When I started my business I regularly posted to social media, created videos and attended events. I spent time connecting with others in the vegan community who shared my interests, passion and ideals. From all of this I received a wonderful sense of fulfillment and collaboration since I was not only connecting with people in person, but I was in a true sharing mode, using technology so lots of people could interact with me one-on-one, or at least hear about my thoughts and perspectives. To feel that sense of comradery with fellow vegan business owners was a beautiful thing.
However, as I built a full roster of clients, I found myself more and more at home alone working from campaign to campaign. The busier my business became the less time I spent with potential customers and that network I had been so delighted with. Of course it made sense to give my clients the majority of my focus and time, but in hindsight I realized that I had completely given up an important opportunity to build connections with people outside of my current circle.
I’ve been fortunate to work with most of my clients for more than five years, but because I didn’t make the time to network, the growth of my business became limited to the small number of relationships I was paying attention to. And this was a crucial mistake…I wasn’t nurturing enough relationships. I was undervaluing the importance of sharing and connecting, and that meant I wasn’t building an expansive pipeline of potential customers outside of my bubble, as I should have been.
Eventually I realized I had to make a change if I ever wanted my impact to be greater than my daily work with my clients, so I went back to the drawing board.
With 10 years under my belt in the corporate business world, as well as 8 years working with vegan businesses, I knew that I had a wealth of knowledge and experience to share. I realized that I could help not only people who might need my services but, perhaps even more exciting, I could be a source of inspiration to the vegan business community. There are so many leaders taking this movement to exciting new heights, and I wanted to be among them, knowing I had something unique to contribute.
To achieve this, I had to change — the way I work, how I prioritize my days, and even, in some ways, the type of services I offer. This change didn’t come because I wasn’t enjoying what I had been doing, but I realized that in order to grow and take my business where I wanted to go, I had to take a different approach. Up to that point I had been so micro-focused on clients there was little time for anything else. I had to break free of those self-imposed expectations and rules and stop burying myself in work. To become the leader I wanted to be, and to help the vegan community in a bigger way, I needed to make time for sharing, writing, collaborating, and attending conferences.
So, why am I telling you all this? Because my story is not unique. Many vegan entrepreneurs start off with a big dream, and it almost always has to do with making the world a better place. Then the reality and slog of running a business takes over, and we lose that part of the dream. But it doesn’t have to be that way! We can have successful businesses and make a difference!
If you find yourself stuck in a bubble or behind your desk all day, think about the shifts you might make so you don’t become isolated from the world by your business. Need some help getting started? Here are some of the changes I made in my business when I found myself in that place:
- Free up time by delegating repeatable tasks to a team member or a freelancer
- Identify services/products that provide leverage in your business so you can make more money without requiring a greater investment of your time. Consider an online course, a large-scale event, product bundles, etc
- Make a commitment to attend at least one or two conferences per year
- Conduct two speaking engagements per year (virtual summits or physical events)
- Create at least one video per week to share on social media
- Host one live social media stream event per month
- Message/ DM at least two colleagues or peers each month, just to see how they are doing
Do some of these resonate with you?
It’s important not to feel pressured to implement all of these items (or items you have thought of) at once; in fact I encourage you to start small so you don’t get overwhelmed. But start with one or two ideas, and you just may find yourself inspired to do more once you step out of your bubble and start to feel the energy of that powerful vegan community around you again.
Think about 3 shifts you could make to build your network over the coming year, and write down how and when you will go about each one.
This article is part of the Vegan Mainstream Essentials Guide, Networking Know-How. Download all the articles in this collection, here:
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