No, I’m not talking Bloods or Crips, East Coast or West Coast. I’m talking about Your gang. Your posse. Your peeps. If you think you can survive the mean streets of entrepreneurship alone, good luck. Surround yourself with people who have your back and offer experience, advice, support, resources and occasionally, tough love. Mount up these six gang members to start:
1. An Invigorated Team: Select a sharp team of innovators with self-starter values–persistence, hard work, accountability, optimism and gratitude. It takes an intrinsic entrepreneurial spirit, from more than just the founders, to succeed in a start-up environment and a fearless team around you will fuel and inspire you to push beyond your limits. The day will come when you need to lean on your team; you will be grateful to have smart, dedicated homies who can step up.
2. Encouraging Investors: The feedback, guidance and resources investors provide extend well beyond financial funding and set the tone for a start-up’s momentum. Their established networks should help you leverage additional resources to create synergetic partnerships to expedite your growth. Choose your investors wisely. Prior to taking their benjamins, I recommend testing their willingness to help. If they can’t come up with goods on a small request, they’re whack. Move on.
3. Educational Institutions: Organizations like the Zell Lurie Institute offer support through events like MGCS, business plan competitions, small business advising and development assistance. Their expertise in and advocacy of entrepreneurship makes them a valuable start-up partner. Don’t overlook the resources provided by the college or university in your ‘hood.
4. Fellow Entrepreneurs: Seeing fellow start-ups grow and succeed can be one of the biggest sources of inspiration. Seeing them fail can be downright terrifying. The symbiotic nature of the entrepreneurial community fosters an environment where we all share in each other’s successes and hopefully learn from each other’s lesson; create those relationships early and keep them close. Word up.
5. External Mentors: I encourage all members of my team to seek mentors outside our company. The ability of their unbiased perspective to catalyze fresh solutions is money.
6. Supportive Family and Friends: Fortify yourself with a supportive partner, family and friends. You can’t put a price on having these people in your corner. We can count an undergrad fraternity brother and a business school classmate among our investors. Their votes of confidence go a long way when the days get long. Further, when you experience set backs–as all entrepreneurs do–it’s this group that will reenergize you to get back in the game of slingin’ innovation.
About the author: Award-winning entrepreneur and co-founder of digital transit media firm Commuter Advertising, Katie Gottesman, MBA, has cultivated an environment of growth through which her company has expanded from one market to ten in just five years, now making more than 300 million media impressions annually. Katie attributes much of her company’s aggressive expansion to a key network of advocates and supporters.
Commuter Advertising is one of the 32 presenting companies that will be attending the 33rd annual Michigan Growth Capital Symposium next week.