Taming the Loneliness Monster

By: Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center

Entrepreneurship can be an exciting adventure. You get to work on your passion on your terms (sometimes!) However, the same reasons you chose the boss life may also prove to be a source of frustration or even an emotional roller coaster. So what do I mean by taming the loneliness monster? Well, many of you know or have realized that starting and running a small business can be a lonely undertaking. You have to consciously seek out ways to combat isolation in your day-to-day routine to combat the ups and downs (stress, anxiety and too much to do) of building a business. Here are a few ideas:

  • Create an advisory board…gain new insights!

Seek out a few people (3 at most to start) you can call on to serve as advisors. They can help brainstorm ideas, consult with you on business matters, or simply act as moral support. Show your appreciation and provide an incentive in the form of a nominal board fee, free or discounted products or other perks. Be sure to have an agenda and know what you want to achieve from the board. (Feedback is a gift.) Have one big question you are trying to address at each meeting and build the agenda and dialog around it.

Or, if one-on-one attention is more your style, you might consider tapping into the power of a mentor. NIIC offers new and growing entrepreneurial companies access to a network of volunteer mentors and advisors with expertise in fields that match their needs. NIIC mentors are experienced entrepreneurs, senior level executives, subject matter experts and professional service providers. These mentors assist NIIC client companies by providing advice and assistance with mission-critical business issues, such as financial planning, business development, marketing strategies, human resources and general management.

  • Join an entrepreneur support group…get inspired!

Invite fellow business owners to a monthly session to compare notes and provide constructive feedback. It could be as formal or informal as you want it to be. Take turns featuring one of your companies at each meeting, or open the floor to general discussion. The NIIC offers a variety of opportunities to build ‘community’ through attendance at monthly programming or events we sponsor or co-sponsor. NIIC is the largest entrepreneurial community under one roof in Northeast Indiana.

  • Participate in a lead-generating networking group or a business/ leadership roundtable…get grounded!

Networking groups are a venue to forge friendships with other business owners while at the same time generating business. Come prepared with an elevator pitch and have plenty of business cards on hand.There are several networking groups meeting regularly at the NIIC and many in the community. Be sure to set specific metrics of how you will judge your efforts successful and periodically review your ROI.

  • Know when to ask for encouragement and support…get affirmed!

One reason entrepreneurs get stuck in the office is they are trying to manage everything themselves. Follow this rule of thumb: If it’s not directly generating or leading to revenue or customers, you should ask yourself what your value-added is in working on it. Look for people to hire or entrust freelancers with tasks that can be outsourced or managed remotely. This will free you up to spend more timeon working on the business, as opposed to in. Remember, you are not alone, scaling and growing is not easy, and that’s why only 2% of all US small businesses are high performance/high growth. Be sure to celebrate the small successes along the way. Remember Richard Branson’s words of wisdom— “surround yourself with encouraging people who support your pursuits.” The bottom line is to keep people who care about you close to you while you are business building but make sure you are always facing the brutal facts/reality.

  • Expand & meet regularly with your tribe…get focused & intentional!

Get feedback from the marketplace. Be sure to catalog your insights and learnings. Challenge your assumptions. Solicit feedback from knowledgeable experts, customers, suppliers, friends, employees, and trusted advisors. Think about: What’s working? What would they like to see changed? Listen more, talk less. Encourage your team and entrust them with day-to-day tasks so you can spend more time on developing your business, i.e. getting out of the office and meeting people (asking good questions, gaining insights and building your network).

If you have struggled with loneliness as a result of your work, what are some ways you’ve found to overcome this hurdle? Loneliness can lead to health problems so find productive outlets to channel your energy and “entrepreneurial fire fighting skills”. If you think you are invincible and can do it all, think again by listening to Sheryl Sandberg’s Commencement Video. I think you will agree it is a terrific reminder of the importance of resilience (learning, growing & renewal) and leaning into ‘joy and meaning’ because as Sheryl aptly reminds us the “hardest days determine who you are.”


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