I’ve been thinking lately about the typical learning curve and development arc of new entrepreneurs, and the tendency for those new to small business to hold their cards really close to their chest. More than a few are driven by fear of having their ideas stolen (a common and usually misguided fear) or have overblown ideas about gamesmanship with their competition; others are insecure and afraid to share their problems and challenges with others lest they be viewed as weak or incompetent.
But as with most things that are driven by fear, this tendency to close one’s self off from others is almost always a net negative. In contrast, savvy, confident business owners aren’t shy to discuss their problems with their peers — and they can benefit mightily from exchanging their challenges, their war stories and their ups and downs. Besides just the psychological benefits of connecting with others and getting support (remember, running a business can be lonely), exchanging info with fellow business owners can help you improve your business as you develop a more sophisticated understanding of your trade.
When you discuss your problems with peers, you’ll usually learn that you’re not the only one who has that problem — which can lead you to see an opportunity to develop a new product, service or way of doing business that gives you a competitive edge. When you can solve the problem that everyone grapples with, you may have a killer product or service on your hands. But you won’t develop that solution until you see the problem, and you won’t see the problem until you network and share.