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Battling Loneliness as an Entrepreneur

Q: Ten months ago I started a consulting business and, so far, income and expenses are on target.  In fact, I have a little more business than I anticipated.

However, something completely unexpected has happened.  I’m lonely.  It never occurred to me while I was buying furniture, setting up a home office, developing brochures, etc, that I would miss having colleagues.  While I have lots of people contact, there are no peers to share my ideas, triumphs, and disappointments with.  My wife is supportive and interested, but she has a successful career of her own.  I’m not unhappy enough to become an employee again.  I enjoy the freedom, flexibility, and income of an entrepreneur, but I could use some suggestions for building professional relationships.  Aside from finding a partner, what else might I do to regain the sense of teamwork my corporate position used to provide?

A: Entrepreneurs working at home can easily feel isolated unless they make efforts to reach out to others in their professional community.  Yours is a common problem that prevents many qualified people from starting businesses.  Fortunately, there are many avenues for increasing peer contact while maintaining autonomy.

  • Business lunches are a great way to get out of the house to share ideas with friends and fellow business owners.  It will cost you a little more than a trip to the refrigerator, but it’s 80% deductible as a business expense.  Besides, the worthwhile relationships you’ll build are worth the cost.

  • Professional organizations are full of contacts who have similar interests.  Sometimes they offer access to specialized subgroups for colleagues with similar backgrounds.  Consider attending several meetings as a guest to decide if you want to join.  If you do, attend all monthly meetings and serve on at least one committee.  The more involved you become, the greater your return.

  • Conventions, one-day seminars, and continuing education courses provide opportunities to meet other business owners and discuss common problems and strategies.  People who attend them usually are interested in exchanging ideas and information and maintaining ongoing contact.

  • Volunteering your time and expertise can put you in touch with professionals whose company you’ll enjoy.  Tackling a tough problem as part of a team can help you re-capture the camaraderie your business doesn’t provide, and you’ll have the satisfaction of contributing to your community.

  • You might want to re-figure your budget to see if it will accommodate an office in an executive suite.  Many small businesses choose to rent space where they can have a small office plus access to a conference room, typing, phone-answering, mailing, copying, and bookkeeping services for one monthly fee.  Chances are you’ll find at least a couple of other “suite mates” worthy of your time and friendship.

  • As you become acquainted with other entrepreneurs, you can form a group of five to 10 for a weekly or monthly “success” group meeting.  Use them to discuss business strategies, problems, sources of new clients, goals, or any other issues that will contribute to the advancement of the group.  Over the years, the members will become trusted confidants who will refer business to each other, brainstorm ideas, or provide consolation if necessary.

  • You may want to develop a joint venture.  As you find other consultants with complimentary interests, look for potential businesses you can build together.  Joint ventures don’t require you to form a full-time partnership, yet they offer a terrific opportunity to pool your talents and resources on projects that you might not tackle on your own.

If you try some of the above suggestions, you can keep your autonomy and balance it with the teamwork you’re lacking while attracting business through expanding your network of contacts.


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