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Why Entrepreneurs Should Surround Themselves With the Right People

It became clear pretty early on that life as somebody’s employee was not my cup of tea. Sure, there’s a lot of benefits that come with working for a company: job security, supportive coworkers, mentorship and coaching opportunities, a steady paycheck — and much more. 

But it was different for me. I wanted to build something from the ground up — start from scratch and work to make it a success. And my determination didn’t stop at just one project. I went from making sandwiches to making companies: from a bistro with breakfast service by the sea and a network of bakers to marketing and websites for small businesses. My endeavors weren’t always successful, by the way — things don’t always turn out the way you envision them in your head.

I’ve got a ton of ideas, but the reality is that I’m not very good at the necessary behind-the-scenes analysis, and even worse at the required follow-through. To put it bluntly, there’s a lot of boulders, and sometimes I’ll strike a diamond — but more often, there’s a whole lot of rough. 

There’s undoubtedly many people out there who have the kind of raw talent and boundless energy that are vital when going it alone and achieving any level of success. I have nothing but respect for these people. But I have a hunch that most people can really only shine when they’re working with others — and that’s how it felt to me. 

I had to surround myself with people whose skills complemented mine in order to develop my ideas, and I also wanted mentorship. Coaching. Someone who could say to me, “Dude, have you ever thought about how you’re going to pay for that? Why don’t you keep it simple and do it this way?”

But I didn’t always consider these factors when diving headlong into an idea. Instead of finding a compatible business partner, I convinced my mother to work in the sandwich shop. A few years later, I persuaded my girlfriend to help me start a breakfast service by the sea.

(Pro tip: Your sweetheart and your mom aren’t always the right people with whom to start a business.)

To fill the coaching void, I joined Junior Chamber International, a global organization for young entrepreneurial people. JCI was fun, and I met a lot of incredibly interesting people there. The group didn’t fulfill my desire for mentorship, however, so I kept up my search.

Looking for like-minded people who shared my goals and continually coming up empty-handed left me frustrated and disillusioned. I quickly learned that not everyone has ambitions similar to mine, or wants to become an entrepreneur.

I eventually moved on from my initiatives in the hospitality industry for a couple of reasons. Number one, I didn’t like the executive; number two, I didn’t find the right collaboration partners; and number three, I had a general lack of direction.

Cashplannr developed much more slowly than my previous endeavors. The concept of ​​helping prevent other companies from failure had been on my mind for a while. This time around, though, I was sure of one thing: I wasn’t about to go it alone.

I knocked on the door of an old colleague — someone I looked up to who’d already launched a startup. His reaction to my pitch was fairly lukewarm, and he readily admitted that although I hadn’t convinced him to participate, he wanted to advise me.

Though he wasn’t completely on board, it seemed like a win anyway — I had an advisory board for the first time.

At his suggestion, I joined Bryo, a Belgian network for entrepreneurs. The group helped me get out and participate in inspiring events, while simultaneously expanding my network and learning from like-minded peers. It was fascinating to see how other starters had dealt with pitfalls similar to mine.

Meanwhile, I’d decided to devote the bulk of my focus on developing Cashplannr — but I still did software consulting on the side to pay the bills.

Eventually I came into contact with Birdhouse and attended two events centered on sales, marketing, and funding. I talked to the team, gave them my pitch, and eventually someone persuaded me to sign up for their accelerator

One of the selection criteria (there would eventually be more than 600 registrations, but only room for 10 startups) was an MVP (minimum viable product). In other words, the candidate should already have something to show. I had something, but it wasn’t much — and my documentation wasn’t quite up to snuff. The selection process involved several steps, and I wasn’t sure of my chances.

To my surprise — and complete joy — I was told that Cashplannr was accepted. Finally I’d found the mentorship, personal coaching, and network of experienced entrepreneurs who see the big picture — people who want to chase after their dreams. 

Of course, it came with a price — I had to give away a small piece of my business — but for six months, along with nine other startups of all kinds, I had the chance to be coached, guided, mentored, and trained. And that was just the beginning. 

In recent months, together with the right people — mentors, colleagues, and coaches — I’ve made solid progress toward achieving my goals for Cashplannr: solving a problem that many entrepreneurs face.

As far as finding the right partner is concerned, that search goes on. What the heck — maybe I’ll continue to go it alone as a business manager. But one thing is certain: if you know what you want, eventually you will find the right environment and the right people to make your dreams as an entrepreneur come true. 

Thanks to Birdhouse for the opportunity!

 — Thomas

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