It’s a truth universally acknowledged that starting a business can feel like a very lonely place. Running a business can continue to feel isolating, and the current climate we find ourselves in has exacerbated that feeling for most of us. Making sure you have the support you need in place makes a massive difference in whether you sink or swim.
People who are used to working face to face with colleagues or customers are now working from their home, often in a temporary office set up (we didn’t think this was going to last so long when we started, did we!?) It is all far from ideal and can be really tough going. Those of us who have always worked in offices at our homes and have ourselves better set up for it are feeling like it should be normal to us by now but really nothing is normal this year and it all feels hard.
It is exhausting and demotivating to feel like you’re in this on your own and to survive (and THRIVE) through this we have to gather our tribe. This is always important but the extra isolation this year has brought mean it is absolutely crucial.
So who should we add to our tribe? Generally speaking, we want to surround ourselves with people who “get it” and can share experiences as well as tips for dealing with the tough stuff. People who we can lean on for support. People who can help us to continue moving forward when the entire world is feeling stuck. Let’s get a bit more specific and break it down into practical steps.
One of the first ports of call for any business owner is the Local Enterprise Office (LEO). Generally these offices are a great source of supports, both moral and financial, and in covid times they really stepped up and massively increased the help on offer.
Their networking and workshop sessions are now on Zoom, making them easier than ever to access.
Financial supports like the Business Continuity Voucher and Trading Online Voucher can make a real difference financially and in the effectiveness of your business. The LEO staff also generally know a lot about what’s available to help you with your specific need and in your area.
LIFT is a fantastic (and FREE!) resource, with a really strong focus on positivity and growth as well as supporting each other in challenging and improving ourselves.
The process is a series of group sessions, each with a focus on a separate leadership trait. Once you have completed the set you can book a refresher session any time you want to refresh, with facilitators offering their services to review a different trait each week.
I learned so much and would highly recommend checking this out.
Someone like you
Come on, admit it, you sang that?
Fellow business owners – connect with people in a similar boat and offer support, it’s a two way street and we will only thrive by lifting each other up.
Fill in your gaps
Figure out what you are not strong at (or what you absolutely HATE doing!) and find someone who can help.
Find a good accountant to keep you on the straight and narrow. The relief of knowing that the numbers are taken care of is well worth the cost. Pair this with accounting software to streamline the process and marvel at the time and energy you will save yourself.
Of course, if you are in your happy place with the spreadsheets this may not be the first item to outsource.
Speaking of processes, if you feel entirely disorganised maybe an assistant could help. A virtual assistant can make a huge difference by getting (and/or keeping!) you organised – doing those tasks you struggle with, whether because of lack of time, interest, or knowledge.
A VA can take over tasks for you entirely, or set you up with systems to make it easy for you to manage them yourself.
Web and Social Media
This can feel like a fun playground for some and a huge challenge for others. Or in most cases it’s a mixed bag, we have clients who are fabulous on social media but lost on the website side of things. The trick is to know your own individual strengths!
Like Marina, at Coppertops we can either set you up with easy to manage systems or we can take it all of your plate and manage it for you. Often it’s a happy medium, we will figure out what works for you and set that up as we feel that it shouldn’t be a one size fits all. Every business and every business owner is different.
Project & Task Management
Set up a good project or task manager, depending on how complicated your operations are, to make sure that everything gets done.
Believe it or not this can also be a great sleep aid, as getting all of those to do items out of your head means it is less likely* to be spinning as soon as your head hits the pillow! ( * Note we said less likely, nothing is guaranteed to stop the before sleep head spin with 100% effectiveness!)
We love Todoist for the super simple to do lists, and managed our business using this app for quite a while. We currently prefer ClickUp as it allows us to entirely manage our projects, tasks and a lot of our documentation in one place. It is fully customisable to match workflow, so we have a number of entirely different variations in our setup for the various parts of our business. It also starts at free, so is well worth checking out.
There are an infinite number of ways to manage sales – google sales software or crm and you will be bamboozled by the options. You can use your existing accounting or task management software or full on CRM (Customer Relation Management) software.
Start by figuring out how it works in your business and fit the tech around it. We all tend to do this the other way around and it leads to infinite frustrations as things don’t really flow the way we want them to.
Branding and Design
If you are not skilled or interested then get help on this one! Otherwise it will be ineffective, at risk of looking unprofessional and it is also one of the top offenders for absorbing FAR too much time – both because it takes time to learn the skills and because it is harder to see this for your own business than for someone else’s!
You may want to have a person on hand to manage your branding and design materials for you on an ongoing basis – if this is worth the cost for your business and funds allow then go for it!
The other option is similar to what ourselves and Marina at Brava can do, get yourself set up with a system that you can use yourself. You can then go back to refresh your designs every so often but have a template that you can update to create new graphics for blog posts and social media in the meantime. This will keep your brand consistent and professional and save time and money while still increasing impact.
Find a Network!
This is similar to some of the earlier points, but a network is a more structured way to link up with people to add support and potential leads to your business.
We love Network Ireland and have been involved with the Louth branch since Coppertops was a baby. It’s a women’s networking group with a strong focus on empowering each other and supporting growth of fellow members.
There are tons of networking opportunities, depending on yourself and your business – who do you want to meet?
Some are mainly support based, others have a heavier focus on generating sales. You may want to add a mix to your calendar, but find the groups that are the best fit for you.
Chatting with other people who are in a similar boat is powerful – knowing you’re not alone, offering support and knowledge you hadn’t noticed yourself learning or getting an answer to a problem you were struggling with massively improves confidence as well as results.
It may seem counter intuitive, but now is actually a great time to dip your toe in as all of the meetings are, by necessity, being held on Zoom. So it’s extremely easy to try something new.
Where to start?
Pick the area that is feeling the hardest, take it on its own and examine it to see what would help. Then do one thing to make it feel better. It is not going to get to perfect immediately (or possibly ever?!) but making a tiny amount of progress will make a huge difference to how heavy the load feels.
And remember to take care of yourself!