16/10/2018 12:17 BST | Updated 16/10/2018 12:17 BST

The Four People In Your Life You Know Have Your Back

You should be able to count those closest to you on one hand

Thomas Barwick via Getty Images

“We all need somebody to lean on,” went the song. The fact is, to truly succeed, we need more than just one person to lean on.

And it’s not always business partners and backers. Jamal Edwards MBE, Digital Entrepreneur and Founder of SBTV, who helped launch a new study with American Express on our support network needs, reveals: “Having the support of others can be instrumental to success, but it’s not always about having friends in high places. Support can come from anywhere and more often than not it’s people you’ve known all your life.”

The study found that despite the average Brit’s social network consisting of 180 people, the ones that make up the ‘real’ support network can be counted on one hand. Here are the different kinds of supporters that make up your backing A-team.  

The Ones Who Comfort You
Whether you’re at your lowest and in need of a boost, or so successful things get dizzy up there, you need that person who assures you everything will turn out just fine.

For most this figure is a parent (Elon Musk’s single mum Maye’s struggles to raise her three sons is truly inspirational), or spouse (JK Rowling routinely calls her husband her best friend), or sibling (Alexandra and Katharina Andresen, the world’s youngest billionaires, rely completely on each other for moral support).

Then there’s the support that comes from unexpected sources, none more captivating than the support network between Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor. In the book Elizabeth & Michael: A Love Story, it is revealed that whenever she felt down, he showered her with diamonds. While Liz liked cheering up her pal by doing things like having an elephant shipped across from Asia to his ranch. Who doesn’t need a friend like that?

The Ones Who Cheerlead Your Cause
“While you may be your own toughest adversary, you can also be your biggest supporter,” Richard Branson famously said. But for most of us, having a number one fan who isn’t ourselves can be the difference between falling down and staying propped up (even Branson credits airline entrepreneur Sir Freddie Laker for his success).

Mark Zuckerberg says he got his boost from the encouragement of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates readily admits he owes his meteoric rise to Warren Buffet, while MC Hammer – who lost it all but then rebuilt his empire as millionaire entrepreneur Stanley Kirk Burrell – thanks God as being his biggest supporter.

The biggest cheerleaders in business success stories are often the loved ones who covers the bills when projects fail and offers support when disappointment kicks in. For author Stephen King, it was his wife Tabitha, who kept pushing him to stick with his debut novel “Carrie”, despite 30-odd rejections making him want to quit on a daily basis.

The One to Offer Constructive Criticism
Mentors come in many guises – experts who show you the ropes, colleagues that introduce you to the right contact. They all offer one thing that’s invaluable – criticism you can work with. (Ignore negative ones that simply say you can’t do it, advises comedian Tina Fey, who was told she wasn’t good looking enough for TV).

One of the best ways for the aspiring to get that necessary feedback from those in the know is through mentoring programmes. Celebrity chef and restaurateur  Gizzi Erskine - who has benefitted from the backing of a host of big-hitters in the industry (insert interview link) - is currently fronting a cookery backing experience with American Express. Gizzi explains, “Some people require that hard and fast attitude but a lot of the time it is about nurturing and nourishing. I want [a person] who is a dynamo and will fight for what they believe.” 

The One Who Helps You See the Big Picture
When embarking on any venture, it’s easy to get so lost in detail you forget the bigger picture. Every procrastinator in the history of the business can readily name the person who gave them that kick up the backside that got them going.

Arianna Huffington’s mum constantly reminded her she was responsible for her own actions and decisions. Gary Vaynerchuck, the CEO of Vayner Media, learned from an old liquor salesman that the best way to deal with a problem is to sleep on it. Even Deepak Chopra, the guru of gurus, needed someone (his psychiatrist Dr Dan Siegel) to show him how best to fulfil his potential.

It’s not always a human who teaches you there’s more to what meets the eye. For Brett Farmiloe, CEO of Markitors, it was seeing a goat fainting and then learning that baby goats, who know nothing of fear, never faint. Moral there: be like a baby goat. Preferably one with at least four good friends... 

American Express understands the importance of powerful backing. That’s why the company has joined forces with music legend Nile Rodgers and culinary innovator Gizzi Erskine, to launch Backed By, to give one budding musician and one food entrepreneur the chance to take their ideas to the next level. Keep an eye on Backed By for more on Nile and Gizzi’s celebration moments.

Promotor: American Express Services Europe Limited has its registered office at Belgrave House, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9AX, United Kingdom. It is registered in England and Wales with Company Number 1833139 and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.