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So I decided to sign up and join a virtual summit.
If you don’t know what a virtual summit is (and I didn’t until recently) it’s an online place where people can watch, for a limited period of time, a collection of interviews from experts around a specific theme. So it’s a bit like attending a multi-day conference only you can attend in your pyjamas or comfy home-clothes and you don’t have to mingle and network afterwards… my kinda introvert-friendly conference.
So I’m all comfy in my home-clothes, sitting on my couch; just me, two sleeping bunnies nearby, a glass of water and my laptop. I’m all set and ready to go.
I click ‘play’ to watch the first interview.
Insightful. Informative. Interesting.
And then 10 minutes before the end….
The guy being interviewed dropped the bombshell about running your own business. And suddenly I crawled out of my little self-made hidey hole because suddenly I realised that I was not alone.
Well he leaked something about having a business that I always thought was my ‘dirty little secret’. But, in fact, is more common than I ever dreamed.
You see, when you start your business everyone's rallying around you. Friends and family spur you on. They've got your back. They'll support you however they can and, for me, that meant buying my products.
But then a few years pass and you enter the 'dirty little secret' phase of your business. That part where you're trying to grow, but time's gone by and all the enthusiasm from friends and family has waned. They believe you no longer need their support because you're growing, you'll have 'proper' customers now.
And things start to go quiet.
You start to build yourself a little hidey-hole because business is hard, life is difficult, but you've got to put a brave face on it all. You can't let anyone see the cracks.
And your friends and family and those who supported you when you first took that giant leap to start out on your own and follow your dreams, well they all assume that you're doing just fine. You've got the website up and running, you're present on social media, heck they've heard you've even got into the rhythm of writing regular newsletters and emails to people who found you, thought you might be alright, and decided to follow you.
So everything must be okay, right?
So you ride it out. You wear that brave face daily like a mask.
And eventually, after a number of years of hard grind, dedication and gradual growth, you make it and start to resemble something that looks like a proper company with employees, with profit, with direction. And that's when all your friends, family and early followers re-appear and urge you on, declaring "I always knew you had it in you!", "I always knew you could do it!" And that's great. That truly is something to celebrate and appreciate.
But here's the thing. It's that phase between start up and looking (and feeling) like a real-life company, those years of slow growth, of continuous ups and downs, of hardship that's kept hidden... it's that phase where business owners need the support, need the cheerleaders.
And ironically it's during that phase that the support and cheerleaders tend to be the most quiet.
As the guy being interviewed admitted: "Saying this may not make me popular", I reckon writing this might not make for comfortable reading. But reality can't all be sunshine and flowers.
So if you're reading this and know someone who has their own business which is beyond the start-up phase but hasn't yet got a bunch of employees or physical presence in terms of shops etc (and if you're scratching your head over this, look no further than the author of this post), maybe you should show them your support. Maybe you should become their cheerleader. Maybe you should become their biggest fan. Because by doing so you're not showing them sympathy, you're showing them belief and belief is what helps dreams and passions turn into reality.