Dear Aunty B,
I recently bought a small business. When I ran a division of a large company, I always had access to a lot of advice – even though some of it was not that welcome!
Now I am amazed at how lonely it is. I read SmartCompany and I try to go to networking functions, but it doesn’t assuage the feeling of being totally on your own.
I am used to being in a position of responsibility so I am not afraid of the decision making. But I feel like I don’t have the support that I used to. Is there anything I can do about it?
Much is written about the senior executive who moves into small business and goes into cardiac arrest when suddenly forced to buy his or her own stationary and answer their own phone. But less known is the shock of suddenly becoming totally responsible for a business. It is very different to running a division, even though you would have been responsible for budgets etc.
Suddenly your decisions directly affect the lives of many people, shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers, creditors, landlords and bankers. While you might have had responsibility for budgets and people in your former job, it pales into comparison when being at the helm of your own business.
Also a lot of pleasure that did come from a large workplace such as the collegian support from fellow workers, mutual disgust with the boss, has gone. Now you have to leave the Christmas party early so everyone can have a good time.
There is a loneliness attached to being a boss. But guess what? You get used to it. You also become more resilient and less lonely. However there are several things you need to do now to help your situation.
First you need to develop an advisory board. It is essential to have a few key people that can meet around a table and give you advice on strategic direction. You then need a few mentors, people who will meet you for lunch and you can openly share your fears, your worries and your success.
You also need to develop some contacts in your industry so you can swap strategic information and work on new ideas.
One easy way to do this is to join groups such as The Executive Connection or the CEO Institute where small groups of people get together regularly with a facilitator.
Don’t just think of this new project as combating loneliness. When you are running a business there are two crucial elements to being an effective leader. Developing your support network, and looking after your health!
Your Aunty B.