The road to get my business growing has been seven years of highs with customer wins, lows of growth roadblocks and setbacks in product development. Then there’s the tedium of audits, administration, keeping your head above water. At times the grind of the entrepreneurial path is like running a marathon -- from that burning desire to succeed through to fear of failure and monotony before you reach that last mile.
In some ways, as entrepreneurs we’ve opted for a degree of isolation -- it’s lonely at the top. Here’s ways you can avoid the loneliness of the long distance runner:
1. A non-punch bag.
It’s always helpful to have that one person you can offload to. Best to avoid family members or people close to your business; emotion can often get in the way. A coach or mentor is perfect as they will give you that impartiality. If you don’t have one right now, it’s worth investing the time to find one.
2. Business friends.
This isn’t your colleagues or associates but a totally personal network defined by shared interests, values and passions. It’s almost like my network within a network. For me, as a competitive cyclist, I’ll schedule non-negotiable time with other cycling friends for a challenging ride while also catching up, brainstorming, and hearing what’s going in their worlds. It’s win-win -- I’m re-energized and inspired by the exercise the connection with trusted friends.
3. The entrepreneur squad.
There’s a group of people out there who understand exactly what you're experiencing as an entrepreneur, it’s your peers, other entrepreneurs. This works really well if you mix it up with entrepreneurs from other business areas as learning and idea sharing is that much richer. If no group exists, why not look to set one up? I get together with a group of CEOs that meet once a month to share issues and get alternative views from people who can relate to the challenges.
4. Give back.
Many of the best entrepreneurs are truly connected to their community, be it on a local, global or professional level. Whether it's a leadership role in a charity or the NED circuit, having that contact with other boards will open up your horizons, enrich your experience and give you those relationships with other leaders. For me I’m looking at ways to free up time within the business to focus on social entrepreneurship. My vision is to set up some initiatives within the community I grew up in, which is now a fantastically economically run down area.
5. The new normal.
In some ways, isolation is part of the entrepreneurial package -- and privilege. If you learn to embrace this you can learn to accept it and adapt more effectively. One approach I’ve taken is to ensure that I’m as inclusive as a leader as possible. I deliberately make it a team game, with key people in the business so it’s not all about me and what I want. It’s proven far more powerful than the ideas and efforts of a single individual, and it makes it our business rather than an entrepreneur’s latest project.