Shake Hands with Eight to Sixteen People

Several conversations this month brought home to me the value of bringing bootstrappers together for a single conversation around a set of real issues or opportunities that at least one person at the table is asking for advice on:

  • You get to “shake hands” with a eight to sixteen people: even though the average breakfast has fewer attendees than a regular “speaker on stage” event you get to give you introduction to everyone who attends and hear another dozen people give theirs. This is very time efficient (compared to having to repeat you basic intro a dozen times in the course of the same hour to 90 minutes) and it allows you to network with the folks who have common issues or who offered additional useful insights after the regular conversation. In contrast, most entrepreneurs only get to talk for three to five people at a larger event.
  • It’s useful to hear someone else describe your problem. First, it’s good to have company on the entrepreneurial roller coaster, and second you get to hear good advice that can be easier to consider than if it’s offered to you directly. Sometimes you can find yourself offering another entrepreneur with the same issue some good advice that you should also follow.
  • The act of describing a challenge or asking for feedback allows you to gather and review your thinking. It’s easier when there are only a dozen people around the table than stepping up to a microphone in a larger room. The diversity of suggestions also helps: there is rarely one “right answer” and different viewpoints may help you to unlock a new perspective.
  • It’s not just the experience of the people around the table. Everyone can also share stories and lessons learned they have heard from other entrepreneurs that they know or observed. One person brought up a business idea last week and another person shared some very useful details from a similar situation that a friend of theirs had faced several years ago. I was talking with another participant afterwards and he said “what do you think the odds are that two people at the same breakfast had experience in a niche business?” I thought about it and said, “Pretty high actually, there are not that many different business models and anyone who is a serious entrepreneur doesn’t just know their own story, they have compared notes with dozens of other folks that they can share a summary of.”

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