Running your own business has many upsides. You can align your company with your interests, values, personal goals and ambition; you can work the kind of hours you want and achieve better work-life balance than you might in a fulltime job; and everything you do is for your company and your own professional success.
Of course there are downsides too, especially when things aren’t going well. However, one downside that is perhaps a common denominator amongst many of the entrepreneurs I meet, isn’t to do with success or failure, instead it’s often lurking in the background causing emotional upset and even ill health. Loneliness.
You may be lonely because you’re a sole trader working from your home office and you’re simply not interacting with people as much as you should. It’s easy to spend days communicating via email and messaging apps, and never actually having a proper conversation, let alone a face-to-face.
Loneliness can also be caused when the people you do see or speak to regularly are all clients and therefore the relationship is not the same as you might have with colleagues in an office environment. You might be missing the camaraderie, the support network, the [hate this word] ‘banter’ that people enjoy when they work together.
Loneliness may also manifest itself when you’re making important decisions about your business or weighing up your responsibilities. If you don’t have a business partner to lean on and share the load, it can be very lonely at the top.
Lonely Entrepreneurs Are At Risk Of Illness
Please don’t resign yourself to feeling lonely because you’re a business owner. While the cliché ‘it’s lonely at the top’ may be true, for your own physical and mental health you need to address this common problem.
Loneliness has been linked to mental health issues, as well as an increase in heart disease, stroke and cancer. For a business owner / entrepreneur your physical and mental health is extremely important; you need to stay fit and well to run your business and make good decisions. You’ll also want to be fit and well so that if you sell your business and retire on the profits, you can enjoy the fruits of your labours!
As a business owner or entrepreneur you will be very good at problem solving; and that’s what you should do to tackle the problem of loneliness. Prioritise it for the good of your business and for your own wellbeing and those around you.
Here are a few ideas for managing loneliness:
If you’re by yourself, with no business partner, find ways to collaborate with others to provide yourself with an ally. You could consider taking on a business partner or a co-founder and sharing the responsibilities of running the business.
Or what about collaborating on specific projects with other business owners? Perhaps there’s an opportunity to develop a service or product with another entrepreneur that you can work together on. For example, the franchise for my first Business Hub in Farnham was bought by two Hub members who have collaborated to run the Hub together. They both have separate businesses that complement each other and different skills they can use in running the Farnham Hub. Not only do they benefit from another revenue stream by running a business together, but they also have a great working relationship that helps to stave of loneliness and isolation.
Many business owners have ‘confessed’ to me that the only reason they attend business networking events is to socialise. They’re not really interested in doing business with other people, instead they use networking events to chat with likeminded people and build a support network. I think that’s a great idea and a good way to spend an hour or two every week.
However, in my experience of hosting business networking events I also come across people who are a bit shortsighted about this. They turn up and decide that there’s no one of interest to them from a business perspective and leave. However, they may find that people in the room could be perfect for bouncing ideas off or getting advice that could help them with important decisions. They may find there are people who could make great ‘professional’ friends, people you can meet for coffee or lunch once in a while to share your experiences and a sense of solidarity with.
Group Training and Workshops
If you find business networking difficult, perhaps you don’t enjoy the ‘elevator pitch’ format of some of the well known groups, what about socialising while you learn? Attending a workshop or training session that will provide you with new skills and knowledge is a great use of your time, and at the same time you get the companionship of a group activity.
If you attend these on a regular basis, such as once a month, you may also find other people doing the same. This can be an opportunity to build relationships with other entrepreneurs and business owners and create a professional support network for yourself.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that while you may feel lonely, you are not alone! Loneliness is a common problem for entrepreneurs and therefore there are many other people out there who would welcome the opportunity to connect with you.
Personally I feel fortunate because my whole business model is based around providing support for other business owners: as a result I’ve made some great friends through the Hub and have a good support network. Although people attend Hub events for the networking and training opportunities, it’s the informal breakfast beforehand that often offers the most support to our members. Chatting about their week with people who understand where they’re coming from, discussing their plans, even sharing their successes (often entrepreneurs have no one to celebrate with), all helps to combat loneliness.
You can find out more about our Business Hubs here or alternatively look at local business groups to see what support is available in your area.