A Little Help From Your Friends: How to Get Support for Your Business

Does it feel like you’re managing your business alone? The eight strategies listed below will help you build your support system and access resources that will point you in the right direction.

“Each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can’t strike them all by ourselves.” – Laura Esquivel

A Little Help From Your Friends: How to Get Support for Your Business

By Andrea Novakowski

When I meet with new clients, I always ask them: “What are the support structures in your life? With whom do you share the ups and downs of your business? Who gives you acknowledgement and encouragement? Who listens to your ideas?”

People often respond by saying a husband or wife, a mother or father, a brother or sister. Sometimes it’s a mentor or a former boss. These people are your inner circle. The ones you trust enough to share with fully.

Occasionally people don’t have a support structure. Perhaps they feel like they ought to be able to handle everything themselves, or they may not want to burden others by asking for assistance. We do some work to help them let go of those beliefs. (Sound familiar? See Don’t Be a Hero: Why It’s OK to Ask For Help.)

It’s important to make sure the support structures you rely on are really buoying you up. As Jeff Olson, author of The Slight Edge, writes, “You can’t afford to have people around you who are consistently acting as a drag on your positive outlook.” What you need are sustainers (from the book God Whispers: Stories of the Soul, Lessons of the Heart by Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar). Sustainers are people who support your dreams and help you bring your ideas to life. They reinforce the good inside you.

Think about it right now: Are there enough people in your life whom you can count on to let you know when you’re on the right path?

If not, you may want to try a few of the ways I’ve helped my clients build out their support systems.

Anna approached one of her clients who’s a great business builder and asked for advice on how to grow her new consulting business.

Joe bounced ideas off colleagues to make sure he was on the right track with a new software program he wants to use in his law firm.

David designed a “board of advisors,” a group of trusted friends who gave him honest feedback while he weighed buying another business to add to his medical practice.

Lila brought her ideas and issues to her mastermind group to get their input on challenges she was facing with communicating with her partner in her accounting business. (Groups of this type include Vistage and SBANE.)

Michael sought help from his accountant to find out what he needs to do financially to make changes in his software development business.

Myra depends on her husband to let her know when she’s losing focus and becoming distracted with the next shiny object. Their daily conversations about her executive search business helps her stay true to her values and goals.

Gail meets with her mentor, who offers insights and provides introductions to key players she can add to her network as she considers starting a marketing consulting business.

Peter uses his coaching session to reassess his goals, discuss obstacles, and commit to what’s next.

It’s my hope that you, too, have sustainers you can turn to when you exhaust your own resources — people who offer a different perspective and a fresh pair of eyes on problems and decisions that you face. Do you have areas where you could use more support? Is it time to pay it forward and become a sustainer for someone else?


Take a few minutes this week to identify the people in your life who consistently back you up. Then acknowledge them by calling them up or sending them a note of appreciation.