Monday, February 06, 2006

Be a peer, not a pal

Friends are fine. Families have their place. But there's nothing like people you hardly know.

At least, that’s how my friend Aaron sees it. A seasoned entrepreneur, he is an enthusiastic participant in Entrepreneurs’ Organization, the international forum that allows full-time entrepreneurs to meet monthly with local peers from non-competing organizations to share ideas, contacts and best practices. (And, mainly, to reassure each other that the hell they go through every day is normal.)

“Most entrepreneurs don't know other entrepreneurs, unless they're customers or suppliers, or family or friends,” says Aaron. These are useful, even valuable contacts, but they're not the best people to pour out your heart if you want to talk about the pressure the bank’s putting on you, the new problems with your sales force, or your spouse’s growing resentment of your long hours at work.

That’s why entrepreneurs join groups such as Presidents’ Organization, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, CAFÉ, Innovators Alliance, and so on – to share the burden. Unloading with trusted colleagues who understand what you're going through relieves some of the loneliness and the burden. And chances are good that some of them will have gone through what you're experiencing, and will be able to offer useful advice.

Remember, corporate executives have a ready-made audience of peers, mentors and friends – usually all in the same company - for blowing off steam and seeking counsel. Entrepreneurs are in a different space entirely. Which is why they appreciate marketers who understand their real needs.

Bonus thoughts - Let's consider the implications of the lonely-at-the-top, no-one-to-confide-in life of an entrepreneur:

Nobody to bounce ideas off of: So keep your offers simple. Offer lots of easy-to-read info and context on your website for those who need to dig deep.

Overloaded, working too much: Respect their time. Keep policies and paperwork to a minimum.

Fear of making mistakes: Take away some of the risk. (Offer free trials, extended warranties, money-back guarantees).

Need for solutions: Be a peer, not a pal.

No comments: