Few things in life are a one-person show, and entrepreneurship – excuse me, successful entrepreneurship – is no exception.
Entrepreneurs need a team of supporters every step of the way.
Leadership guru John Maxwell stated, “Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team.”
Assembling you’re A-team ASAP can truly be the defining factor as to whether your entrepreneurial vision becomes a dream or a nightmare. There are five key people that every entrepreneur should recruit to ensure career success.
Let’s check out the entrepreneurial dream team line-up:
Cheerleaders – we all need them. Even when we’re rocking out business wins one after the other, we still need the “pump-you-up” pep talks and rah-rah chants involving our name. Identifying a group of enthusiastic supporters to encourage you throughout your entrepreneurial journey can be the difference between you envisioning the light at the end of the tunnel as a bright and shining future vs. a fast-moving train. Some have college BFF’s, others have significant others – whoever your cheer squad consists of, don’t discount the importance of having peppy people to believe in you throughout the ups and downs.
Teachers inform; the good ones also inspire. They provide students with the “how” necessary to make their dreams come true. Sometimes what teachers teach is fun material, other times, it involves holding the student’s nose to the grindstone until they acquire a working knowledge of life’s essentials.
We all need business teachers – whether it’s a Ph.D. leading grad school finance courses or an experienced colleague that has the foresight to see what we’re not seeing – quality teachers are essential. They encourage us to shoot for the stars, inform us when we’re heading off course, and give us the resources we need to correct our professional flight path.
Having a mentor changed my life. It took several years of being in the entrepreneurial game before I found one, but looking back I would have definitely prioritized identifying a mentor much, much earlier (like, before even starting a business). Mentors bring so much to the table:
- They are experienced. Having encountered many of the business problems you currently are before, mentors know what to do and what not to do in a variety of stressful situations.
- They are objective. With zero financial interest in your company or your career, mentors are able to provide objective wisdom for your career and company without ulterior motives.
Similar to mentors, sponsors’ are more experienced professionals that volunteer to provide you a unique type of support. A sponsor is someone that “has your back”, makes sure you receive the recognition and success you deserve and creates opportunities for you to shine.
In their book, How Remarkable Women Lead, Barsh and Cranston describe two key differences between mentors and sponsors:
- Mentors dispense wisdom, while sponsors get involved.
- Sponsors believe in you (they may even be invested in you) and mentors don’t go that far.
Equally important, both mentors and sponsors fill unique sets of needs for the budding entrepreneur. It’s essential that young professionals identify strategic relationships with experienced mentors and sponsors and invest the time required to build the relationship.
Finally, entrepreneurs need heroes – inspirational leaders that share characteristics with where we came from or where we want to go. These larger than life (and sometimes, quote out of reach) personalities encourage us to push beyond conventional boundaries and courageously fulfill our dreams. Legendary investor, Warren Buffet, stated, “If you can tell me who your heroes are, I can tell you how you’re going to turn out. It’s really important to have the right heroes.”
Everyone’s hero list will be different, unique to their background and goals. Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk, John Grisham, Sarah Blakely, Winston Churchill, and Tulsi Gabbard are just a few of the influential leaders that inspire me on a regular basis. Make your list of influential leaders that empower you to pursue your passions and learn everything you can about their life.
No one is an island – we all need other people.
Even those of us lone wolf trailblazers that think we can do this entrepreneurial “thing” all by ourselves.
We all need others – more experienced, more stable, more encouraging others – that can help us navigate the unchartered waters we call “entrepreneurship”. For employees, such necessary teammates make be readily available within the organizational structure; for entrepreneurs, the responsibility of assembling our A-team rests on our shoulders. I hope you will recognize its necessity and invest the time to establish the support network we all so desperately need.
In the words of former U.S. Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O’Conner:
“We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone. Whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life – all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that create something.”