A Field Guide to Genus Entrepreneurus

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family.
Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.
~ Jane Howard

One of the major obstacles to successful self-employment is not having a circle of entrepreneurial friends. When I point that out in Making a Living Without a Job seminars, I often see participants who look doomed. Not knowing anyone who is joyfully jobless does not have to be a permanent situation. It can be a call to expand your horizons.

“Where do you meet self-bossers?” is a frequent question that I hear. A good starting place, I point out, is to be entrepreneurial yourself and then go to their natural habitats for closer contact. Here are some ways to track down those dreamers and doers so you can study their habits up close.

  • Starbucks. Yes, the ubiquitous coffeehouse is loaded with entrepreneurial energy. In fact, new businesses have been dubbed Starbucks Start-ups because so many are conceived there. It’s also a popular meeting place for home based business owners, their clients and peers. It you have good eavesdropping skills, you can learn a lot while sipping your latte.
  • Seminars. Spend an evening or an entire day in a business oriented seminar and you’re bound to make a connection—if you bother. In observing behavior in my meeting rooms, I notice that not everyone makes the effort to introduce themselves to other participants. Many people don’t even greet the person sitting next to them, unless it’s an opening exercise. What a waste of potential opportunity to connect with a kindred spirit.
    In a recent seminar of mine, a young man came up to purchase a copy of my book and I asked him what his plans were. When he told me he was on his way to Japan, I said, “You’ve got to meet Patrick (another participant). He just got back from working there for eleven years.”
    I’ve had students come back from a break who met someone in those few minutes and saw a potential joint project. This can only happen if you let people know who you are. Do talk to strangers.
  • Conventions and trade shows. As writer Alan Epstein points out, you can get a list of such
    events in your own hometown from the Chamber of Commerce of Convention Bureau. Some of these events will be entrepreneurial beehives. You can meet other attendees and talk to exhibiters. Not only can you get some valuable information, but, as Epstein illustrates, “You’ll undoubtedly come away with a greater awareness of the cutting-edge trends and developments in the business that interests you. And you’ll refresh that interest by being among people who share your enthusiasm.”
  • Associations. While many small business organizations have had a short shelf life, niche groups seem to do better. Perhaps the kind of business you’re passionate about already has a group in place.
    How do you locate such an association? You can check the Yellow Pages, watch your local paper’s meeting calendar, or contact your Chamber of Commerce to see if they have a directory. A valuable locator tool is the extensive Gale’s Encyclopedia of Associations which you’ll find in your library’s reference section. Once you’ve tracked down a potential group, see if you can attend a meeting as a guest. Groups have personalities, after all, and you may or may not feel rapport, so check them out before you join.
  • Retreats. I could go on a retreat every month. There’s nothing quite so powerful as spending several days with a small group of people who are actively engaged in building their dreams. Most importantly, the longer time frame makes it possible for participants to get to know each other and share specific ideas and suggestions that can move mountains.  Of course, if you’re self-employed, such experiences have the added benefit of being tax deductible, but that’s not the primary reason to take a retreat. As monks and mystics have long known, putting yourself in a beautiful environment can be miraculous in many different ways.
  • Field trips. Every entrepreneur should set aside time occasionally to visit other small businesses. If you plan such an excursion, try to pick a time when the business won’t be too busy so you can chat with the owner. Do this only with entrepreneurs who are excited about their ventures, however. As Sarah Ban Breathnach reminds us, “A disgruntled dreamer makes a risky mentor.”

You can also observe entrepreneurs working at flea markets, art fairs and community festivals. Be conscious of behaviors that you find magnetic—and those which you don’t.

Begin tracking and observing the habits of Genus Entrepreneurus and you’ll soon see what Jim Rohn was talking about when he said, “Formal education will make you a living. Self-education will make you a fortune.” It just takes a willingness to learn from others with an entrepreneurial spirit.