Being Solo and Having a Community Go Hand in Hand
Guest blog by Coterie Member Aimee Haynes
As a solo law practitioner, I sometimes spend a little too much time in my living room by myself with not quite enough lighting; a few days of this and I begin to question my every decision about what I’m doing with my life. Just like all the other things you have to check when you’re just feeling off (am I hungry, dehydrated, sleep-deprived, etc.), I have to ask myself, am I too isolated?
Most of the time I realize the answer is YES (plus I might be a little hangry too). Isolation is one of the most difficult parts of working solo. However, isolation isn’t the whole story. At larger businesses, there are multiple people with different specialties and unique points of view. When you go solo, these people are no longer in the cubicle next door, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t create the same experience, just without the ugly cubicles.
As a solo, it is so important to create your team of experts. That sounds easy when you just say it, but in reality it can take some work to find all the players that have specialties that can help inform you and a team of people that you can bounce ideas off of.
This is one of the reasons that a good Mastermind group has professionals from a variety of sectors. They create this community of experts and advisors that just aren’t found when you’re in your home office.
Now that we’ve identified the problem - the lack of a community of experts and advisors - what’s the solution?
First, identify the areas where you don’t have an expertise (um… hello accountants, lawyers, marketing gurus, and coaches). Then go out into the community that you already have and ask who your friends or networking colleagues are using to handle their professional needs. Set up some appointments and find someone that you like and want to work with. Guess what, if you find the right professionals, they will be happy to answer little questions or point you in the right direction for free (trust me, I am the queen of asking these little questions of my circle of experts).
Since you have your experts in place, finding the right advisors/mentors in place is the next step. Helpful hint here, most people are happy to share their opinions and advice if you butter them up with a little flattery. “John, I’d love your take on this new program I’m beginning. You always have such great ideas and I see how you always perfect each and every detail.” After that, John will be happy to let you buy him a coffee or make time for a call to provide his sage advice. Find a “family” of 5-10 people that you respect and build up those relationships. The relationships will benefit you in ways you probably couldn’t even imagine right now.
Finally, where are you going to get this community? If you’re a solo, it’s likely that your professional experts will also be solo too. They will be running into the same stir-crazy feeling that you’re having too. So make some dates for co-working. It’s a great way to check out some coffee shops, and it’s a lot easier to pop your head over your laptop and ask your accountant a quick question than it is to get a reply to an email. It’s a win-win.
You might say… Wow, it sounds kind of selfish to be finding all these people to help me; how is it going to affect my karma? Like so many other things in life, this only works if you pay it forward. Your accountant will be just as likely to ask you a quick marketing question, and your trusted advisor will come back to you for advice later. In fact, this community will grow as you begin to refer people to your new experts and as they refer to you.
Remember, this won’t happen if you don’t leave your home office. So, get out there and build the community that will lead to your success and know that whatever you get, give back; because a good community will help all of your ships to rise together.
Aimee M. Haynes is a highly respected independent attorney principally serving technology start-ups, emerging small companies and established local businesses in the Santa Monica area. Ms. Haynes has provided legal counsel on behalf of several top 100 law firms and Fortune 500 companies. In her private practice, she is focused in the areas of business entity creation, matters pertaining to small businesses, venture capital investment, and liquidity events for equity-holders. Ms. Haynes has years of global experience, including work for the U.S. State Department and human rights projects in Cambodia, Uganda, and China. She has a Juris Doctor from Temple University Beasley School of Law, and from UCLA School of Law she holds a Legum Magister (Master of Laws), focused on Business and Security law. Additionally, she is a member of the American and California Bar Associations.