Do you have a support network? That is, do you have a group of people that you rely on, who are there to provide you the encouragement you need as an entrepreneur?

By Alana Muller (President, Kauffman FastTrac)

You may already know that being an entrepreneur can be both lonely and frightening. An individual with an idea and the passion for turning that idea into a business may start out in her home office with only a computer and her own thoughts to keep her company.

Maybe she has a business partner – maybe not. Enthusiasm for her project must be balanced against the realities of funding needs, of vendor needs and of the need to attract customers. In fact, the loneliest time can be when she going through the decision-making process and may be consumed with second guessing and self-doubt. However, her emotions can be managed best by acquiring one vital tool – an extensive, supportive network.

To be successful – in any endeavor – you must surround yourself with mentors, advisors and advocates who will prop you up, cheer you on, protect you from the naysayers, provide reality checks along the way and help keep you focused on your vision.

Sure, many new firms are the result of one individual’s vision, passion and dreams. She sets out to create a startup built from sheer grit and determination. But, no company has ever succeeded without the backing of a solid support network. So, take heed!

Surround yourself with:

  • Partners: Whether these be hired or co-founders, having partners with which to share ideas and/or co-market can be very beneficial when gathering honest feedback about your business.
  • Peers: Other business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs have likely walked in your shoes. They are great sources for best practices and lessons learned.
  • Mentors: Seasoned entrepreneurs, coaches, and entrepreneurship experts are always learning from their businesses and clients. Using their advice can pay off in the long run.
  • Advisers: These consultants have expertise across multiple functions – marketing, finance, sales, government, and more. Their advice will guide you to wise decisions.
  • Investors: As necessary, ensuring there are potential investors who may fund your business is a critically important step when launching your firm.
  • Friends: Trusted, straightforward friends can provide reasonable, honest advice during decision making and problem solving periods.
  • Customers: The best way to get feedback is by asking the end user. Always ask your clients what they think, what your services should include, how you should market to them, etc.

There is one other group of individuals with whom to surround yourself, that is, other entrepreneurs. Together, you can work through problems, share experiences – good and bad, so that you may learn from one another’s successes and disappointments. And, there is no better advocate for the entrepreneur than another entrepreneur – someone who knows what you are going through, who has been there before, who is nearly as excited about your idea as you are.

So, the lesson here is: Don’t go it alone. If chosen wisely, all of these people will believe in you, be there to cheer you on through thick and thin, and provide you with honest feedback in hopes that it will help you achieve greater success.

This post was originally posted at The Way Women Work. Photo credit: Erica Kawamoto Hsu.

Women 2.0 readers: How have you culled your support network for your entrepreneurial journey? Let us know in the comments.

135f853e40723a9367d2b373681bb852_biggerAbout the guest blogger: Alana Muller is President of Kauffman FastTrac, the nation’s leading provider of training to aspiring and existing entrepreneurs, giving them the tools, resources and networks to start and grow successful businesses. Kauffman FastTrac was created by the Kauffman Foundation. Alana holds an MBA from the University of Chicago and a B.S. in mathematics from Smith College. She is the author of an online blog called CoffeeLunchCoffee, a practical field guide for professional networking. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMuller.