Being an SME: Online Accountability with your Peers

by Melanie Boylan
Business Mindset

It's tough being an small business. Maybe even tougher when you work alone in my opinion. Sometimes your drive just takes a nose dive and you potentially have no one to pick you up.

I've worked alone for just over 7 years and I've naturally hit bumps in the road occasionally of course. However, there are 4 reasons why I'm still here in business:

  1. I pushed through with my own determination
  2. When that failed me, my friends and family supported me
  3. And of course, there is a market and need for me and my services.

Now I would like to explain a fourth reason. In January 2019 I was messaged by a fellow MicroMentor and asked if I would like to work together with them to help make each other more accountable? It was pretty unusual request, in that we had never had any previous contact before but we did share an awful lot of synergies in together. This was how I met Anja Naralocnik, a Digital Marketer from Slovenia.

Myself and Anja are on vastly different trajectories and the time we both can put into our businesses would be different as well, but other than that we shared a huge amount in common. At times over the last year or so we've been there to reason with and to build each other up. Between getting membership or investment, speaking gigs or training events we've been a soundboard for each other.

Why is it Important to Get Peer Support

Simply because we run our own business doesn't mean we always know what we're doing! I've very much "felt" my way through the first few years. I've of course spoken to family and friends and they've helped but let's face it, they will always have a bias.

What I enjoy particularly about peer support in particular is they don't know us that well. They don't know what we're capable of, or not of course. If we don't know something, they don't avoid or skirt around it, they say why not? That's what I find makes me more accountable.

Why is it More Important Now to have Peer Support?

Business is business. Business is not personal. It shouldn't matter that you cut your finger 15 minutes ago and you're feeling distracted through a Zoom call. Whereas your best mate would probably say you should have postponed the call.

Peer support means that they likely have a different perspective on exactly the same issue. Your family can of course empathise but most won't know what its exactly like to be in your shoes.

By also having a peer supporter in a different country it takes away the competitive nature out of it as well. Although things maybe different in each country; like budget and circumstances, as long as you have a similar audience you can always take what is being suggested and fit it to your business.

Fresh ideas, perspectives and resources means you can bounce ideas off each other and hopefully inject fresh life into your services or products.

How to Find the Right Person

I've no real idea on how to answer this to be fair! I got real lucky with finding Anja on this occasion and its worked for nearly a year and a half now. We still speak a couple of times a month. We've both pivoted and changed in the last year, as we've needed to.

The right person can change as well. You may find someone suitable for some time and then need to move on to another. This happens especially right now during COVID19.

My suggestion for you is to perhaps find someone suitable initially by checking out the Local Enterprise Office and learning more about their Mentors (check the link). They normally have a great array and will be trusted in their fields.

Then there are some fabulous Networks you can join through Ireland and Europe. They'll be mostly online (as most things are now). I have been a member and Mentor of the Women's Inspire Network for a number of years now. It's a safe haven and the expert classes and workshops have been vital for me.

How Can I Improve Things Now

There's no magic answer to getting your business right in COVID19. It's all a bit up in the air how bad the recession will be in Ireland and in respective countries. If you import or export you'll be impacted by their recession too. Also with the UK leaving Europe - that will also have another impact on this small nation in the coming months.

The time is now to look back at your business plan and re-chart your direction. Perhaps do a fresh SWOT analysis and update your skills to be ready for the changes coming? Ask/Watch a competitor about changes depending on your relationship. We are all being affected in the same way, no one is better off.

I hope this has given you something to reflect on and to perhaps refresh your thinking? It's not over yet by any means, we are all still finding out when and frankly if the world will ever be normal again.

Please ensure you reach out to get help. There are many institutions and National bodies in Ireland that can help. If you would like any assistance I am more than happy to signpost. Do not hesitate to contact me.

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