By Kara Brown, CEO and CRO of LeadCoverage, an Advisor B2B Demand/Lead Gen + Marketing agency.
As a founder and entrepreneur, I’m eager to find ways to grow my business. Over the last year, however, I can trace its success back to an unexpected thing: investing in a community that works for me.
I’m someone who values my tribe and instantly knows when someone should be a part of it. During an Entrepreneurs’ Organization networking event I attended with my husband, I went to the bar to grab us cocktails. After striking up a conversation with someone there, I also walked away with EBITA strategies for debt financing. “Is that normal?” my husband asked. After I assured him that it was, he replied, “I’m so glad you found your people.”
That theme of finding “my people” has always played a significant role in my career, but never more so than during the last year. During the pandemic, I needed a lot of people and leaned in hard to my support system. I didn’t want to put my concerns and issues on my team — nobody wants to hear their boss complain — so I found myself seeking outside counsel from those at the same stage of life, in similar roles, or who have specific situational experience and mastery.
I expanded my tribe with five new members, each with distinct and complementary expertise:
1. Executive Coach
For help with my business, I hired a coach who had “been there, done that” before. Unlike a mentor relationship, this individual is paid to be on call to help me with business goals, objectives and prioritization. It’s a different dynamic where they’re incentivized to spend time on my success.
To find the best executive coach, identify your goal and align your search with those who can help you achieve it. For me, it was finding someone who successfully scaled a business. It’s also important that you find a coach whose style meshes with your own. Someone tough as nails works for me, but that probably wouldn’t work for someone who needs a softer approach.
2. Ladyboss-in-her-own-right Coach
As confident and accomplished as I am, like many young female founders, I still battle with bouts of imposter syndrome. This coach helps me cultivate and maintain the right mindset to get out of my own way.
Finding a good coach in this arena was more challenging than it was to find an executive coach. Though there are many coaches out there, there weren’t many who met my criteria: a fellow female founder who broke the $1M mark in revenue. Since less than 2% of female founders achieve this goal and wanted to go well beyond that, the pool was limited. When you’re looking for your coach, research those who have goals similar to yours — and have achieved them.
3. Mastermind Group
Technically this “coach” is a small group of women all working on personal internal growth. There’s a tremendous benefit to gathering and exchanging notes with those in similar life and business stages with you. Our monthly meetings were incredibly helpful to me in the pandemic when uncertainty reigned. Having the ability to bounce ideas off others and get advice from those in the trenches helped me stay sane during an otherwise chaotic time. You will likely be able to benefit from a similar sense of psychological safety and comfort being able to connect with individuals who possess similar goals and drives.
This process might entail some trial and error as you join groups and possibly leave them to find the right “fit.” You can search for online groups, put feelers out to your extended networks or even attempt to create one yourself if you’re not finding one that matches your particular level of experience.
4. Fitness Coach
Even though this coach has nothing to do with my business, she makes me better at it by keeping me accountable. She makes me sweat, even when I don’t want to, so I can reach my goals. We structured our relationship to reward her financially each time I hit my fitness goals. This incentive alignment is a win-win.
The most important tip to finding the right fitness coach is making sure you’re working with someone who specializes in your desired fitness area. If you want to bench press 350 pounds, you’d find a coach who specializes in heavy lifting, probably a former professional powerlifter. But if you wanted to be a better swimmer, that same coach wouldn’t be the best fit. Much like your other coaches, when you find a fitness coach who aligns with your goals, you’ll have a better likelihood of achieving them.
Like my executive leadership coach, my mentor is a seasoned professional who’s successfully dealt with many of the issues I face today. However, unlike that coach, my mentor is less operationally focused and instead is someone I go to for real big-thinking challenges. The dynamic is also different from a coach because I’m not paying my mentor, and we don’t speak together as frequently. With mentors, you can ask for input and listen to their stories but not demand their time at a moment’s notice. Because of this, I tend to engage with my mentor when I have a major decision to make.
And as someone who also mentors others, I can tell you that the best mentor/mentee relationships occur when people come to me with a specific issue or challenge relevant to my experience. They don’t say, “Can I pick your brain?”; they ask about how to balance managing versus leading while scaling their startup. It’s also best to structure your mentorship relationship with a lower level of expectation and commitment and respect their time.
Investing in those five coaches — actively building my tribe — helped me get through the hump last year and grow my business. In 2021, I’ll continue to make adjustments that align and support my goals. Because as we move forward, finding a community that works for you is one of the best investments you can make.