A little over a year ago I launched a consultancy. It was a side business and I don’t push it very much, but I still get a few clients every month almost all of which are brand new or wannabe entrepreneurs.

Post: How I Started A Consultancy Business

The initial enquiry is usually quite detailed with a bunch of specific questions: “what do you think of this product”, “is there anything I’m missing before starting this business”, “is my domain name good?”. Straightforward, I can answer those.

But as soon as I start talking to them it becomes clear very quickly that they already know all the answers. They’ve over-researched and often know just as much as me (although from a more theoretical and less practical angle). I go into the meeting or call with my list of recommendations, only to find that they have already thought of them.

Why are these people paying for my help when they don’t need it?

And then I started to see a pattern. While on the surface it looked like they were asking for advice, that wasn’t the real reason they wanted to talk to me. What they actually wanted was someone to agree with them and give them some much-needed encouragement to start that business and take the leap.

They are almost exclusively people who know no other entrepreneurs. Noone to bounce ideas off and to tell them they are doing the right thing. Instead they spend their time researching the anonymous internet or trying to sell their ideas to sceptical ‘normal’ friends. I have those friends too. Getting a sceptical look everytime you voice an out there idea is rubbish.

Entrepreneurship can be scary and countercultural. So they are willing to pay me $200 an hour to hear my say they’re on the right track, that I’ve done it before and made it work and that they should go for it too.

I had one lady who was going through a tough time with her business. After an hour I was feeling pretty down that I couldn’t offer much solid advice, then she said:

Thank you so much for this. It is just really nice to speak to someone who knows what I’m going through. Noone understands.

It has made me realise how lucky I was starting out. Not only was I young and naive, but I also had a group of close friends doing the exact same thing. Together we could ignore common wisdom and big up each other’s (mostly bad) ideas.

Go Out And Find Like-Minded People

Well, I am perfectly happy to get paid to encourage you. But if the above has resonated with you, there are much cheaper and better ways to find like-minded people. And provided you don’t live in a cave in the middle of nowhere, there are probably communities of those people right on your doorstep.

Look for conferences in your niche. Check out apps like Nextdoor or Meetup. Look for events on Facebook or LinkedIn. Google entrepreneurship clubs in your area. Email local business owners and ask to meet for a coffee. I’m not even going to try and list all the different ways to meet other entrepreneurs, there are so many. And trust me, we love talking about our businesses and ideas.

There is a common saying that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. Well I don’t think that is entirely true, but it does make a good point. If you spend your time with big thinking, ambitious entrepreneurs then you are more likely to become one yourself. Whereas if you spend your time with people who are happy with the status quo and no interest in starting their own thing, then you probably won’t either. I’m not saying that you need to hang out with Mark Zuckerberg or Richard Branson, just people who understand and are supportive.

It’s hard to put a value on how beneficial it is to be surrounded by people who ‘get it’. It is not just the encouragement. There is a huge amount of value from having people to bounce ideas off, to learn from and to rant to.

As I said I was pretty lucky starting out by having a good group of like-minded friends. But recently I have let that slip and become busier and focused on my own projects. And I think my creativity and enthusiasm has suffered. So I am going to take my own advice and put some conscious effort into meeting more like-minded people. Oh and if you happen to find yourself in Tunbridge Wells then drop me an email and we can go for coffee, share unrealistic business ideas and both leave fired up to take our businesses to the next level.

Update: After releasing this blog post I got the following email:

Hi Sam!

Great blog, as one of your early clients I think your observations are on point. Although you did give me some solid advice on pricing, mktg 😉 I actually soft launched the business and moved about $1500 worth of product I the summer then life got in the way and I’m planning another launch for year end.

I need to update website photos but Journey Notebooks did make it from prototype to actual product!!! www.JourneyNotebooks.com

Also, in reference to the blog I actually started a mini group with 2 other women entrepreneurs we meet weekly, share the growing pains of our business and support one another. It’s been invaluable and with them I truly believe I can do anything.

Wishing you all the best