Are You a Bubblehead?

If you’re like many small business owners, you work in a bubble. You figure out everything yourself  and rarely, if ever, connect to your industry peers. Bad idea.

My husband has a startup, and this was his story until recently. We moved to San Diego last year, and hadn’t heard about much of a startup community, so he went it alone. Then he found a few groups that support startups, and he saw what he had been missing. Here’s why you should pop the bubble you’re living in.

Are You a Bubblehead?

1. You Need Peer Support. Heck, even hanging out with your competitors can give you great ideas. But as long as you live in your own echo chamber, how can you really know how far along you are (or aren’t)? My husband said that while he feels he has eons to go in his business, the other startup founders (all twentysomethings) admired him for having come so far in a year.

He said it’s a bit like doing pushups at home all day, every day, then going to a meeting to teach you to improve your pushups. You might think you need work, but when you come in all muscular, everyone looks up to you. Sharing ideas with other people in similar situations is invaluable, and will take your business even further.

2. You Need “I Know a Guy.” We all know it’s who you know that matters. If you’re working in a bubble, you probably don’t know many people at all. But what happens when you need a good, affordable lawyer? Or a venture capitalist? You essentially have to open the phone book (do they still make those?) and throw a dart at it to find one. But if you’re networking, you’ll eventually come across someone who “knows a guy.” And these are often the best referrals.

My husband said that typically, VCs hide when they’re in a room full of startups, because they’ll get pitched to death, but at the meeting he recently attended, a VC introduced himself and asked about his business, then gave him his card. That wouldn’t have happened with a cold email introduction.  Networking is all about helping others, and while you definitely should contribute to connecting people, you will also find yourself on the receiving end.

3. Sometimes Your Ideas Suck. And you need to hear that. As long as your ideas are bouncing around in your head, you really don’t know if they’re any good. But you can gauge people’s reactions when you explain them. Scrunched forehead = back to the drawing board.

Leaping forward in excitement = you’re on the right track. (And getting feedback from your spouse or cat does not count.)

4. You Might Actually Learn Something. Look, I know how smart you are. Wicked smart. But honestly, you could still learn a thing or two, and likely from a fellow business owner. Think of it like this: We all make mistakes. If someone else can tell you about the mistakes they’ve made, you can keep from making the same ones. Make your own mistakes!

So wherever you are in your business, I encourage you to attend networking events, small business workshops, startup accelerators, Chamber of Commerce meetings–anything to get out of your head and among fellow commiserators.


Susan Payton Susan Payton is the Communications Manager for the Small Business Trends Awards programs. She is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in content marketing, social media management and press releases. She is also the Founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners who want to generate their own PR.

7 Reactions
  1. I’ve heard many startup founders talk about how fortunate they were to succeed. Many of them even go so far as to say that you need a little luck to really hit it big. Well guess what, you make your own luck and getting out there among other movers and shakers will help increase the odds of that serendipitous meeting or chance encounter. And don’t forget that you may be just the person that someone else needs to meet.

  2. Really sound advice Susan. TPI Solutions Ink is a small printing company in Waltham, MA and besides networking in person I have found twitter to be an amazing source of information and ideas. I follow many people involved in the printing industry, graphic designers, paper manufacturers, and other printing companies to name a few. So, yes, pop the bubble and connect!

  3. I love this article for a couple reasons, primarily because every point is completely substantial. Building a breakthrough company requires successful navigation through a field of land mines over many years. If you’re navigating this mine field by yourself without tools, technology, or help, you’re probably screwed. The best thing CEOS and owners can do is tap into additional perspective. Here’s the reality — all businesses owners get stuck in the day-to-day and are emotionally attached to their businesses. This creates a blinding effect, which can cause entrepreneurs to miss golden opportunities that they are NOT CONDITIONED to see. In my early career I worked at a consulting firm that paid another consulting firm 50,000/month to offer additional feedback and perspective. Go figure.

    What is the cost of lost opportunity in your business?

    Ryan Mettee

  4. @Robert–There’s no luck about it! It’s really about your network. I’m glad I burst my own bubble.

    @Carrie–I love meeting people smarter than me. I learn so much!

    @Ryan–I’m so pleased it resonated with you! And great question: what IS the cost of lost opportunity?


  5. I really like how simply you put this – most entrepreneurs seem to get caught up in Startup Isolation. I’ve found the most acute cases in people who’ve been burned before, since once you’ve had a single bad business experience with a partner, it’s much easier to dismiss other people and try to do everything on your own.

    I’m actually writing a series right now focused on the biggest regrets of seasoned entrepreneurs, and the #1 most common regret was “doing it alone.” It seems that the entrepreneurial spirit, which by nature makes people extremely individualistic, also makes them more likely to isolate themselves. Isn’t it an incredible paradox that the people who need the most help from others are the people most likely not to seek it?

    Anyhow, thanks for an incredible article – addresses a serious need. If you’d like to check out my series, it’s article #1 on my website at (since it’s the #1 business regret!).

  6. This really resonates for me, too – it is sooooo important to expand our circle and expose ourselves to new ideas.

    I actually wrote a post about exactly that on Monday. In my post I focused on the need for ideas and input, though – I didn’t emphasize the need for support or “I know a guy” as you mentioned, which are both very important. I’m adding a comment to that post linking to yours. 🙂

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