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My first couple of years as an entrepreneur were difficult. I really struggled. I was not surrounded by a lot of people who had the same ambition as me. When things got difficult there wasn’t anyone I could talk to. I was starting from scratch, coming from an average family background, with no one to guide me.
It was tough because I taught myself about entrepreneurship – it’s a long journey, and I made a lot of mistakes. One of the most important things I’ve learnt through my mistakes was time management. I learned this when I started working for my first job, when I was trying my best to get out of the RAT Race.
Basically, when you mix with a group of friends who are working and aren’t particularly driven or ambitious, you’re rather likely to reflect the same attitudes and behaviors that they have. It’s like if you hang out with a group of people who drive BMWs and talk about BMW cars most of the time, it’s quite likely that your next car purchase will be a BMW too.
I learned about this when I was in the army but at that point of time, I didn’t understand this until I started my first business. When I talked about starting my own business with my group of friends who are into gaming, they would just shut me off and continue talking about their games. When I started to talk about internet marketing or business with my colleagues, they would advise me that starting a business required a lot of capital and is very risky.
All these comments just made me feel bored and trapped – being in the Rat Race, every day is almost the same, and I wanted a way out. So I started to question – was I around the kind of people who could help motivate each other to reach for more professionally?
So I went through all my contacts from my phone, and started to categorize them as friends, business, vendor, colleagues etc. True enough, 98% of my contacts are friends and colleagues and only 1% are business-related people.
So one day I just decided to drop everything and to get out and know more people who are into business or starting businesses. At that point of time there was no Facebook or social media. So I looked through the newspaper and went for a “FREE” seminar that talked about starting your own business.
At first it was pretty scary because you don’t know what to expect, and meeting a stranger for the first time isn’t easy. I was also in a zone of discomfort that I wasn’t used to – networking was just not my cup of tea. But after a few months, I was surrounded by people who had the same ambition as me, and I also felt more motivated to start my own business.
So in 2015, one of my goals is a commitment to meet up and network with other entrepreneurs. This is much easier now that we have social media. Here is my strategy to find other entrepreneurs:
Having started doing all this for the past 1 month, it seems that more entrepreneurs have started to send me friend requests.
However, each time before I add them as my friend, I will always ask them for an introduction before accepting. This is just to filter out spammers or random strangers. Asking for an introduction also allows me to know them better.
This method also makes sure that I spend my time networking with people of similar interests and attitudes, and builds up my business circle. Sometimes I will just ask them out for a coffee or lunch just to get to know them better. (Usually if this happens, I will avoid any kind of sales talk, of course!)
If I keep this up for the next 12 months, I expect that I will get to know 1 to 2 new people in real life each month. By doing this, I will have a higher chance of people referring me business for E-Alchemists.com.
In 2014, around 55% of E-Alchemists’ business comes from referral. This is why it’s so important to spend time with the right people to increase your business contacts. You won’t know who will refer you business the next time.
To be sure, I am not saying you should abandon your social circle to start building your business contacts – rather, it’s about increasing your business contacts if you are an entrepreneur. You never know how your business network will be able to help you.
These days, I am very particular about who I spend time with – how about you? How do you manage your time? I’d love it if you could comment and share your thoughts with me!