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Finding the right community for your startup

  1. Alex Mitchell

    Alex Mitchell UKBF Newcomer Full Member

    Posts: 0 Likes: 0
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    In association with Institute of Directors

    The excitement. The energy. The opportunity. The chance to be your own boss: the knowledge that you are in control of your own destiny, and the chance to follow your dream. Starting up can be hugely exciting. But with the ups, sadly, always come the downs and it is important to think of these and work out ways to make them less scary!

    Surrounding yourself with the right network can give you that comfort blanket. Starting up can be extremely lonely at times and when you have tough days – and trust me there will be lots of those – you need to share them with someone who can understand and support. For me and my journey, the communities I’ve been a part of have been a huge support. But I haven’t always got it right, so here are a few tips on looking for the right community from my journey so far.

    What you are looking for?

    Be honest with yourself about what you truly need and want. There are a lot of networks, groups, co-working spaces and meet ups out there which offer the world and seem extremely attractive, but are they for you? How much is hype and how much is real? Having a cool space to work from is all well and good, but is there a real community there and if so is it right for you? Never be afraid to speak to Founders, and those who are already members of these different communities to get the inside track.

    What support do you need?

    This is a tough one. Sometimes it’s hard to think about what support you need in a general way, especially if you are working 16 hour days. But have a think about those times when you feel the floor has opened up under you, when things haven’t gone to plan or you have that strong sinking feeling. When you do, would it have been helpful just to chat with someone who has been through the same? For me, the opportunity to have someone say, “Don’t worry Alex, the same thing happened to me a few months ago and this is how I dealt with it…” has been a huge value add and kept me sane.

    Type of people/startups in the network

    Often we surround ourselves with those similar to us, which can be a blessing and a curse. If you are in tech, do you only want to be around tech types? If you are a social entrepreneur, do you just want to be with other social enterprises? If you are a maker do you solely want to be around other makers, etc.? For me (and this might not work with everyone) I have found that the more diverse the network the more valuable it has been. A broad community challenges, supports, and most importantly often gets me to see things from a different view point.

    24/ 7 or when I need it?

    This for me is vital. I personally like being around people and work well when I am. But that isn’t true for everyone. A lot of my friends who are founders prefer to work alone but have a strong network that they can dip in and out of. So think about what works for you and how you like to work, and go from there. Feel free to try a few different things and pop along to some events of different networks. See if a co-working space will allow you do a trial for a day or two. Remember if you don’t ask you don’t get, and try before you buy is always a good idea.

    Honesty is the best policy

    The final point for me is honesty. Be really honest with yourself, even if it’s quite tough. With the massive variety of communities out there, you need to find the one that works best for you. Speak to people already in these different communities and get their thoughts. Speak to your friends, partner, former work colleagues and ask what they think about how you work best. For me, having a chat with a former boss of mine was a fantastic way to get the inside track from someone who worked and managed me, and had seen firsthand how I operated best. It isn’t quite then same when setting out on your own, but the feedback really helped me decide my journey and the type of communities and networks I would benefit from joining.

    As well as running my own startup, I chair the IoD 99, a fantastic network of entrepreneurs, which is very much a family of founders. We are there for each other in times of good and in periods of stress, we support each other on and offline, and we have found this has created an awesome peer mentoring community. To find out more about whether the IoD 99 could be a beneficial community for your entrepreneurial efforts, just click here. You can also get a taste of the 99 membership by checking out some of our resources here.  If you’d like more of a chat, you can find me on Twitter and Facebook.

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