As entrepreneurs, it’s so easy to get isolated and work on our ideas and ventures by ourselves. Sure, we may have clients, vendors and friends around us.
However, many entrepreneurs I know are not surrounded by peers who encourage them and challenge them at the same time.
I believe having an alliance of peers around us who support us in solving problems, encourage us when things don’t go well and who challenge us when we don’t perform at our best, is one of the most importing things to turn our crazy and ambitious ideas into reality.
I believe every entrepreneur needs an alliance of peers around them to live up to their highest potential.
Last weekend, I spent two days at the Startup Weekend Lucerne around some pretty amazing people.
The first evening, we got to know each other and formed alliances around the ideas we were most excited about. Seven ideas were chosen to work on and each idea had an alliance of five to seven people.
I chose the venture idea called “Sustainable Footwear” for two reasons. First, because the founder was so passionate about what she was building and second, because I felt her vision for what she wants to build was very well aligned with mine.
Over the course of the weekend, some extensive lessons got reinforced about building an alliance of peers that thrives.
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1. Go With Your Gut Feeling
This is sort of an overall lesson that proved to be extremely valuable again. There were some venture ideas that had a lot more potential or were easier to put on paper than the Sustainable Footwear idea.
However, I decided to go with this one without thinking much about it. I liked the founder for her personality and dedication and thought the idea would really make a difference.
Looking back, it’s hard to explain why exactly I chose this venture to work on. It just felt right.
Going with my intuition has proven to be a fantastic idea countless times by now, including this weekend.
2. A Shared Set of Values is Key
One of the reasons why this venture just felt right was because it resonated with my core values – Freedom, Impact and Connection.
The idea was to build a platform that provides a new way for designers, manufacturing workers and customers to create and buy exclusive footwear. Also, a major part of the profit would go directly back into the system to increase quality of living and working conditions for the community where the products are manufactured.
All of my core values were part of this venture so I was extremely excited to be part of it.
A shared set of value is key for every relationships, no matter if it’s marriage, friendship or a business partnership. At the end of the day, they are all relationships between humans.
3. A Shared Vision or Purpose is Key
For an alliance of entrepreneurs to succeed long term, a shared vision or purpose is crucial.
Most people who came to this event were aligned under one shared vision of making a difference. Almost every venture idea had making a difference at its core.
That was especially true in our alliance. One of the main reasons why the four of us decided to join this venture idea was because it was making a difference and disrupting the way business is done in the footwear industry.
I love disruption and change.
4. Diverse Perspectives are Key
Sometimes, I believe people misunderstand the term “likeminded”. What I mean by it is a shared set of values and vision or purpose.
It has nothing to do with agreeing on everything or having the same opinion. Actually, if everyone agrees on everything, nothing ever changes and everything stays the same.
For an effective alliance to work, there has to be different perspectives in the group. The easiest way to get different perspectives is to have people from diverse backgrounds in your alliance.
At the Startup Weekend, our team consisted of an industrial designer (the venture founder), two manufacturing experts, one IT expert and one marketing/business guy (me). It was perfect in terms of backgrounds and skills for this venture.
So many times, we get stuck in building our network inside our box. That box can be our profession, industry, expertise, country, culture or anything else.
I believe it’s crucial to go beyond these imaginary borders and expand into other areas, no matter if that’s industry, country, culture, language, skills or something else.
If we stay inside our box, we keep solving yesterday’s problems with yesterday’s solutions. If we expand our horizon, we get to solve today’s problems with tomorrow’s solutions.
We get to create innovation.
5. Carefully Filter Incoming Advice
Feedback and advice is free and everybody is more than happy to give it to you. However, the question is, what is good advice and what is bad advice?
How do you make sure you filter the incoming advice and feedback in a way so that it helps you move closer to your vision and not further away?
That’s where having a strong vision is extremely useful because it acts as your compass in such a situation.
When we initially started working on the Sustainable Footwear venture, the founder had a very clear idea about what the platform will look like, who the customer segments are and what sustainability means to her.
However, there were some major challenges with the manufacturing process because of the cost structure. We had to figure out how to make the process more lean to make this venture profitable and sustainable.
That’s where having the right filter for advice and feedback was crucial. One of the most important factors for the founder were the fair working conditions for the manufacturing workers.
However, the way she imagined it was very challenging to build because it would have taking a long time to make it profitable.
We worked for several hours on this challenge to find a solution that was both profitable and offered fair working conditions. At the end, we came up with a solution that was both profitable and socially responsible like she imagined it.
To come to this result, it was absolutely crucial for the founder to have two things.
First, to be open to new ideas even if they seemed controversial in the beginning. And second, to say no to advice that was defeating the vision of this venture.
In order to have such an alliance of people where openness as well as knowing when to say no is embraced, it’s crucial to have the three elements I mentioned above.
1. Shared set of values
2. Shared vision or purpose
3. Diverse perspectives
Building Alliances That Thrive
This newly forged alliance at the Startup Weekend has proven to be invaluable for everyone involved.
Personally, I got so many new ideas and solutions for my own business from working on this venture. We also decided to keep the alliance up and running to support each other in our growth.
I believe in this concept more than anything else.
Alliances are enormously powerful when built on the right pillars and I encourage you to keep building your alliances to keep innovating, breaking through limits and performing at your best.
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