Mentors. Community mavens. Peers. All have something to offer you and your business, if you know how to ask.
Meeting people is one of the best things you can do as an entrepreneur. While it’s certainly possible to start a business on your own, it’s almost impossible to advance far without people in your corner helping you along the way, in one way or another.
The types of people you meet, and how you keep them in your circles, will have a massive impact on how successful your business is.
Why other people are fundamental to your success
There are actually several ways that meeting new people can help you become more successful:
Partnership. For starters, you may find people whom you can work with directly, in the business overall or in one specific dimension of the business. For example, you may find someone to start a business with, someone to hire or a vendor or supplier to make your business run smoother.
Resources. You may also get to meet people who have connections to major resources, like publishers at media establishments. This can give you new opportunities you would otherwise miss out on.
Knowledge. New people always know things that you don’t know. Talk to them for a little while, and you may be able to learn a new skill or concept, or just flesh out an idea you’ve had in the past. There’s always new information to gain.
Connections. Every new person you meet will have his/her own network of contacts, increasing your range of potential connections many times over. Those networks give you more potential ways to achieve any of the benefits listed above, with even more new people in your extended range of contacts.
Those five people to meet
These are the best types of people to meet, for any of the above functions:
1. The mentor
The mentor is someone who has done what you’re doing -- sometimes many times over. He or she will have a wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and experience that you don’t have, and will be able to help you out of a number of problems with advice, resources and new insights.
As an added benefit, most people in a mentor position already have their own extended network of different contacts, which you’ll be able to tap into for your needs. There are many key places to find mentors, which have their own advantages and disadvantages.
2. The community maven
One of the best ways to build a reputation and tap into your local market is to meet people who already have a reputation in your local area. There are two main benefits to this. First, you’ll gain the secondary reputation advantage of being associated with this community influencer -- who could share your material and give it a huge boost, or send new social media followers your way.
Second, this person will be able to recommend resources, opportunities and contacts for your needs.
Peers are also good to meet, though they won’t have as much experience as mentors or as much influence as mavens. These are other business owners and professionals in your area trying to do the same things you’re trying to do.
Since they occupy a similar niche, their network of contacts is likely to be highly valuable to you (and in turn, yours will be valuable to them). They’ll also be facing most of the same problems and opportunities as you, so you’ll be able to work together to find solutions and new directions.
4. Local talent
The benefit of local talent is that you’ll find people already skilled in one key area (or more) who are already connected into your region. You can find these people fresh out of college, starting businesses of their own or even working under other entrepreneurs.
5. The investor
Your business needs working capital to get moving, even if you have a frugal business model. Unless you have a sum of capital to work with on your own, you’ll need to find an investor to build momentum or bail you out of tough problems.
Many key areas to find investors abound, including dedicated platforms and opportunities, but none are strictly better than others. Investors are also valuable sources of wisdom and connections -- especially if they end up holding equity in your business.
The problem with trying to meet these types of people is that nobody has a sign around his neck advertising what type of person he or she is. The solution to the problem? Meet as many people as possible, in as many contexts as possible.
You never know what someone is going to be able to offer you, or what you’ll be able to offer other people, so it’s in your best interest to diversify your new meetings as much as you can.