Woman in Colorful MaskMentors. People you look up to. Heroes.

Call them what you like, but all small business owners need them. They’re the people we learn from, the people we get ideas from, and the people who offer us advice.

It took me a while to realize I had small business heroes. I started out feeling like I was in competition with everyone in my field. But one day, I turned my thinking around. There was a woman I’d heard speak at a networking event. She, too, was in marketing. At first, I was envious. After all, we were trying to get the same group of people to become customers.

But then my husband suggested I consider her as an ally. After a bit of grumbling, I decided he was right, and invited her to coffee. Over the next hour, I asked her questions about how she operated, and asked for advice on how to grow my business. She was completely open to helping me.

In the end, she brought me in on several projects, and I ended up having more work than ever thanks to her.

Lesson learned: changing your perception from “competitor” to “colleague” can be a wonderful experience.

Finding Heroes Everywhere

Once I took the perspective of learning from other business owners, I began finding heroes everywhere. Chris Brogan was sharing remarkable ideas at conferences, and was more than willing to chat one-on-one afterward. Anita Campbell was inviting when I pitched my first guest blog, and the relationship grew from there. Wendy Piersall believed in me enough to make me a part of her Sparkplugging blog network. I stopped being afraid to introduce myself to people who were more successful than I, and I expanded my network.

Consider who you could connect with. Maybe there’s someone who’s always speaking confidently at networking meetings, who you wish you could get advice from. Or maybe there’s a blogger whose writing you admire. Don’t assume they’re too busy or too important to speak to you. Most, you’ll find, are happy to talk to someone as passionate about small business as they are.

Expanding your network to include these “heroes” can help you grow your business quickly. And once you’ve reached whatever you deem success, make sure you give back. You never know: you could be a hero to someone else.