From peer to peer: Seeking advice from other entrepreneurs (part 1)

As an entrepreneur, questions you’ve never considered and scenarios you’ve never encountered are constantly bubbling up. No matter what your background may be and no matter how many resources you have available, there are times when soliciting advice from seasoned professionals is the best course of action.

It might be a good idea to seek counsel from a lawyer to help you understand a term sheet, and it’s great to retain an accountant when first diving into payroll details. This kind of consultation often comes with a price tag that may not be practical at times, so seeking out alternative sources might be the only viable route. But no matter what stage of business your venture is in, sometimes the most valuable, relevant advice can come from those who have been in your shoes.

So how should entrepreneurs approach their peers to solicit advice? For part one of a two-part series, we’ll look at how to ask a busy entrepreneur for their expertise:


  1. Respect their time. You know how busy you are; if you’re reaching out to a fellow entrepreneur expect their day to be just as jam-packed. Brevity – whether via email, in person or over the phone – will not only increase the likelihood of a response, but also be a subtle signal that you recognize the value of their time. Take that a step further by doing any heavy lifting up front; if you’re asking for an introduction, draft the intro email for them ahead of time to help get their buy-in.


  1. Be targeted and be precise: Make sure that your request is clear right away. Don’t couch your questions in unnecessary hypotheticals, don’t tiptoe around a specific ask. If you’re not positive whether this person is the right person to be asking, go back and do more research before making contact. It won’t help your case to start an email with “Not sure if you’re the right person for this but…” You should have a solid understanding of who you’re talking to, and why. Plus, you might find the answer to your question during your research.


  1. Use social media: Whether to reconnect with someone in your network, or to find people who can help you, social media channels of all kinds are a great way to reach out to other entrepreneurs. Platforms like Twitter force you to be succinct, services like Quora are consultative by their very nature, and communities like Redditmake it easy to start an on-going dialogue with like-minded group members. Don’t be afraid to engage with other entrepreneurs through social media; many might prefer interacting that way over email.


Applying these simple rules will increase the likelihood of getting your questions answered by peers in the business community. When seeking out like-minded entrepreneurs, nothing beats a personal connection that has been nurtured over time, but there are plenty of ways to connect with valuable resources. Incubators, masterminds and professional networks are easy ways to make a personal connection with people who are at similar stages in their venture and experiencing similar problems.

Check back in soon for part two, which will cover what to do with feedback and how to keep those relationships you’ve built alive for long-term mentorship.


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