According to the poet John Donne, no man is an island. But a busy entrepreneur may beg to differ. Whether you’re the CEO of a small business with a staff working for you, or a one-man band type of company, where you’re running things single-handedly, the chances are that as an entrepreneur you feel like it’s you against the world each and every day. The thing is, that pretty much goes with the territory.
Responsibility and isolation
One of the main reasons people tend to start and run their own companies, is because they’re in love with the idea of being their own boss. But with independence comes responsibility. Sure, you don’t have a whole management chain to report to and obtain permissions from but you also don’t have any management with whom you can share your professional burdens and queries. Budgets, marketing strategy, product development, hiring and firing (once you have the budget to develop your team) all comes down to you. It’s no wonder you can feel isolated.
You’re not alone
The very fact that this article exists, suggests you’re not the only entrepreneur out there to experience feelings of loneliness and isolation. The trick is nipping this loneliness in the bud to ensure it doesn’t hamper your enthusiasm for your business and the lifestyle you’ve chosen.
As with so many modern problems, social media seems to be able to offer a quick fix solution…
– LinkedIn is clearly the go-to site for professionals looking to connect and maintain working relationships. But beyond hosting your CV, LinkedIn also offers an enormous amount of special interest groups. These should enable you to find, not just other CEOs, but CEOs of companies who work in a similar field to you. As well as making new acquaintances, LinkedIn can also be a great way to get back in touch with former colleagues, which never does any harm in the loneliness stakes.
– The character limit on Twitter prevents you from having too much of an in-depth exchange with anyone on there so, on the face of it, it might not be a good antidote to loneliness. But these short snippets offer an online equivalent of water-cooler chat, where you can interact on a superficial level during breaks from intensive work. Twitter also hosts ‘chats’ on certain topics at certain times. These chats are usually run by one individual and incorporate input from anyone who’s interested, so do look out for those on topics that are relevant to you and what you do.
– For many people Facebook is a bit of a guilty pleasure. It may feel like a frivolous waste of time to visit Facebook too often but the occasional break on there, perhaps on an entrepreneur’s Group page can be a good way to pass on tips and grab a speedy morale boost.
Find people to vent with
The time pressures that an entrepreneur faces mean that it can be handy to connect with people online rather than in person. But when it comes to valuable interaction, you can’t beat a good face-to-face chat. To that end it could be worth connecting with a number of entrepreneurs and organising a meet-up every now and then. Even if this only takes the form of an informal pint, it’ll feel good to share lessons you’ve learnt, complain about common obstacles and just share war stories.
Get the most from your meet-ups
The important thing to remember about meeting up with your entrepreneurial peers, is that you’re not looking for any kind of financial or professional reward. The idea is simply to share and understand the unique issues the typical entrepreneur faces. The other consideration is that, of course, your relationships should ideally be symbiotic if they’re going to have any value, ie. you’ll need to help them with their issues as well as simply unload your own.
When things get serious
If you’re feeling really isolated and worried it’s getting the better of your business, then you may need to take evasive action. Money might be tight but spending some of it on the chance to join established CEO groups, such as Vistage, could represent a sound long-term investment. Organisations like this facilitate CEOs supporting one another, through sharing ideas and problem solving. This essentially takes your casual drinks down the pub (as mentioned above) and formalizes it, allowing you to get the answers you need from credible sources, in a way that is well-structured and efficient.
Learning to trust
Naturally, the ultimate goal of any entrepreneur is to grow their business and expand their team. On the face of it this would seem to offer the perfect antidote to that entrepreneur’s loneliness we’ve been talking about. But in reality, once the owner of a small business has been working solo for a long time, it can be hard for them to share the responsibilities they’ve been handling alone for so long. Picking a team you can trust is of the utmost importance at this point, but so is learning to let go and avoiding micromanaging all your employees. At the end of the day all the responsibility and major decisions will fall at your feet, so letting some of the more minor ones go can feel liberating and ensure you have a team that you actually enjoy working with – and who enjoy working with you.
Aamir Jiwa works in marketing for trainingmanualprinting.net. In his spare time he is a keen cook and enjoys photography.
Image credit: CC by Yasser Alghofily