Can entrepreneurs go it alone? No and yes!
By Damian Mears
I had the pleasure of hosting an enlightening panel discussion in our coworking space last week. It was encouraging that over 50 people attended, especially on a unseasonably hot day. On the panel of esteemed Cambridge-based entrepreneurs were Jo Kruczynska, Ed Goodman, Anne Beamish and our very own John Monks.
As I probed away, exploring the start of their entrepreneurial journey to what they’d learnt the most along the way, it became clear that Jo was a diverse view from the other panellists. Jo was single-minded; she didn’t need so much advice in setting up her café or choosing to sell it, and even thought it dangerous to talk about her plans in case they tried to talk her out of it. She instinctively trusted herself to make the right decisions.
However, she did value the close networks of other local businesses when supporting challenges with staff or supplies. John also didn’t need help making the decision to start his consultancy, in fact the advice he received may have talked him out of it! Ed valued the close support from his wife when leaving his banking job and Anne benefited from a close friend and graphic designer when starting The Indie, and she continues to work with him today.
Anne, Ed and John universally agreed that the networks of business contacts are incredibly important in helping to build their businesses. For Anne, close relationships with customers were key; in visiting them in their businesses with a mock-up Indie newspaper she succeeded in persuading them to join.
Casual networking was seen by the entire panel (and audience?) as effective, and face-to-face can never be replaced by virtual, social media networks. Trust is very important and perhaps that’s why social media, particularly with recent data and privacy breaches, is seen as less reliant.
But be wary, networks are made up of people, and therefore have their own life and can be unpredictable. Entrepreneurs can benefit from working alongside close networks but also need to trust their instincts to be successful.