More Than WE Know

Women Entrepreneurs sharing Information, Inspiration and Support

Entrepreneurs Don’t have to Be Isolated

Posted by Liz Fuller on September 6, 2007

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One of the recurring themes with my readers and clients is that of loneliness.   Even if they don’t come right out and say the words “I’m lonely”, it is there between the lines.  They tell me that their “friends don’t understand why they don’t get a real job”,  their “mother is worried they can’t support themselves”,  and their “spouse doesn’t take their business seriously”. 

Building a business for yourself can be extremely isolating. There is no one who shares the same vision of the future that you do.  The dream you have for yourself and for your business is fragile.  It takes a lot of energy to keep that dream alive despite your own doubts and fears, let alone those of others.

Successful entrepreneurs are those who find a support system early on. Most are not fortunate enough to have one ready-made; Smart entrepreneurs make it a point to build one, even before they need it.  They know that having others who believe in them can help to keep their dream alive when their vision starts to fade.

Support systems are crucial to success because it is vitally important to have someone who you can share your concerns with and who will listen without judgment.  As Entrepreneurs we all  need a safe place to explore ideas, options, and possibilities.  We need to be able to express our doubts, fears, and worries without the fear that we will be shot down, ridiculed or simply patted on the head. 

Ideally we need someone who sees our strengths even when we no longer do, and reminds us of why we and our business are going to be successful.

So how do you find someone to be all and do all those things in your life?

The first place to look is within your existing circle of friends and family. Is there anyone you could reach out to who meets that criteria?  Don’t feel bad if there isn’t.  Many times family members are too dependent on our success to be objective and supportive  – they are afraid, too.  And while your friends want to help, some will discourage you because they don’t want to see you hurt, while others won’t be able to control their own feelings of envy because you are pursuing something they would like to do.

The next place to look is within the network that you are developing. Remember networking isn’t just about finding prospective customers. Networking helps you find a circle of like-minded people who are on a similar journey.   Sometimes it is easier to share concerns with acquaintances than it is with family members. You are able to express doubts without being as emotional. They are able to listen more objectively.  And if they are also entrepreneurs, they will relate to your experiences. 

Most towns have a chamber of commerce, a rotary club or a women’s business organization such as ABWA, BPW or NAWBO.  If there are no network opportunities in your area, you can also reach out to online networks such as LinkedIn  or My Woman Owned Business network, forums or by writing comments on blogs such as this one.

A third option is a SCORE counselor.  SCORE is a national volunteer service providing free counseling to America’s Small Business from experienced entrepreneurs or professionals.  Many cities have a SCORE office but SCORE also offers online support.  Their support tends to be short-term and topic specific but they can help you to obejectively explore concerns when you have a crisis.

A fourth option is to hire a professional coach.  Coaches combine objectivity with a long-term relationship.  Coaches provide a safe, objective place to explore doubts, fears and options. They listen without judgment and help their clients seek answers. They remind clients of their strengths or point out strengths the clients didn’t even know they had. Coaches also have the advantage of perspective as they see many clients struggle with similar issues. Many coaches are also experienced in aspects of business and can help educate the client about choices without giving advice.

Coaching is most effectiveness when there is a strong relationship between a coach and client. Be sure to find a coach that you connect with. Most offer a complimentary consultation to determine whether there is a good fit.  Coach referrals can be gotten through the ICF, International Coaching Federation.   I occasionally have openings in my own practice, or know of coaches who have openings so feel free to contact me directly as well.

The key is to not remain isolated; businesses that might otherwise be successful can falter due to loneliness and isolation.  Building a business is hard; Being an entrepreneur can be lonely; But you do not have to be alone – there are 19 million entrepreneurs in this country, 10 million of whom are women. 

Reach out. Take a risk. Share yourself.  Don’t give up. Above all, Keep your dream alive.

What support challenges do you have? Who helps you keep your dreams alive? I’d love to hear about it – please comment below or reply to me confidentially on my About page.

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4 Responses to “Entrepreneurs Don’t have to Be Isolated”

  1. Jean said

    Very sage advice! The only point I would like to suggest is that we women don’t HAVE to find another person on our field.I believe that having social friends (male or female) is enough to keep us feeling good about ourselves. And it’s the self-confidence in ourselves, and in our ability to make good decisions and also to LEARN from our mistakes, that makes us successful entrepreneurs.
    Great site!
    JEAN (in New Zealand)

  2. Liz Fuller said

    Jean
    I agree – every entrepreneur’s support system is going to look different – some will rely on social friends, some on family, some on fellow entrepreneurs, and some on a combination of all three. The important thing is to recognize the value of a support system to help us through the times when our self-confidence starts to wane. Please take a look at tomorrow’s post for information on the results of research on the importance of friends in our work life!

    Liz

  3. Jean said

    Thanks Liz – I will do!
    An interesting point that I’d be interested to hear your feedback on: in my role as teacher and consultant in gifted education and in thinking skills, I’ve found many times that gifted children/youth/adults often have difficulty making friends. And I think a big part of this is because with their own high expectations of themselves, bright people also apply these expectations to potential friends. So when the ‘friend’ doesn’t measure up as ‘perfect’, they are rejected.So,I think we need to help our kids (and ourselves!) to realise that different people all have different things to offer; and that it’s perfectly OK just to meet different people for even just one particular (mutually enjoyable) activity. And that ALL friendships and partnerships take work, from both sides of the relationship – that’s what makes it ever-changing, dynamic and interesting! What’s your opinion here?

  4. Liz Fuller said

    Hi Jean
    I absolutely agree that we put too much pressure on friends when we expect them to be all things to us. There is a quote I love:

    “Each friend represents a world in us,a world possibly not born until they arrive,and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

    ~ Anaïs Nin.

    The more complex we are ourselves, the more potential for worlds within us. And the more potential need we have for friends who speak to those unique aspects of ourselves.

    I also agree that friendships take work. Our soul-mates are not always the ones who agree with everything we say – they may be the ones who challenge, frustrate and confound us – because that is what we need to grow.

    I think that your point is very important – oftentimes we are hard on others because we are unaccepting of ourselves. By learning to accept ourselves, we become better able to focus on the good in others and overlook their faults. Do you think if these children focus on accepting themselves, faults and all, they will increase their appreciation of others?

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