Oct 132011
 
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Entrepreneurship can be lonely

Being An Entrepreneur Can Be Lonely

As much as I love being an entrepreneur, it can be a lonely endeavor.  My time as an entrepreneur, since I was a young kid, and my time working with entrepreneurs over the course of my career, have taught me that being the one in charge can make you feel very alone.  Sometimes it feels like you’re on an island.  Whether you’re an entrepreneur in a one-person company or a CEO in a larger company, if you are the final decision maker, it’s easy to feel like it’s you against the world.

Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news on this.  First, the bad news:  it’s not likely to change.  If you’re the person upon whose shoulders rests final decision making authority, it’s virtually impossible not to feel sometimes like all the pressure is on you and you’re on “an island”.  Now, the good news:  there are tons of other entrepreneurs and CEO types out there who feel exactly the same way!  So, while it’s often unavoidable that you will feel alone in your role at your own company, there are plenty of other people who are in exactly the same boat.  That’s good news, because if you can find ways to link up with them, you can share your war stories, feel less alone, and learn from and support one another!

Let’s talk about some ways of linking up with other entrepreneurs and CEO types.  Here’s a quick list.  It’s not meant to be all-inclusive, but I hope it will give you some ideas.  The options range from free and not time-intensive, to relatively costly and much more time-consuming.  The options typically are not mutually-exclusive, so select whichever ones you like and give them a try.  Depending on a variety of factors, including your personality, your schedule and your objectives, certain options will be more appealing to you than others.

Here are some ways to link up with and interact with other entrepreneurs and CEOs, locally and online:

Social Media

  • Twitter:  Search on hashtags, such as #smallbiz #startup #entrepreneur #sme #ceo and others that are relevant to the persons with whom you’d like to interact.  Send out your own tweets and others will react to you as well.  Also, look for tweet “chats” that occur periodically on particular subjects.  It’s true that Twitter is only 140 characters and you can’t say much in a tweet, but you can include a URL link and you can use the brief Twitter interaction as a bridge to further communication via phone, email or other media.
  • Facebook:  I used to view Facebook as a huge “time sink” and to a certain extent, I still do.  It has an enormous number of users though, and thus, cannot be ignored.  Also, with the advent of Pages and with the exceptional utility of Groups, it can be a great tool.  Just be sure to stay focused on your objectives, in this case, interacting with other entrepreneurs and CEOs and don’t get sucked into a lot of the “shiny object,” time wasting activities that such a platform also offers.
  • LinkedIn:  This is the social network that tends to have a very high percentage of business people and professionals.  Like the others, it also has groups, so it can be a great place to interact with other entrepreneurs and CEOs.  It can also be extremely useful for finding and maintaining contact with former colleagues and acquaintances, which represents another way to combat the loneliness of entrepreneurship.
  • Other networks:  There are a ton of other social networks and platforms!  I try to stick to a short list though, because otherwise you could end up spending far too much time on these sites and activities.  I encourage you to explore others, then pick a few that give you the most bang for your buck, and for your time.

Local Networking Groups

  • This is an area where, again, you could end up spending way too much time, without a huge amount of benefit.  There’s the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, and dozens more.  The best idea here is to experiment with a few groups, but don’t commit to any until you understand what the investment of time and other resources is, weighed against the benefits you are receiving.  In this article, we are talking about trying to overcome the loneliness of being an entrepreneur or CEO.  Sometimes these groups can help with that, but many times they don’t attract the caliber of people you’re looking for; it really depends on the particular group and its composition in your location.  If you don’t find a local group that serves your needs, then start one!  Find other entrepreneurs and CEOs of a caliber that matches what you’re looking for, and get together with them on a regular basis to exchange war stories and lessons.  It doesn’t have to be formal.  Remember, you’re not looking for rewards or recognition from such a group; you’re looking for people who can understand the unique issues and situation you face, who can interact with you and offer advice, in a symbiotic relationship.

Mastermind Groups

  • “Mastermind” groups are typically informal alliances among entrepreneurs with similar interests, often in the same or similar industries.  In reality, such groups have been around for a long time, but only recently has the name “mastermind” caught on.  Their purpose tends to be similar to that of the formal peer groups you will read about in the next section.  The idea is to get a bunch of very capable entrepreneurs together regularly, usually by phone in the case of masterminds, and work through current and reoccurring issues that confront the group members.  It boils down to peer support and is often slanted a bit more toward the technical side of your particular industry, but in reality, over time relationships build and as bonds and shared experiences grow, it helps to combat entrepreneur and CEO loneliness issues as well.

Formal Peer Groups

  • There are CEO groups out there, such as Vistage (http://www.vistage.com), which for a fee will connect you with other CEOs in similar circumstances, so you can have formal interactions to support one another and share ideas on solving specific problems.  Such organizations are not inexpensive, however they can be excellent tools for getting you the answers you need, from credible sources, in a very efficient manner.  The formal interactions of Vistage members usual take place in-person and thus are typically relatively local in nature, but they have recently launched a new service called Vistage Connect (http://www.vistageconnect.com), which has more of an online interaction focus.  My understanding is that the service is less costly and also offers the opportunity to interact with other entrepreneurs and CEOs from around the world, not just those in your geography.

So there you have a few options for seeking out other entrepreneurs and CEOs with whom you can interact in an effort to not feel as lonely, particularly when you’re faced with tough decisions that you do not feel like you can share with others at your company.  This way, you still may feel like you’re on an island at times, but at least now there will be other entrepreneurs and CEOs there with you!

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

 

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  • Paul being an entrepreneur does feel like a lonely road many times but like you say there are others just like us out there. It is great that you share places to find entrepreneur friends because this is very helpful to those just starting out. Awesome!

  • Sandra McLeod Humphrey

    All good suggestions and they apply equally well to the writing life. I’m still trying to figure out some of the Twitter basics, so your comment about hashtags was very helpful.

  • Sherrie Koretke

    Paul,
    What a great article to write! Yes it lonely. I wish I had social media when I was running my other company. In that company we made it a policy to not socialize with employees, no matter how much you liked them, because who wants to fire your friends? If you have a family your time is mostly split between your business and your family.
    Thanks for sharing these great networking opportunities!
    Sherrie

  • Erin Feldman

    I’ve decided the entrepreneur life isn’t all that different from the writing life. Both are solitary endeavors at some point. I can be surrounded by other writers or entrepreneurs all day long, but the actual act of writing or making a decision falls to me. For me, it’s interesting to see how all my past experiences have prepared me for the venture into entrepreneurship.

  • Agree with you as I know how much time I invest in my work and leave all other things for my work…

  • Yes, it’s a lonely life sometimes! However, you’ve touched on all the great places to find people like “us!” I find that my mastermind is invaluable, not only to keep me on track but to understand what I’m talking about when I have a small biz problem. Thanks for the networking tips! There can never be enough networking places! LOL

  • Agreed, Sherrie — it’s also my opinion that it’s typically a bad idea to become too close to your employees. It makes it difficult to manage effectively if/when things get tough. It’s not always the case, but I’ve seen issues arise on many occasions. I also agree that the advent of social media can help quite a bit with the loneliness that sometimes accompanies being an entrepreneur. Further, when social media’s not enough, other in-person opportunities exist to meet up with other entrepreneurs and CEOs.

  • Thanks, Karla. I agree — it’s great and comforting to know that there are other entrepreneurs out there who are confronting many of the same issues that you are. The key is to find a few you can count and trust, then use them as your “sounding board” and allow them to do the same with you. This makes it a whole lot easier to take on some of the tough challenges of entrepreneurship and sometimes, even avoid some of the common pitfalls.

  • Thanks for stopping by, Sandra. Once you get the hang of Twitter, you may find it is one of your “go to” social networks. In and of itself, it doesn’t solve too many of the loneliness issues related to entrepreneurship, but it can be an excellent bridge to more substantive communication through other platforms and media.

  • Juliana Jong

    Hi Paul. Your article hit the nail right on the head. I’ve always wandered why I feel so out of place. It took your article to make me realised that! Clearly insightful! My only issue is being involved in businesses that are passive-structured. In my field, it’s always an extremely busy startup and a painfully dragged out lull when work is done. Social media is the only way to kill my time. Either that, or it’s starting up another company and raise my blood pressure. Thanks for reminding me about what a lonely place it can be. Great article!

  • Hi, Juliana. I’m happy you found the article helpful! Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely endeavor, and as you point out, different types of businesses go through different cycles of activity. In my experience, the key is to find others with similar issues and speak / communicate with them on a regular basis. That helps to keep you from wondering why you’re lonely and can give you a lot of great ideas as well! Paul

  • Good point, Erin. As someone who does a lot of writing and is very active in a bunch of entrepreneurial ventures, I’d have to agree that they are similar. Both can be solitary and lonely endeavors at times. The key for me is to be disciplined about ensuring that I interact with other entrepreneurs, and writers, on a regular basis, so I don’t feel like I’m losing my mind. This usually isn’t an issue, as I coach a bunch of entrepreneurs and interact with them regularly, via various means of communication. However, when I get in a writing “groove” and am isolated for a little while, I force myself to speak to some other writers and/or entrepreneurs at regular intervals. This helps keep me from going nuts and from feeling lonely. Paul

  • Hi, Vivek. Yes, if you’re not careful, your entrepreneurial endeavors can take over your life and leave you without much of a life outside your business! This can lead to loneliness and other unpleasant feelings and manifestations. The key is to try to find a balance. This can be tough, particularly at the beginning of ventures and during other key moments in the life of the business; however, without balance, the probability of failure, at least from the perspective of your physical and mental well-being, goes through the roof. Paul

  • Agreed, Martha. Networking is key to success in business and it can also help us maintain our sanity as entrepreneurs! It’s amazing how comforting it is to know that there are others out there experiencing most all of the same entrepreneurial challenges that we face. Keep up the great networking and entrepreneurial venture-caused loneliness shouldn’t really be much of a major issue! Paul

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