The challenges of being a solo founder and the power of networking
Posted: Wed 22nd Jan 2020
We're just a week away from the launch of the brand-new Energiser local business accelerator programme in London. In the lead-up, we take a look at your programme leader, Joanna Michaels, and her business journey.
How long have you been running your own business?
After having my first son, I decided not to go back to the corporate world and set up my own thing. My consultancy, Beyond Social Buzz, will be eight years old this year.
What are your main areas of expertise?
I specialise in social media marketing for small businesses and start-ups. The best part of my work is training and coaching.
I enjoy the process of demystifying social media with my clients, so they can understand the key requirements of a successful social media presence; being of value to your target audience as well as being approachable, responsive and generous.
I love the 'aha' moments when all the learnings slot into place, so they can leave feeling empowered and ready to get on with things.
What is the best thing about owning your own business?
The freedom of being in the driver's seat, doing things your way and making your own decisions. This also includes managing your schedule. I'm a committed runner, so I cherish having the ability to fit my running routine around the working week without having to ask for anyone's permission.
And, changing the world. It may sound overly ambitious, but what I mean here is changing that piece that matters to you. This can be deeply satisfying.
What is the biggest challenge you've found since starting your business?
Making most of the decisions on my own. Even though I already mentioned it as the best part of running a business. I really think it's both the best and the hardest part. That's why having a supportive network of reliable contacts whom you can trust is invaluable.
Did you feel isolated or without support In the early stages of your business?
Definitely. Funny enough it was through my Twitter interactions with the local business community in north London that I met one of my best business friends.
It's someone who has been running their own company for a long time and agreed to see me for a coffee and a chat. She liked me enough to offer advice and introduce me to her wide network of contacts.
How did you seek out support?
I don't think I was very good at it at the beginning. Upon reflection, I feel that I could have been much more proactive with joining business networking groups. I did that, but much later.
What are the benefits of peer-to-peer learning?
I experience the magic of peer-to-peer learning when running my social media training programmes. Over the years, I have discovered that my role as a trainer is just as important as allowing the space and time for group discussions and sharing of experiences.
The exchange of opinions allows people to look at things from a different perspective, challenge their assumptions and explain things to each other. This provides a much deeper understanding of the subject in question.
Have you ever experienced group learning?
I first experienced the benefits of group learning when doing my management degree. I remember being split into learning groups, with half of our assessments being individual and half based on group work. Receiving continuous feedback from your peers is extremely helpful in accelerating the learning and gaining a better level of self-awareness.
Do you still seek out support and advice?
Yes. I feel that I'm getting much better at reaching out to people and networks and asking for help. Of course, it is equally important to offer the same to others.
What's your best tip for those starting their own business?
Develop the right mindset. Whenever I'm facing an uphill battle with my business, I try to remind myself that nothing worth doing comes easy. It's a marathon and not a sprint.
Being able to keep going when times are challenging is the one thing that separates those business owners who make it from those who don't.
There's still time to sign up for the Energiser programme in London. The price includes a year's Enterprise Nation membership, so you can continue learning once you have completed the programme. Click here to find out more or book your place.