When you think of an entrepreneur or business owner-operator, it’s easy to imagine a dynamic situation filled with interesting people and situations, board room bustling, deals being made, and roaring after-hour team celebrations of company wins. Sound fulfilling? It is. But there is a darker side as well.
A 2016 study on “The psychological costs of owning and managing an SME: Linking job stressors, occupational loneliness, entrepreneurial orientation and burnout” shared the reality that what may seem like the most rewarding career path may be lonelier and have a bigger emotional impact we may be aware of.
Entrepreneurs and owner-operators are surrounded by people. Customers, stakeholders, bankers, investors, suppliers, employers, and more are valuable to the business owner for the success of the business.
As an owner-operator the burden of difficult decisions is on your shoulders daily. Just look at the last two years where employers had to decide if staff had to be laid off, brought back, and laid off again. There were supply chain challenges, customers not being able to pay their bills and more. Times were tough for everyone, and the business owner-operators had to face the challenge and make those decisions largely on their own.
Who can a business owner-operator talk to who truly ‘gets it’? They need to speak to someone who has the shared experience they’ve had or are having and relate to what they are going through and are objective and unbiased.
Can they speak to their senior management team? As we mentioned in a previous blog, creating angst among your senior management team could create potential problems. They may become nervous and wonder about the stability of the company and their jobs. They may end up looking for other work and destabilize your entire management core. They may fear that change is coming that could impact them directly.
What about taking to a spouse or partner? Again, the risk of creating a situation where there is fear of financial uncertainty may be too high, so many entrepreneurs will shield their spouse from the stress.
Bankers and accountants are pretty good to talk to in general when it comes to financial decisions, but the scope of experience-based advice may be limited, and their may be reasons to not fully confide in them (do you really want your banker to be worried?).
What about business clubs and networking groups? As counterintuitive as it may seem, these meetups and groups are not places where owner-operators typically go to unload the struggles they’re facing in their day to day operations. Most people in these groups are there for networking, community, and speak to others who might be potential clients or find them potential clients.
The executive coaching industry had a total market value of $7.5 billion in the United States in 2019 and is expected to reach $20 billion, based on a 6.7% annual growth rate from 2019 to 2022 as more senior executives look for guidance.
At Catchfire, we are approached daily to sit down and share our experiences in buying, growing, owning, operating, and selling businesses. Our shared experience is invaluable to lonely entrepreneurs who just need to sit across from someone who not only ‘gets it’ but has been there and done that. We have the first-hand experience in multiple businesses across several industries and bring that experience to the benefit of our clients.
Few people like to brag for the sake of bragging. We want to celebrate our achievements and be cheered on by those we admire and whose opinions we respect. Unfortunately, there are times when success becomes with an emotional burden. Take for example a past client we helped sell a business for tens of millions of dollars. Time for him to celebrate and let his friends know, right? Our client had to take a pause and didn’t celebrate his success with his buddies because he knew their perception would be skewed. They wouldn’t understand the sacrifices, the sleepless nights, the risks and the stress, the missed family events, and the hardship it took to take that business from the ground up to the successful sell. It took years of hard work and dedication, but that wouldn’t be recognized. Instead, by celebrating, he would be faced with jealousy and misunderstanding.
Finding an objective person who has a shared experience and understands the context of the struggles and celebrations is quite rare. Entrepreneurship has its rewards, don’t get me wrong, but with the rewards comes the fact that loneliness is real. The real question is – is there a solution? We’d like to hear from you. What are your thoughts on this topic?