If you own a business, I hope this article really speaks to your own struggles and successes.
When I started my journey with Konnect, I would imagine what sort of leader I was going to become; the following would always come to mind.
Emotionally intelligent. Confident. Ready made. Charismatic. Inspirational. Fun.
But never lonely or isolated.
No, that never came to mind.
Combined with the pressure of starting and scaling a business, it is hard to be a leader, the person who is responsible for all the business decisions.
It’s lonely at the top.
But despite this, it is our job to show our best face. Everything is happy, positive and we always have the answers.
But there are days when it’s harder than others. When you wake up at some strange hour in the night and think, “I haven’t got a clue.” or “Am I offering a good client experience.” And even, “Did I say the right thing?”
And worst of all, you have no one to turn to, not your friends, not your family and not even your employees. There is no one to share the load, or the despair of running a business, or even the joys of small victories and the successes.
So, unfortunately, you learn not to let anyone in.
When someone asks, “How’s business?”
You just say, “It’s good.”
Your problems are yours alone and that’s when you realise that no amount of preparation can save you from your own thoughts.
When you are at the top, the people who empathise with you tend to have thinned out. Those people that you would usually confide in simply do not have the experience to relate to a certain challenge. Your peers have become few and far between as your business has become more niche and you more defined as a leader.
Of course, you could try to fall back into the comforting familiarity of your friends and family, but the problem with those fine folk is they tend to treat you like Barney from “How I Met your Mother” where none of them actually understand what you do anyway.
A truth is that no one will care for your business like you do. No one else lives it, no one else sees the vision, no one else is up at 10pm at night writing an article on ‘Loneliness’ when they could be sleeping. And that’s ok.
It took me a long time to realise this. It’s ok.
Perhaps the most surprising thing to me is that as much as they don’t want to see you in your lows, they also do not want to share your highs.
No one really wants to know that you have just hired the perfect person for a role you have been looking to fill or that you secured a product worth six figures. They wouldn’t outwardly say it, but I could feel it in their shift in energy. Our success would sap their interest.
Not everyone wants to start a business. While it looks glossy from the outside in, it has more than its share of downsides.
Unless you are a business owner yourself it can be hard to empathise.
It’s hard work. There is lots of risk. You’re not always sure what you are doing. So it is only right that the rewards are higher too.
On the other hand an employee has a stable income and is shielded from the risk. They get an awesome lifestyle and flexibility.
Being a business owner is no better or worse than being an employee. I believe that people should always do what aligns with their values and what comes naturally to them.
With Konnect Digital, we were pretty lucky. Andrew and I started the business together, so even though there is isolation from friends and family, there is comfort that we can make decisions together and bounce ideas around.
What we have done over the last few years is surround ourselves with successful business owners. A few from different industries who we have a close relationship and friendship with. We turn to them often.
Another, who had previously owned an app development company in another country and had built his brand to incredible success. This was on more of a mentorship level and has been an amazing experience as he has often stood in our shoes and can relate to the stress of the industry.
What I would say to someone who has just started out is, enjoy the process. You will not always make the right decision, sometimes you will overshare, sometimes you will block people out who could help you.
Appreciate that the path you are walking is unique to you. While not everyone understands it, they don’t have to.
It’s important to also note that in my loneliness I do not feel powerlessness.
I am empowered. Only we have the capability to change the course of our business. The decisions that I make at midnight while I have been lying awake thinking of a problem are mine to implement. This sense of control is a buffer against loneliness.