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
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
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.