Tuesday, August 2, 2011
entrepreneurial loneliness: how to stop it before it kills the business and you
Let me guess, the reason you left employment to go start your own business is all the stress that comes with collecting a monthly paycheck. Right? And the fact that all that stress does not take you anywhere; look it is all of seven years since I have been on this job and I have not moved at all. Hence my health cannot take it any more. I need to create something of my own. Okay, we agree.
So you start, and then you hire employees and you run a business. Suddenly, seven years on, you are stressed, your employees cannot seem to find answers on their own; they are always consulting with you this, and that. The systems you so trusted in are not any helpful and for once you even get stress from customers. You are looking for that all –purpose- shampoo to wash these problems out of your hair.
You promise your self that if you just hang in there for a few weeks, or months perhaps years, everything will be alright and you will suddenly be living your dream. You wait it up for weeks, which turn into months which turn into years and you are more stressed than before. In fact, more complex problems have since replaced the simpler ones you had earlier.
So what happened?
You are suffering from entrepreneurial loneliness. All those experiences above are not the cause, they are just symptoms. You forgot along the way that your are not superman and that when you hire people,they do not just come to take away problems and work, they have feelings too. They have moods and temperament and sometimes they cause more problems than they solve. Unless you can manage them, and do that very well, on top of looking after their welfare you are also going to be cleaning after them.
You can’t blame your employees, you hired them. Systems? You supervise those who create them. Clients? You hired the employees who found them. I am just here to be a little in your face and tell you, it all your responsibility. So, either take it away or it may just take you away, with your business. Probably in that order.
So what does one do?
Get a mentor.
Mentors are people (preferably entrepreneurs too) who have gotten a lot more ahead that we have. This should tell you they have suffered as much as you have, but the have either unearthed solutions or they just created them. Find one, and share. A problem shared is a problem half solved. Ditch your macho ego and admit you’re up to your neck in problems. You will come out better.
Find a partner.
Okay, partners have their own challenges. They can be a pain in the neck, and other places. I wanted to warn you even before we go further. But that is the cost you have to pay. But as they say, two heads are better than one. If you failed to hire your weakness, as in hire people who are smarter than you in some aspects, don’t repeat it here. Find a partner who complements you. If you are like me and figures are not your best friend, then get someone with accounting skills. Or if you would rather die than cold call a customer for a sale, hire one who lives off sales and marketing. Suddenly you won’t be lonely anymore and it is likely you will come out of this with way to less stress and more problems ticked off.
Libraries don’t just exist for students. They also have enviable stock of business management books. Basically, think about it this way. What ever you think, chances are someone else has thought about it too. Don’t believe me? You will be amazed. There are all kinds of people, management professors, entrepreneurs and ex-entrepreneurs who have either theorized or experienced what you are going through. They have answers. Look for them and apply them.
Now days, the are all kinds of associations wherever you live or work. Join up and get busy networking with like minded people. There are marketing associations; join up if your problem is so related. The are also entrepreneurial associations. Here you will find like minded people who think they have all the answers but they are slowly accepting the fact that if they did, they would not be thus troubled. So they come here to download and share and give a little advice at the same time. This is where the doctor ordered. Share as much a possible and ask for answers if they are not forthcoming.
Delegate and take leave:
This seems like madness, right?(You could say you now have confirmed your worst fears that I am a bit deranged and unfit to give advice). In my defence, I have never had my head checked, so I can still pass for sane. But you may want to explore this if all else fails. You see, the more you concentrate on a problem, the more it seems to grow. When you take your eyes off a mountain, suddenly it doesn’t seem that huge and impossible to climb. You may also be surprised just how other people may have answers to your problems and you just need to ask. A junior member may surprise you with just how much they can solve if only given the mandate to have a go at the challenge. Do that. Also, rest gives your mind energy to find new solutions. So take a vacation, and you will soak up some unbelievable angles you never imagined could be used for solutions in your head.
Emmanuel Njuki is a motivator and entrepreneur.