This post originally appeared on the Louisiana Technology Park blog.
Few endeavors are as rewarding, or as challenging, as owning your own business. One way to make that journey easier is by turning to others for counsel — especially a network of fellow business owners who can help provide the knowledge that leads to success.
But building that support network can be daunting, especially for those just starting their business. To get some insight, we talked to Dustin Puryear, who founded Puryear IT in 2002, which builds custom IT solutions for clients in the Baton Rouge area and beyond.
Look Outside, Not Inside
Puryear says he struggled with creating a support network during his early years in business, and it’s only within the past seven or eight years that he has felt like he’s finally gotten it right. One approach he says has worked for him is to look outside the organization and not within. People within the company are a valuable knowledge asset, but they’re not necessarily the right ones to turn to for insight on how owning a business affects you personally and professionally, he says.
“What I’m talking about is having somebody that understands what it really means to have cash-flow problems in your business. Also, what it means to have issues in your personal life, because particularly when you’re starting a company, you’re spending double the hours that most people work inside of the business, and so some of your personal connections suffer. And it becomes difficult to talk to people if they don’t run a company,” Puryear says.
Start simple in building your network: Reach out to the local chamber of commerce, ask for veteran entrepreneurs in the community willing to talk, and seek out and join professional associations in your industry.
At first these meetings may tend to focus on having business referred your way, which is really more of a sales and marketing function, Puryear says. But look for ways to deepen the relationship beyond that, especially with people you find you can relate to. Over time your professional and personal relationships will start to blur as your support network grows and becomes familiar.