Friday, February 21, 2014



One of the biggest challenges of being a business owner, running your own show, flying solo, is the sense of isolation you immediately begin to experience. The transition from working in an environment where you can regularly bounce ideas off colleagues, talk about problems you’re having, and usually find some encouragement—to working alone, with no one to confide in or receive support from, can be an overwhelming culture shock. When you are the decision maker, whether you have a brand venture or seasoned enterprise, who do you talk to about important issues? WHO DO YOU TALK TO ABOUT ISSUES? WHO ENCOURAGES YOU? 

Just how lonely it is going to be? Many business owners describe this as feeling totally alone or as “me against the world”. The toll is often health-damaging stress, strained personal relationships, lack of focus on responsibilities, and perhaps a run of bad decisions that run the enterprise into the ground. 

Yet business owners rarely discuss their isolation with anyone. Most just keep it to themselves, because there are just some things you can’t share with employees, friends or even partners.

Think of a recent pesky business issue you faced. Most likely, you didn’t share that with anyone. If you have employees, they have so much at stake they’ll not give you good, objective feedback. You might even cause an unnecessary panic or at least a lively rumor mill. Even if you could discuss problematic issues with employees, they only vaguely understand what you’re all about, they don’t have the perspective you have, and probably don’t share your vision for the future with the same level of enthusiasm that you do. And your customers and suppliers, well frankly most of them are not interested in your personal welfare either.

You probably spend a lot of time—and more than a few sleepless nights— pondering the pros and cons of a wide variety of significant issues. If you’ve facing a “bet-the-farm” decision, the stress of going it alone can be devastating. With so many responsibilities, it can be difficult to get away from the day to day to find perspective on problems, to network, to keep learning, and to draw on the efforts of others. 

Discussing sensitive business decisions with friends or family might make you feel good, but what’s the possibility that you will receive solid, unbiased INPUT on your ideas? Friends and family probably don’t know your company or your industry well enough to give you advice. Many of these well-meaning people may not have been in the buck-stops-here position and, therefore, don’t understand your perspective or what you need to resolve your issues. And some of them may just tell you what you want to hear in order to make you feel better. Don’t count on the people closest to you for help with true change—it’s just not going to happen.

What’s the solution? 

Find a business owner problem solving orientated support group of peer-level people who can understand what you are experiencing because they are too. These are groups of business owners who, like you, have the ultimate responsibility for decisions in their enterprise. Like you, they know what it’s like when you must make payroll every week. 

Emerson once said, “We all need someone who can help us to do what we already can.”

When you can gather 12-15 business owners together, on a monthly basis, with no competitors, customers, or suppliers in the room, and where each person is pledged to confidentiality, you have the opportunity to get substantive feedback unlike any you’ll ever hear. Just being in the room changes you. You can process issues, solve problems, share best practices, and offer each other support and encouragement. This works especially well when you have a professional facilitator to keep the discussion moving forward and on track, and who can add a coaching follow-up component to the process. 

Richard Borough’s Master-Mind Alliance is just such a group. You might want to check into what we offer.

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