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Developing a Support System

February 9, 2010

A common first step when launching a startup is to contact one or more professionals who help new business owners set up shop and make the initial decisions that seem critical to the new entrepreneur.  Seeking the guidance of a seasoned professional advisor, whether a lawyer, CPA or banker, is extremely important to laying the right foundation for a sound business. But for me, the best support team I have ever had came from building relationships with other people who were creating businesses that paralleled my own.

When I left a global accounting firm to start my own CPA practice, I was the only person I knew from the world of Big 8 firms (yes it used to be the Big 8, back in 1986) who was going ‘out on my own’. In fact, as word spread that I was leaving to start my own practice, friends and colleagues saw this as a gutsy decision. They were not comfortable with the prospect of working without the support of a firm behind them . Too many things to keep up with, too many deadlines. Having come from a family of entrepreneurs, starting my own home based practice was always my goal. It was the basis of my plan to continue working AND raise my children.


As an entrepreneur you have to look harder for the right opportunities to meet potential colleagues.


At first I relied a lot on my former colleagues who graciously took my calls and helped me work through any client situation that needed the benefit of more than one mind to solve a problem. Within the first year of hanging out my shingle, I was introduced to two other independent CPAs who had also started practices the same year as I did. We remained close colleagues for 20 years. We listened to each others’ struggles and learned from each others’ mistakes. We shared advice from mentors and different organizations that we belonged to.

There are valuable lessons to be learned from training programs, conferences, the many business books in print and from online research. But nothing feels as comforting as getting advice from someone you know and respect exactly when you need it, and knowing that you can count on going back for more. Equally rewarding is being there for a colleague or business associate when they reach out for your advice and counsel.

You can’t count on the people you need to simply materializing when you need them. Building a support system of people you can seek advice from usually takes some effort and purposeful planning. But it’s not hard to find if you make a point to be in places where other business owners are likely to be. Entrepreneurs are typically happy to share their stories with other business owners, and are always looking to learn something from someone else that will help them with their own issues. When you are a professional, whether a CPA, lawyer, engineer, etc., there are professional societies that fulfill the function of creating events and meetings for members to get together. As an entrepreneur you have to look harder for the right opportunities to meet potential colleagues.

Typical ‘networking’ events are geared toward providing attendees the opportunity to offer their products or services to potential customers. Many networking groups specifically restrict their membership to only one participant from a particular type of business or profession. The goal at these events is to build relationships with people who can help you market your business.

Building a true support system is about creating relationships with people who can give you a helping hand over the hurdles you will regularly face.  Over the weekend I had the chance to be a part of the best ‘networking’ event I have attended in a very long time. I knew no one other than the organizer of the group, Dorothea Bozicolona-Volpe, an experienced social marketer, and the host, Stacy Williams, owner of Prominent Placement, Inc. a boutique firm specializing in search engine optimization. There were about 20 people in attendance. The event is held quarterly, in metro Atlanta, with the invitees being women in all kinds of businesses. There was an Italian themed dinner (pot luck buffet), wine, brief introductions and a lot of socializing.

What made the evening unique as a ‘networking’ event 2.6.10 Netowrking Dinnerwas this – the focus wasn’t on card swapping (which was definitely done as appropriate), or talking about each other’s ideal customer, or even about ‘working’ the room. The evening’s hosts created an atmosphere of true fellowship which encouraged the exchange of stories and ideas. I met a lot of interesting people AND had the opportunity to talk about the new things I’m doing.  I have to confess that when you say you have written a book that’s about to be released you ignite a certain curiosity in the group. Most people have at least one idea for a book and want to know how to get published. I was willing to share that experience with anyone who wanted to know. And I got lots of advice from others who wanted to help me succeed in my new ventures.  How great is that?

In their book Trust Agent, co-authors Chris Brogan ( and Julien Smith emphasize that the fundamentals of being a successful ‘internet entrepreneur’ are based upon your ability to build trust with the people you reach out to, whether your goal is to create an audience of devoted readers or sell products or services to prospective customers.

Quote for Today:


“A trust agent’s job is …to make people feel comfortable ….building deep relationships before ever asking something of others. …(a trust agent) should be there for them.”~ Trust Agent by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith,


All through your career as entrepreneur, look for opportunities to connect with other business people on a deep level. Come to the party prepared to share your bag of tricks, and you will be rewarded with the support of those whose trust you earn.

Tomorrow’s topic: The Case for Sticking to a Low-Cost Startup Budget

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 9, 2010 8:37 pm


  2. February 9, 2010 8:39 pm


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