There’s no manual for how to build a business. Well, to be fair, there are lots of them. Like, a bajillion books on entrepreneurship, management, leadership, and business. Many of them are great, but none of them are the manual for how to build YOUR business. This means you’ve got to figure most of it out on your own.
When I was trying to figure out ‘my manual,’ one of the of the first places I looked was podcasts. I found information, insight and perspective, and also something else I didn’t even know I was looking for -- community.
This blog series has explored the dangers of isolation in solopreneurship, as well as potential antidotes, like co-working, coaching and also group coaching. There’s a common thread in all of these; the imperative of building, and maintaining, community in solopreneurship.
Community can live in weird places!
It may seem counterintuitive that one of the secrets to creating community can begin with a relatively solitary activity -- driving around, doing chores around the house, or going for a run while listening to a podcast. But that’s exactly what I did, and it’s been one of the greatest sources of support in my solopreneurial life.
One of the best podcasts I discovered in my search is called BizChix, and it focuses on female entrepreneurs, as the title may imply. At first, I loved the smart content, the on-air coaching calls, the interviews, the practical tips, and the warm, encouraging tone of its host, Natalie Eckdahl.
Like many podcasts, BizChix has a free facebook group, where listeners can connect, ask questions, engage with the host, share tips, etc. It didn’t take long before I joined the facebook group, and found a really great community there. There were women in there with all different kinds of businesses, from all over the world, and at different stages in their success, but one thing everyone had in common was that same warmth and generosity of spirit that's such a hallmark of the podcast.
When you find your people, put yourself out there
After listening to the podcast consistently for about six months, I surprised myself, and bought a ticket to the show’s inaugural conference, Bizchix Live. It felt totally weird to buy a plane ticket to go to a conference across the country, where I would know absolutely no one, just because I liked a podcast! But off I went, and it was a total game changer for me, and my business.
BizChix Live was amazing! The group of women I met were exactly what I had kind of imagined they would be -- warm, smart, diverse, passionate, vulnerable, ambitious. I immediately felt at home.
However, the conference was just the beginning. The facebook group became an easy, natural way to keep up with the female entrepreneurs I’d met. Several of them became dear friends, and since then, one woman and I have business ‘ biz buddy’ calls about every eight weeks to support each other. The podcast has also taken on a new dimension in my life — once I really felt like I was part of the BizChix community, it became ‘My’ podcast.
Isn’t that all so weird? Can you imagine that happening even five years ago? Some random woman on the internet, I buy tickets to a conference I know very little about, and make lifelong friends, colleagues and business connections? It does seem bizarre, but the story goes on.
About six months ago, Natalie, the host, posted in the facebook group that one of her mastermind groups was planning a retreat in Boston, and did anyone know of space that might be suitable to hold their sessions. I live in Boston, and happen to have an amazing office space, and so, without hesitating, I replied, c’mon down!
Several months later, a small flock of BizChix turned up at my office, and it was so cool, again, to see this virtual connection manifest IRL. Being able to give something back deepened my connection to the community.
Just recently, I was at another conference that a bunch of BizChix were also attending, and we had a breakfast meetup. I made some cool, new contacts and re-connected with some familiar faces as well.
Community is the silver bullet
I’m sharing this with you because I am a better, stronger, happier, and more resilient business woman because I sought out, found, and then invested in community. I showed up, put myself out there, and said hi, this is me, this is who I am, who are you?
We have more opportunities than ever before to make our relationships in the online world real, and to nurture them into genuine connection. Community is, 100%, the silver bullet in battling isolation as a solopreneur, and in the 21st century, be prepared for it to show up in unexpected places!
In our last post in this series, we talked about the impact that working with a coach can have in fighting isolation, and leveling-up your business. However, another powerful way to access community, inspiration and direction is group business coaching.
In group coaching, your coach facilitates a small group, usually 6-8 clients, on a video conference call. The group usually meets several times a month, and clients can be supported with monthly private coaching check-ins as well.
What’s in it for me?
When I first heard about group coaching, I thought ‘no way.’ Why would I pay money to hear other people get coached? I want my coach to be solely focused on me, my business, my challenges, my needs. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and for reasons I never could have anticipated…
A coaching group gives you a cohort, a community, a built-in network of people like you, who are in the trenches alongside you, hustling, sweating, building their businesses. They get you. And when you watch them work through an issue they are having, it is very often similar to something you are wrestling with yourself. You get all the benefit of being coached to a solution, but with an objectivity that is, quite frankly, nearly impossible to obtain when you’re the one on the hotseat!
Plenty of time for you
Your coach’s job is to make sure that everyone on the call gets what they need that day -- the inspiration, the insight, or the resolution to a thorny practical issue. However, being part of a group is like a force multiplier for your business. I often find that I get more from group calls than even my private sessions with my coach.
There’s efficiency in working as a group; you gain perspective on everyone’s challenges, as well as your own. Even if the issues aren’t relevant to you that day, they almost always will be at some point soon, and then, voila -- you know exactly what to do! This is key -- I often hear solopreneurs struggle when sticky questions crop up in their business, and it’s partly because they’re not immersed in a community feeding them the answers every day.
There’s also an amazing bond that comes from being with your group on these calls. Offering suggestions and encouragement in the chat box, and feeling like you are part of their journey and they are part of yours. People in my coaching groups have become some of my dearest friends -- I am invested in their lives, and in the success of their business. Isn’t that what fighting isolation in solopreneurship is all about?
You are amazing!
One of the best kept secrets about group coaching is what it does for your own confidence. As you get to know everyone, you come to admire and respect them as people, as friends, as entrepreneurs, and vice versa.
You will almost certainly come to believe that these people are impressive, smart, capable human beings. So when you see them wrestle with mindset issues, accurately valuing their offering, or managing a sales funnel, it will surprise you. You’ll think, ‘But they’re amazing — how can they possibly doubt themselves?’
Then you realize that they are thinking the same about you.
And then you realize that you are also a smart, capable, impressive human being, and you suddenly feel ready to conquer the world!
Have you ever been part of a group coaching experience? What has been the most valuable part of coaching with others for your business?
I have a confession to make
This is the third article in a series on isolation in solopreneurship, and the truth is, I rarely feel lonely or isolated in my business.
Co-working has been huge for me, and I’ve had another secret weapon as well -- even before I actually started my business, I’ve always had a coach.
I’m lucky; I started working with my current business coach in my twenties. Years later, when I was getting ready to leave the corporate world behind, I hired her again to help me make the transition to owning my own business. Having a champion by my side, someone I already knew, liked and trusted was a big advantage in having the courage and confidence to make the leap.
Your coach shines a light for you in the dark
However, if you’ve never had a coach, their role can seem kind of mysterious. What do they actually ‘do’? How is it different from a therapist? Can’t my friends cheer me on from the sidelines?
Now that I’m a certified coach myself, I often find myself trying to answer these questions. Sometimes when I talk to potential clients, they think my role is to give them all the answers — like a sports coach, as if I have a secret playbook that will help them win the game.
That’s not how personal or business coaching works, and actually, you wouldn’t want it to. The real magic of coaching is having someone by your side to shine a light in the dark for you when you feel lost. It is far more valuable for an entrepreneur (or anyone, really) to feel empowered to solve their own problems than to feel reliant on an ‘expert’ or a coach.
Of course coaches offer ideas and perspectives that help you solve challenges, but for a solopreneur, having someone beside you, who has only your highest good in mind (and will hold you accountable for it!) is a game changer in fighting isolation.
I have friends for that...
At first, people sometimes think that this is something a friend or partner could or should do for you -- for free! But in fact, that’s not their job. The people who are closest to you can’t help but have opinions, views or agendas about what’s best for you. It’s their job to support you, but a coach’s job is to be objective, completely free of judgement, and have only your best and highest good in mind at all times.
My coaching sessions with entrepreneurs often focus on helping them to ask the right questions, examine the resources at their disposal, and make decisions about how to clear the road blocks between where they are and where they want to be. Friendship and partnership are two-way streets, but when you hire a coach, you are investing in a relationship that is all about you, your business, your dreams.
A funny kind of alchemy
Coaching is, actually, a bit mysterious... on the one hand there is a structured way of working together, and on the other hand there’s a funny kind of alchemy that happens during sessions. Sometimes it’s the ‘a-ha’ moments, sometimes it’s flashes of inspiration for how to solve nagging problems, sometimes it’s just being seen, heard, and feeling much, much less alone.
I know for certain (like, about a million percent certainty) that I a better, happier, wiser person, businesswoman, leader, and coach because I've consistently invested in having a coach. My business is stronger, and I've avoided countless pitfalls I doubtless would have stumbled into if I'd insisted on going it alone.
Private coaching -- working one-on-one together, is amazing, but it’s not the only way to get coaching support for you and your business. Group coaching is another really powerful way to beat isolation -- check out our upcoming post on the topic!
What’s been your experience working with a coach? How has it helped you and your business? How would you describe the power of coaching?
Victoria Dew is the Founder and CEO of Dewpoint Communications.