Owning a business is a lonely vocation.
As entrepreneurs, there are things that we really don’t want to share with anyone else such as wrong decisions, missed goals and not knowing what to do next.
We are hesitant to confide with others about the thoughts that go through our heads, about our insecurities in our abilities, our uncertainties about where things are really headed and, most importantly, about our fears of possible failure.
Partners can help ease the loneliness, but we often try to hide things from them for the sake of morale, or worse, face saving.
When I was a young entrepreneur, I kept all of these things bottled up behind a thick, impenetrable wall. I viewed my job as an entrepreneur as being Superman – I was always there to save the day and didn’t need anyone’s help. I internalized my worries and anxieties to the point that it took a toll on my relationships and on my health.
Reach Out and Open Up Before the Launch
The more experience I have had as an entrepreneur the more I have learned to not only accept help from others, but to actually seek it out.
Since the time we first came up with the idea of theentrepreneurialmind.com, we have been seeking advice. Our goal wasn’t to get affirmation of the brilliance of our concept. Instead, we sought people with the expertise and experience who were willing to bluntly tell us about the flaws and weaknesses in our thinking and in our plans. When I offer my honest assessment of their business ideas, they call it being “Cornwalled”. I knew Entrepreneurial Mind, LLC needed to be “Cornwalled” thoroughly and often!
We worked with a group of people that included experienced entrepreneurs, alumni entrepreneurs and even a few current students to get honest and direct feedback from the outset with which we developed our initial idea through the eventual beta testing of our website.
As hard as it is to hear, a strong negative reaction can be a good thing. And did we get some strong opinions! It is better to realize your idea is flawed before you actually start the business and commit your time, reputation and money to the deal. The early stages of a business are when changes can be made to improve the business model and align it with a strong market need. We took the feedback, both positive and negative, and used it to help us pivot our model and refine our product.
Since the launch of our business, we have continued to expand the circle of people we look to for advice, feedback and counsel.
An Unexpected Peer Group
Getting together on a regular basis with fellow entrepreneurs in a peer group is a powerful way to benefit from the wisdom and counsel of people who share a common experience of creating and growing a business. Entrepreneurs have many opportunities to join formal groups of fellow business owners, including Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), Young Entrepreneur Council and Social Enterprise Alliance, just to name a few.
My peer group is less formal than these programs.
A few years ago I decided to facilitate a monthly meeting of former students who had all started businesses. As their former professor, my roles was basically to be a seminar leader. I continued the process of teaching and coaching as I had done when they were in my classes.
After my family and I made the decision to launch Entrepreneurial Mind, LLC, my role quickly evolved from facilitator of this group to becoming one of the group. It was not something I planned, but something that just seemed to naturally evolve. At first it was a bit awkward for all of us, but I soon became less of “the professor” and more of just one of the group.
My alumni, or should I say my fellow entrepreneurs, have provided invaluable insights in the world of social media and digital marketing. They also provide a group of people in my target market who we can trust to give honest and direct feedback. Since many of them are in family businesses, they also have held my feet to the fire to build a family business the right way.
I am sure my students never imagined they would become my teacher and my coach – but, they have.
Wisdom and Counsel… on the Golf Course
When it comes to seeking the wisdom and counsel of others, peer groups are important, but not enough. There is a deeper level of support that you can only get from those who are not only fellow entrepreneurs, but trusted friends.
Every Friday morning, I play golf in a threesome. My fellow golfers are much more than typical golfing buddies. Like me, both of them have had careers that have centered mainly around entrepreneurship. But there is where the similarity ends. The three of us come from markedly different backgrounds and experiences and we have completely different personalities. In spite of our differences, we have developed a level of friendship and trust that allows us to open up in ways that I never imagined I ever could back when I was a young entrepreneur.
Every week, for three to four hours, we are able to share the good, the bad and the ugly of our entrepreneurial journeys. Certainly our conversations often center around business. But, entrepreneurship permeates every aspect of a business owner’s life. So our conversations just as often drift into how being entrepreneur impacts our families, our health, our values, our aspirations and our dreams.
Don’t Be the Lone Ranger
Entrepreneurs don’t have to feel alone when it comes to wrestling worries, fears, and uncertainties that seem to be a normal part of owning a business. Isolation should not be considered an inevitable part of the entrepreneurial experience.
Find people who will ask you how things are really going. And when they do, be honest. Being an entrepreneur does not mean you need to be Superman!
This article was written by Jeff Cornwall from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.