The Loneliness of the Entrepreneur
As the song Killer by Seal says, ‘It’s loneliness that’s the killer’.
If I were to know what one single reason is responsible for very small businesses giving up, I’d guess it was being on your own! It can be really demotivating, demoralising, and ultimately, the death of your business.
‘A problem shared is a problem halved’, is what my dad used to say. And there is a psychological and scientific basis for this belief.
Human beings are herding animals. We like and need to be in families, groups, teams and communities. Launching and running your own small business is often so far away from this natural, desired state that it causes major problems around things like self-esteem, confidence and the ability to keep-on, keeping-on.
Never having worked for another living soul, I have frequently been in the undesirable place that is: ‘on your own, mate!’
So how do we deal with this? What can you do that will ensure your survival – emotionally that is?
In the early days of any new business, it’s extremely unlikely that you will afford ‘other people’, and this will mean that going to work is a solitary experience: One that for many is a new feeling, and a new way of operating.
Eventually, if one is successful and can afford to start employing other people, the loneliness can disappear, but is often replaced by that other OMG of business, ‘I’m not just responsible for managing myself, but now I have to manage someone else as well!’
Paradoxically though, this can also lead to an even greater feeling of loneliness. Recently, a client of mine wanted help because although he has a team of staff that carry out the practical work his business provides, he is often overwhelmed with a feeling of ‘them’ and ‘me’. Merely the responsibility can make him feel he’s on his own. His staff is depending on him for everything.
So what’s the solution?
Well, I thought I’d give you a couple of ideas, but first, let’s look at the reason we don’t like to be on our own – at least not all the time.
One of our fundamental needs is for Connection. This connection is ideally with other people: the ultimate connection for virtually all humans being a deep intimate relationship with one or more others.
But here we’re not talking about deep relationships, just those that make us feel better about ourselves and keep us motivated and alive, because in business, we don’t need to be everyone’s best friend, which can be counterproductive, but we do need to have colleagues with whom we can share and discuss ideas and experiences, and maybe mentors, coaches or just people we can learn from or look up to.
The important thing in all of this is ‘conversation’. I use the word conversation because it has to be two-way. So, as a caveat to this approach, decide that in seeking out any new relationship, your intention will be to give and share your ideas, your time and yourself. If you look selfishly, then chances are you’ll lose more than you gain.
Often we miss out on the benefits of relationships with certain types of people because we can’t see how ‘that sort of person’ could help.
In Tom Rath’s book, Vital Friends, he reminds us that in business historically ‘people development’ has been in two areas: personal, or developing the individual; and developing the team or group or department. Vital Friends shows clear evidence of why developing one-to-one relationships – and viewing them as such – is so valuable, not just in terms of the ‘feel-good’ and job satisfaction factor, but in terms of bottom line profitability and low staff turnover.
So, here are three (of twelve) types of people that you could benefit from a relationship with if you suffer from The Loneliness of the Entrepreneur.
1 People who are already successful in your sector
Yes, this can mean competitors. Seek out a relationship with someone you admire who is already successful. This can seem scary at first, but what I’ve found over the years is that people love to be asked for advice. It’s flattering and if you can find a mentor who will share their ‘time’ with you, either on the phone or face to face, then you will never be lost for ideas or motivation. I have two mentors at the moment, both of whom I can freely email or phone whenever I want – fantastic!
If you go networking, you’ll know that there are those people who know everyone. Those are the people who we call connectors and you know what? They’ll connect you with other people if you ask and so build your anti-loneliness network. If you don’t currently go networking, then START TODAY. There is no other more profitable way of building the relationships that can and will (if done professionally) transform your fortunes.
3 People who sing your praises
These may be clients who love what you do – or your mum! They’ll shout your name from the rooftops and talk about how brilliant it is to do business with you. I know that I have often ignored these ‘fans’ as a great source of connection. Now that I regularly phone them and ask how they’re doing and what do they think I could do next with my business idea, I get so many ‘problems’ sorted for me. I no longer have to do all the work myself.
This is just three of a list of twelve types of people to connect with. And if confidence is your issue because you don’t feel comfortable about making these kinds of friendships, then give me a call.
In our work, we deliver learning through seminars known as Inspirationist® Insights. If this article has made you think and given you ideas, then consider attending one of our seminars in the near future. We cover a wide range of topics, all of which we guarantee will help your personal as well as your business relationships, and focus on developing profitable relationships, the kind that endure, giving your business solidity and longevity.
For your FREE copy of my latest book Psychologise Your Business – 101 sure-fire ways to get your business thinking straight, call 0800 840 6093