Ross Cameron

SmartCompany /

Running a small business can be a very lonely experience.

Running a small business can be a very lonely experience.

As a market researcher, I talk to a lot of business owners. Here’s what one told me about what it’s like.

“I find being a small business owner a very lonely place to be. If you’re having a bad day or you’ve got personal struggles, your staff don’t give a toss. They don’t care. It comes back to that human nature of wanting to be included. Unless you have a mentor it can be very lonely.

“Some days you just want to sit down with someone and say ‘it sucks’. Here you are the small business owner, we’re accountable to all these government departments, we’ve got to be responsible for our employees, you’ve got to physically hold their hands so they can sign the time sheets, and if they don’t it’s your fault! You’ve got to pay their superannuation and look after them when they get old, but who’s looking after us?

“You feel like you’re responsible for everybody else … And you wonder some days when your blood is running down the walls ‘why am I banging my head against the wall?’ If it wasn’t for the fact that you have a dream – and you get a sense of pride in hearing customers say that ‘this is really lovely, I really love coming back in here’. They’re the things that keep you going.

“But every now and then you need to be able to go aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh (scream) … I had a situation where a girl just didn’t turn up for work. No phone call – nothing. I went out to my car and just burst into tears. And I got up and thought ‘ah, I feel better now, I can go back face it’. But no one knew, and no one said anything. But I just had to go out the back and let it out.”

(Tea house, 10 employees, three years in operation).


One of the least understood issues associated with running a small business is the isolation involved, be it physical, emotional or intellectual.

Over the past 15 years of speaking to SME operators, we’ve seen this become an increasing problem. It is one of the key downsides of being a business owner.

Funnily enough, it is most heartfelt at Christmas. Ever had the feeling that everyone is going out for boozy Christmas parties … except you?

The isolation can lead to numerous challenges for SME operators, and you absolutely need to stay connected to other like-minded individuals; not just for emotional support, but for ideas, sharing experiences, etc.

When was the last time you shared war stories with a like-minded business owner? Does it help alleviate the loneliness?


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