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How to find peers and mentors for your small business

Australia is a nation built upon small businesses. Indeed, there are more than 2 million small businesses in Australia, accounting for 97% of all Australian businesses.

Yet, explains Gabrielle Martinovich, Director of Sydney-based Definitude Consulting, small business owners like herself don’t often receive consistent, real-time and relevant support.

Join a business community

Martinovich, who is a member of the 124,000-plus online community Flying Solo, says joining an active online community has helped her ride through the peaks and troughs that come with running a business solo.

“I now have a ‘tribe’ I can go to for advice, affiliated services and support. Often when I’ve hit a wall with a client or a piece of work, there will be a relevant article or podcast that will pop into my inbox just at the right time when I need it most,” she says.

Martinovich says online peers and mentors are great to bounce ideas off as there’s usually someone who has done or experienced a particular scenario before.

“You can connect at mutually convenient times and it keeps you accountable,” she says.

“Being a part of the community is about the connection – you get out of it as much as you put into it.”

Networking events

Meetup.com lists more than 700 small business groups throughout metropolitan and regional Australia, while Facebook lists legions more.

Andrea Smith owns and runs Brisbane-based Applause Genie, a small business which connects and up-skills ambitious artists and musicians.

She’s also a member of the 120,000 strong, highly active Facebook group Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine (LMBDW), which is for entrepreneurial-minded and business-savvy women.

What sets LMBDW apart from other business-networking Facebook groups, however, is that it regularly hosts well-attended networking events all around Australia.

“I have attended breakfast, drinks and lunch get-togethers. I try to go to at least one event a month,” Smith explains.

“I attend primarily for socialising with other business owners – I felt I was lacking a chance to talk and socialise with other female business owners.”

Since attending the LMBDW sessions, Smith says not only has she received valuable feedback on ideas and issues related to her business, but it has expanded her referral network.

“The group is fantastically diverse, and I have made contacts in other related areas that I can refer my clients to, adding that extra something to my service to my customers. I have also had other members refer my business,” she says.

Smith says the group has also helped her realise she is not alone.

“We talk about various common issues in the group, both at the meetings and in the Facebook group and every member brings a different perspective on how to solve them. That is an experience that money can’t buy,” she says.

Create your own network

Finally, once you’ve joined a network, Martinovich suggests you seek out and link-up with like-minded individuals you can work more closely with.

“Apart from Flying Solo, I’m in one other online network. It’s a specialist group of three accountability partners and we touch base weekly on goals for the coming week/month to keep us on track,” she says.

“We connected through an online network and set up our own group as part of a conversation thread on the benefits of having accountability partners. We’ve since become friends – having met in person as we live in different states – and we’re still going strong three years on.”

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