I made sure to understand their businesses and make appropriate client and network introductions as often as possible. If there was a charitable cause important to them, I made donations. I did whatever I could to show my gratitude.
Once you feel the eureka moment that your plan can work, get your financial and legal professionals involved. As with your mentor group, present, listen and be open. Finally, communicate your plans to your family in the same manner. If your plan is clear, fully formed and has the input of mentors and professionals, your family will feel confident, assured and excited for you. And then there's no stopping you from making your dream come true.