*This is a guest post by Jean South, a participant in Bunker Labs’ EPIC cohort in Philadelphia.
Recently, I had the privilege of hearing from one of Philadelphia’s great business founders, David Bookspan. He came to visit the Bunker Labs Philadelphia cohort of business owners and spoke to us about his journey to success. David is not only the founder of numerous businesses, but is also a key part of Dreamit, a business actuator firm in Philly. Hearing from him helped remind me of the true value of the Bunker Labs EPIC cohort, which is much like a Mastermind group. For me, the highest value of the cohort is unrelated to the guest speakers or the lessons we learn, it’s the value of the community.
*Note: For those who haven’t met Bunker Labs yet, it is a military entrepreneur accelerator program which chooses multiple military entrepreneurs to participate in a 17-20 week cohort program to grow their businesses. My business, Hire Served, is a member of the second cohort at Bunker Labs Philadelphia.
As David spoke, he shared the personality traits he believes make for a successful business founder. David believes great founders are extremely risk tolerant, extremely confident, yet secretly terrified at the same time. This resonated with me in that moment as I had just made a business presentation an hour before that left me feeling a bit on my back foot. I’m confident and sure of myself 99% of the time but the 1% of the time that I’m not sure, I’m basically in full panic mode. That’s where I was when David walked in the room and is also where I find the greatest value in these Mastermind groups. While I love the business tips and advice for continued success, what I love even more is the emotional support I receive during that 1% of the time when I stop and think, “Oh my word, what am I DOING?!”
It’s in those moments that I reach out to my fellow business owners and find support, encouragement, and most importantly, a mirror.
My Mastermind group colleagues know what I’m going through, because they go through it too. They understand the momentary, crippling, fear and they know what it takes to rise above that fear – they have done it before and they’ve seen me do it too. They know that the most important thing in that moment is to go back to the mission and values of the organization, and therein lies all the confidence you need. They know that because it’s what CEOs do for their own teams daily and they know that’s where the power lies.
That’s why I say they are my mirror – these colleagues know that in those moments I don’t need advice or good ideas. In those moments of fear, what I need is a mirror to reflect back to me what matters most – my “Why”. These colleagues ask me why I started my business. They ask me about my original vision. They remind me to go back to the core. Once I’m there, I can focus again on what matters and begin to problem solve whatever issue is behind the panic. In those panicked moments, there aren’t any answers to be found, so it’s not worth giving advice. They know that because they have been in those anxiety-filled moments before and they have a unique knowledge of how to pull me out. That’s why I need them. Because someone who works for an employer rather than themselves might tempt me to go back to the safety of someone else’s fold, but another trailblazer understands the joy of finding the solutions, of facing into the fear and staring it down. They know that the fear, when it isn’t taking over, is the best driver of action. And that the flip side of fear is courage. Courage to face the unknown, to lead a team into that unknown, and to know that no matter what, you’ll make it out somehow.
This is what makes the Bunker Labs cohort so incredible. The people in that room understand that courage isn’t about being fearless. Instead, it’s about experiencing fear and driving forward anyway. The military family, more than any other, is made up of people who identify with this definition of courage and have lived it in our pasts. This characteristic translates well into business ownership. And that’s why they serve as an incredible Mastermind for me.
If you are a business owner and don’t have a group like this, I highly recommend finding a group of like-minded business owners to meet with regularly and tapping into this power. If you’re a veteran or military spouse, look into Bunker Labs. You will find yourself giving in ways you didn’t expect to others, in awe of the incredible people you are surrounded by, and being given more than you can imagine.