The importance of community in the entrepreneurial journey

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More than half of South African entrepreneurs experienced failure in business in 2018, up from about 45% in 2017. The main reasons for failure included lack of business support, lack of access to markets, and poor planning. Those that were successful credited strong personal networks; access to business support services like mentors, training and coaching; and proper planning as critical elements.

In other words, they tapped in to a community of people and businesses that were either on the same journey, or have survived the entrepreneurial journey, to help them through the difficult early years.

“Actively participating in a robust community has never been more critical than it is today,” says Gregg Lalle, senior VP of International Sales and Strategy at ConnectWise. “These days, companies are maturing faster, the rate of change is accelerating, and we’re seeing an upsurge in M&A activity. Organisations need to form strategic partnerships to help them drive business growth and plan for the future.”

The entrepreneurial journey

For Lalle, the entrepreneurial journey has four distinct phases:

Phase 1: The Muscle and Feel stage, where the owner is also the accountant, the marketer, and every other operational role.

Phase 2: Managing to What Good Looks Like, where the owner feels comfortable relinquishing some control to trusted individuals. They work towards a common vision, measured by KPIs but separated by silos.

Phase 3: Building Teams and Strategy, where teams of people are aligned to a strategic plan and success is tied to the business rather than the entrepreneur. The business is now a sustainable organisation.

Phase 4: Leading Toward Legacy, or the point where the entrepreneur hands over control based on a legacy or life plan, which could be to a family member, an employee share scheme, or a buyer.

“Having worked with 27 000 managed service providers globally, we’ve come to understand one thing really well: while every business is in a different phase of this journey, and while each one has its own models and ways of operating, there are also striking similarities that stretch across all businesses, models, industries.”

In other words, businesses can learn from other businesses that have been there before, to shorten the learning curve and improve their chances of success.

ConnectWise regularly brings entrepreneurs and business owners together under the banner of its IT Nation networking events, to share ideas, investigate products and platforms, and learn how to develop the skills and teams that contribute to success.

“It’s at these events that we get to look our partners in the eye, hear what their challenges are, understand what’s meaningful to them, and use that knowledge to figure out how we can help them to be more profitable and to scale. The point of a community is to ensure each other’s success on this journey.”

Ostrich or enlightenment

For Lalle, getting started on the entrepreneurial journey requires business owners to ask tough questions and to ask for help.

“People have to decide for themselves that they want help. They must then commit to the steps that will move them into the next phase. It doesn’t matter what phase of the journey they’re in now. What matters is where they want to be. Once they have an idea of what good looks like, the next thing to know is that that don’t have to do everything themselves. In fact, they shouldn’t. They can learn from what has worked for others. They can adopt someone else’s business plan. They can use successful frameworks, best practices, and resources. This is how they’ll move up the operational curve faster.”

The other option is to stay in denial. “There’s nothing wrong with being in the ‘Muscle and Feel’ phase of the entrepreneurial journey, but unless you commit to moving into the second phase, by handing over some control and trusting others to manage parts of the business, you’ll eventually become stuck. Yes, you can work harder but you’ll max out in terms of what you can deliver, and the business will plateau.”

The entrepreneurial journey is one of enlightenment, he says. Success means handing over control, entrusting others, asking for and accepting help, and also trusting the process.

“Moving between the phases is difficult. From phase 1 to 2, you’re handing over control to individuals. From phase 2 to 3, you’re building teams, handing over more control, and breaking down silos. And from phase 3 to 4, you’re ultimately deciding your legacy – what happens to the business when you’re no longer around and have no control? How will you prepare the next generation of leaders? That’s the final piece of the journey. It’s a tough decision to make, which is why it’s crucial to find a community that you can bounce ideas off of and learn from,” says Lalle.

Once you’re on the journey, you have momentum and you become obsessive about your own evolution, says Lalle. Because they start to realise that business success is in their control.

Comfort in community

A community is a group of people who come together in support of a common goal. The ConnectWise community is a mixture of people who are on the same journey, albeit at different stages and with varying levels of success and maturity, says Lalle.

“It’s about people helping people. It’s about crowdsourcing a framework to help you solve a specific problem, and accessing the resources, training blueprints, standards, software, strategies, operational platforms and coaching that will help you to drive change in your business. Because things have to change if you want to grow and progress along the journey. Change is uncomfortable but there’s comfort in community.”

ConnectWise is planning an IT Nation Share event for South Africa. To find out more and to access the resources at CW University, e-mail GLalle@ConnectWise.com.

Click here to watch a video that walks you through the phases of the entrepreneurial journey

This article was written by Tarryn Giebelmann for ConnectWise