Loneliness means different things to different people. Entrepreneurial loneliness is not what you feel when you are missing the company of others, but rather when you dedicate all your time and energy to your business above all else. It’s driven by passion and dedication, leaving very little time for anyone or anything else.
So how does this come to be in the life on an entrepreneur?
The entrepreneur is the idea generator which requires a great deal of passion and determination. However in the early stages of many businesses, besides coming up with great ideas, the entrepreneur is also required to be hands-on when it comes to accounting, legal, financial planning and business development, cash flow, staff, sales, and recruitment.
These are crucial if you want your business to succeed. But entrepreneurs must first make money before they can outsource all of these functions to other experts.
When comparing a CEO to an entrepreneur it’s important to note that while the CEO is appointed by the entrepreneur they in fact inherit the complete business idea with already-established business models and support structures. The company would have already invested in staff, its culture, IT systems, suppliers, clients and its reputation. An entrepreneur is literally starting from scratch. It’s up to them to build the business to a level where it makes a profit, and hire staff and managers to run the show.
This process can be arduous and emotionally, physically and socially taxing. It’s one thing to have an idea and for all your friends and family to think it’s the best idea since sliced bread, but taking it to market may reveal a very different sentiment. Herein lies the biggest challenge all entrepreneurs face: perseverance.
Without a business partner, an entrepreneur must be able to dig deep (alone) to find the passion that once sparked their idea in the first place, so they don’t eventually give up. It’s at this point that so many entrepreneurs either throw in the towel or struggle on feeling lonelier than ever – not knowing who or where to turn to for advice, which is when depression can set in.
The time and dedication it takes to start a business means less family time, weekends away with friends, or giving up a hobby, and it can further perpetuate the loneliness. So what are the solutions?
It’s always better to face the reality of your business stress with a partner. And many entrepreneurs go this route. But be warned, it’s not for everyone. A business partnership is like a marriage. It also takes a lot of dedication and understanding on both sides to make it work. The best partnerships are those in which each person brings a different skill-set and they complement each other.
Entrepreneurs can also seek out a business mentor or coach who can offer one-on-one support and work on business as well as personal goals, which is a great way to keep yourself in check. If you’re looking for something a bit more social, the other option is to join a peer-to-peer support network.
I joined Entrepreneurs Organisation in 2016 and it’s been revolutionary for me in so many ways. Not only have I seen my business flourish, I’ve also met hundreds of other entrepreneurs just like me who have travelled a similar road. I’ve also learnt how to include my family in my business life and deal with emotional stresses that appear from time to time, in a positive and healthy way.
Depression is real and for some suicide becomes the only way out when things go horribly wrong. It would be wonderful if we could all be like the Mark Zuckerbergs and the Elon Musks of our time, but we must remember that they too struggled through moments of near-debilitating anxiety and despair before they made it big.
This is the precise reason why Entrepreneurs Organisation was founded 31 years ago. The founders were a group of friends who all had very successful businesses and together celebrated their successes and enjoyed the comforts of a life akin to success. However, one of the friends committed suicide. It was only after that they realised that their friend was in fact going through a tough time in his business but was unable to discuss this with his successful friends, or anyone else.
It was a dark time for their good friend and if only they had known they may have intervened and prevented the suicide. They realised the need for an environment where an entrepreneur could feel safe to share their problems in business, but also with matters that affect the entrepreneur as a whole – that is family and the self.
Sharing your experiences may assist others to hopefully avoid making the same mistakes and therefore avoid a troubled business journey, providing a support network for each other to learn and grow.
Just knowing that others have experienced the same feelings of loneliness, self-doubt, lack of knowledge, being overwhelmed with all that’s needed when running a business, or even the “impostor syndrome”, provides welcome support and a feeling of belonging.
Entrepreneurs face many challenges, and while loneliness is only one of them, it’s probably the one that will make or break you as a business owner. Why be just an entrepreneur when you can be a great entrepreneurial success story?
Adam is president of the Entrepreneurs Organisation
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