Solopreneur Isolation Syndrome

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

I was speaking with a fellow consultant earlier this month, and the subject wandered over to one of the difficulties of being a solopreneur/small business owner.

AloneIsolation. Ever feel alone out there, hacking your way through the weeds? Yeah – join the club.

Now, neither of us would go back to working for others, and we’ve freely chosen the paths we’ve taken. So this is not a lament. It’s just a fact of life. It can get pretty lonely out there when you’re not part of a (localized, physically present) team.

As a solopreneur, I love my alone time, and I also get energized by meetings with clients and partners. I enjoy the intellectual and social stimulation of the occasional conference. I remain in active contact with many colleagues and friends via social networks.

But, I think the issue is more than just physical isolation. From what I see, it’s the continuous weight of having everything on your shoulders – alone.

It’s. All. Up. To. You. 

In a larger company, you can fulfill a certain role while others fulfill theirs. There is concentration and distribution of effort. Shared effort, shared resources, shared direction; and lots of things get done without you driving them or even knowing about them.

For the solopreneur, it’s all up to you. Apart from some things you can outsource, this plane goes nowhere unless you are the pilot, flight attendant, baggage handler, fueler, ticket agent, and air traffic controller. Every day. All day. That gets wearisome. And sometimes, you feel so overwhelmed that you just want to crawl under the covers and take a nap – right?

“Hmmm…I think the dog needs another walk.” “I wonder what’s new on Facebook?” “Time for another Starbucks run!” It may look like a form of escape, and…well, truth be told, it often is. Because building a business in isolation is a heavy load.

And for the small business owner who has some employees but often has no peers to talk to, there is a similar kind of loneliness – plus all the dynamics of supporting and driving a team (one reason why I plan to remain solo!) As I talk to a growing number of folks in that category, my eyes have opened to the need for coaching and peer support. We each carry a lot of weight that family, friends, employees, and clients often cannot understand.

And then there’s the paperwork. Don’t get me started on that topic! (by the way, you might want to check out what MBO Partners has to offer on that front).

I really wonder  how many promising businesses we lose to isolation burnout.

So, what’s the solution?

I’m not sure there’s a single solution, but the starting point is this: just as cash flow is vital to your ongoing success, so is (peer) relational flow. Whether you find your support network locally, virtually, or by a combination of the two, make it a priority to de-isolate. Independence is a good thing, but cultivating a level of interdependence may be the key to remaining sane. We all need fuel, and we all need to fuel others. Periodic breakfasts with people like Brian Moran; regular lunches with some of my pharma clients/partners; brainstorming meetings with Joe Cascio; Skype sessions with far-flung people in my network – these are all ways that help keep me energized. Doing the work I love fulfills me – but in the downtimes, in the business development efforts, in the reversals – it can get discouraging.

But maybe there’s something else that we can get better at doing. Let’s look at our twitter-streams, and see the many connections that we know are solo – maybe we need to more purposefully reach out and ask folks how they’re doing. How they’re REALLY doing. We tend to assume that everyone else is doing just great – but if you’re ready to throw in the towel today because of loneliness and isolation, then it’s a safe bet that 5 other people you know are just trying to keep up a brave front (while crumbling inside), too.

I’m happy to be a solopreneur. I love the freedom to chart my own course. But let’s not be in denial – there can be a downside as well.

So – how are you doing? Really doing? Let’s keep each other company on the journey!

photo credit: Brian Auer via photopin cc

 

Five in the Morning 112008

Has your company’s social media cat meow’ed yet? The glass-half-full guy, Terry Starbucker, has some valuable thoughts on this.

Is There a Hierarchy in Social Media? (as in: where should you start?). Nice overview of the basics from Jeff Paro, over at Small Business Branding blog.

Seth Godin has a free download for you – the Tribes Q&A book.

Brian Clark over at Copyblogger talks about strategic collaboration. I include this because I think it is the most important emerging business model for talented entrepreneurs to tap into. Many new businesses, and business models, are waiting to happen…

Socially fatigued? Interesting thoughts (that we can all relate to!) from Karen Swim.

PLUS – Andy Nulman having a little fun priming the market for his upcoming “Pow! Right Between the Eyes!” book.

(Image credit)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Five in the Morning 111408

Six ways to Build your own Personal Developmental Network. From the smart and always-helpful Liz Strauss.

What is Passion anyway? From those folks with their Brains on Fire.

Laura Ries on It’s the Category, Stupid. What do you think of her thesis here?

Free Social Media for Small Business e-book, put together by John Jantsch and Microsoft. Cool!

A simple reminder from Drew McLellan.

Discard this ACE. From Stickyfigure blog (ummm…that’s me).

New e-mail tool: AwayFind. Reviews by Chris Brogan and Sarah Perez. I could see this being very useful for some folks…

Just for a little Friday fun – nice looks can deceive! 50 very strange buildings. And, from TechCrunch, an imaginative way to get some exposure, if you can spare a shirt and $75!

And big congratulations to Ian Schafer!!

(Image credit)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Five in the Morning 103008

10 Branding brownie points, offered by Ed Roach (of the Brand Corral blog). Not high-tech stuff; just simple ways to add significant value.

Laura Ries, on How and When to Attack (in Marketing). With good/bad examples.

Small Business Trends introduces Jim Kukral as a (video expert) contributor. Here is his post on how and why a small business should use Twitter, including a screencast (Jim is good people, by the way. Be sure to follow him if you’re not already).

Why I blog. From Susan Murphy (SuzeMuse). I think Suze speaks for many of us.

Dan Schawbel interviewed at MSNBC website. Theme: social networking and business.

PLUS: Free Wi-Fi at locations nationwide for iPhone users? Sweeeet!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Hi

Welcome to new readers of StickyFigure, a small-to-medium sized outpost here on the long tail of marketing blogs! Your tour guide is Steve Woodruff, marketer, consultant, entrepreneur, and reasonably nice person whose writings are generally brilliant and life-changing (note: your results may vary).

Stickyfigure is where I publish ramblings and resources about marketing, branding, social media, entrepreneurship, and life in the business world. My paying job is as a pharmaceutical consultant, and in that realm, I maintain a focused blog called Impactiviti. My personal blog, stevewoodruff.com, is where I park “other” non-business musings.

If you’d like a sample of some “Greatest Hits” (well, in my opinion anyway!), here are a few links:

Branding:

How to be Unremarkable

Brand Paul Potts

Personal Branding:

Your Personal Brand: Does it Matter?

Wax-free Bloggers

Social Media:

Your Marketing is Already Outsourced

One Interface to Rule them All

Marketing/Customer Experience:

How to Waste 100,000 Billboards

Lowe’s to Home Depot: Take 5! No, Take Fifty!

Entrepreneurship:

How I Became a Consultant

10 Lessons Learned from Starting a Small Business

So, feel free to browse through the blog. You’ll also find a few spoofs, and a number of posts about collaborative blogging efforts. And, if you’d like to connect, I can also be found on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Image credit: Coollogcabin.com

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Turning Points: How I became a Consultant

It was on I-80 Eastbound. On the way home from a little father-son getaway with my fourth at the Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos. After a day of water-sliding, a professional epiphany at 60 miles per hour.

For 9 1/2 years, I’d worked with a small company doing sales/marketing/biz dev in the pharmaceutical training field. Enjoyed it, saw the company grow, but came to recognize that I had fundamentally different perspectives than the owner on many business approaches. Though we got along in a pretty transparent relationship, there was the constant sense that we were pulling in different directions.

Suddenly, driving home through the Poconos, it came to me. I wasn’t going to change. He wasn’t going to change. It was time to go our separate ways. If I was going to fulfill my professional desires and drives, and add maximum value, I had to “create it myself,” and not vainly hope that someone else would conform their business to my ideals, or custom-create the perfect position for me.

And what I had found I enjoyed most, over the years, was not selling. It was consulting. This, after almost 20 years in sales! But now, I was finally ready. I had the knowledge, the desire, the network, and ability to market. Gradually, a niche business consulting approach emerged in my thinking.

Giving what amounted to 7 months notice, we de-commissioned my role in the company, and after 10 years, I launched out as a consultant providing training strategy and expertise, as well as a unique vendor-client “matchmaking” service. I long believed that the best chance for business success is by defining, creating and occupying a unique space, and this was my chance.

The first year was hard. After 9 months, I began really questioning whether this thing was ever going to get “wheels up.” But then business steadily picked up, and now, I am dependent only on pleasing my clients, not on fulfilling someone else’s agenda. Wonderfully liberating.

How about you? Where was your professional “turning point” that started you on your course? Write it up on your blog and share the story!

(Image credit)

(this post was inspired by Director Tom (Tom Clifford), who did a Twitter post about writing up the 7 minutes that changed his life in the direction of becoming a filmmaker [once his post is up, I'll link to it]. Tom suggested a series called Turning Points – so, here we are! Readers are encouraged to write up their own, and I’ll link to any that participate!)

Here is CK’s take on her career…

Zemanta Pixie
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 154 other followers