The saying ‘it’s ‘lonely at the top’ doesn’t just apply to the heads of large corporates, it’s something that every business owner feels at some point, if not all the time. Understanding that you cannot and should not be trying to do it all on their own is a vital first step to becoming long term success. Neglecting your biggest asset – yourself is risky.
Business owners need support but some support might be “too close”, such as family and friends who may be supportive but will step back from offering the critical feedback that you need. Other support from government agencies and some professionals may be “too remote”, too general and without a true understanding of who you are and what you want to achieve. At Infinite People, Ann Rodgers Hampton has been supporting for business clients for 13 years and is proud to be associated with some of the most successful companies in the UK. Ann is privileged to have been part of their journey through the business lifecycle: from that initial seed of an idea, through start up, growth and exit.
Years ago, when Ann first decided to start a business, a friend and business owner for more than a decade gave me some words of advice. She warned me that I would have to overcome three main challenges:
1. A lack of financial stability
2. A need to be disciplined
3. The isolation of being a business owner.
Most folks think of owners and entrepreneurs as hard working, ambitious, tough and energetic. And most of my successful business peers are that, in their very different ways. Each of us faces the prospect of possibly failing every day, but most of the time it would cause useless anxiety to share that with our familial intimates.
Making it less ‘lonely at the top’
While there’s no silver bullet, there are some things you can do right away that could help you feel better connected and more supported within your business.
Hire a Sparring Partner & a Sounding Board
Infinite People know that entrepreneurs that are feeling isolated need and value good professional support from somebody who knows them, knows their business and cares about them and their business. Your professional advisers, for example your business consultant, bank, solicitor, accountants, etc. should care too. Do they know what you are trying to achieve in your life and in your business? Do they visit your business and understand it? Are they available as a “sounding board”?
Of course, to a certain extent loneliness is self-imposed. Sometimes tough decisions have to be made and having that element of separation from your employees, suppliers and customers is necessary. You might have to dismiss an underperforming employee or change to a more reliable supplier or refuse orders from a customer who pays late or is unreasonably demanding.
The journey through the business lifecycle can be a lonely time, but is ultimately rewarding. You will make mistakes but you will also have successes. Having good professional advisers who are accessible will help you avoid (or at least learn from your) mistakes as well as find and exploit opportunities.
Stay in Shape
Just because you run your own business, it doesn’t mean that you have to be glued to your desk 24/7. This shouldn’t change because you run your business. It’s important to take time out, get some fresh air and exercise. Normalising your routine as much as possible and being around others when you can will help make you feel less ‘lonely at the top’. Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning. The most successful people know they need to mentally and physically push themselves. That’s why many of them turn to intense exercise routines that push their boundaries, make them physically stronger, and improve their mental processing.
Networking has long been recognised as a powerful tool for business people and professionals. Knowing more people gives you greater access, facilitates the sharing of information, and makes it easier to influence others for the simple reason that influencing people you know is easier than influencing strangers. By meeting new people, even those who aren’t necessarily in your own industry, you can meet like-minded folks who can give insight and might just be able to help your business grow at the same time
Entrepreneurship’s “dark side” is the psychological toll that can put business owners at higher risk for mental health issues, and loneliness is a slippery slope.
As the business owner you make the crucial decisions about strategy, personnel and a host of other things and are also expected to have all the answers to questions about the business from management, staff, clients,suppliers, etc. The feeling of isolation can make a difficult decision even weightier. Even the best-of-the-best business owners have their blind spots and can dramatically improve their performance with an outside perspective weighing in.
Rather than feeling isolated, good leaders will be plugged into rewarding relationships both inside and outside the business.
If you’re ready to inject new energy, purpose and to grow, let’s talk!
BA (Hons),Dip MLBC, PECI, ICF, NLPP
Business Consultant & Coach
Infinite People Solutions