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 021909

Before we begin, may I just take a moment and say how much I enjoy interacting with you, my readers, in these early-morning excursions through the blogosphere? It’s fun to find a few goodies each day (so much to choose from!), but it’s even more fun to dialogue with you about stuff you found helpful or interesting.

OK, on with the show…

The Four Horsemen of the Startup. Brief and to the point. Four attitudes to avoid if you’re an entrepreneur starting a company. From the wise and friendly Doug Karr.

Animated advertising icons – the power of strong branding in advertising. Watch this quick clip. From BrandFreak blog.

In Business Week, a profile of social media pioneer Beth Kanter. Nice.

Which businesses are on Twitter? Check out this uber-list on Twibs. Wow. (hat tip: Brand Flakes for Breakfast).

From the Church of the Customer blog, 5 Questions with Emanuel Rosen (on buzz, word of mouth, and marketing). Good stuff.

PLUS – just for fun: 25 “Hidden” Things in Facebook’s Terms of Use (spoof).

Finally – are you going to Blogger Social ’09? Last year’s event was a slam dunk – 80 bloggers from around the world getting together in NYC to get social. This year, the upper limit is 100, and it’s in Boston. Details here – I’ll be there!

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25 “Hidden” Things in Facebook TOS

borg

It’s been all the rage this week. Facebook changed their Terms of Service/Terms of Use (TOS for short) to imply that they own, perpetually, anything and everything that you post on their site.

After much uproar, Facebook has relented and gone back to the “old” TOS. Or have they? Hidden in the new/old TOS, in white text on white background (so you wouldn’t see it – but you never read the black-on-white TOS beforehand anyway, did you??), are the 25 of Your Things that You Didn’t Know Facebook Now Owns.

    1. By logging into Facebook (or having logged in in the past and now even THINKing about logging in again), you relinquish possession of all of your belongings, including property, house, auto, HDTV, and suet birdfeeders. They now belong to Mark Zuckerberg. Thanks.

    2. Facebook now owns your first-born, if you have one, and if said first-born is well-behaved. Brats remain in your possession. If you have no first-born children, rodent pets or 4-wheeled ATVs will be accepted.

    3. You are now auto-enrolled in Facebook Live!, which gives us the right to install cameras in every room of your house and randomly upload photos of every daily activity. Our alpha-version auto-tagging feature will make a best guess at identifying you. Heh.

    4. All your blogs are belong to us. Except Scoble‘s. He’s too noisy.

    5. Your privacy settings on Facebook will auto-reset each day to random settings chosen by our MaxEmbarrass Algorithm Method. You may change them back if you wish, but by clicking “Apply” to your settings, you grant us unlimited rights to ignore whatever you chose.

    6. At our sole discretion, you may be downgraded to our “Facebook Lite” application (herein referred to as “Compuserve”) so as to keep you from taking for granted the privilege of being on Facebook Classic.

    7. You are now opted in to receive SPAM.

    8. All applications and widgets that you choose to use on Facebook are hereby entitled to publish your personal data and preferences on our new “SPAM-ME-NOW.com” sister site, soon to be launched.

    9. Spontaneous Human Combustion may occur while using Facebook. If this happens to you, we own your ashes.

    10. You may opt out of using Facebook at any time. But it won’t make any difference.

    11. If you have ever thought about uploading any pictures, links, words, thoughts, or other assets onto the Facebook platform, those items are all, in perpetuity, the exclusive property of Facebook. Thanks.

    12. If you have ever filled out or read a “25 Things” meme on Facebook, you are now an indentured servant of Facebook, and we reserve the right to sell you on eBay to the highest bidder, or, at our discretion, at a “Buy it Now!” price of our choosing.

    13. By using Facebook, you agree never to use Google again. All future searches will have to be through a 1998 version of AltaVista.

    14. If your profile on LinkedIn, MySpace, Friendster, eHarmony, or Pownce mentions your name, we may take possession of said profiles, and the services on which you have described yourself.

    15. You may not whine at any time, for any reason.

    16. Cheap boxed wines may not be imbibed by any Facebook users. Screwtop bottles are acceptable if imported from New Zealand or Iceland. Use of wine coolers will be grounds for immediate termination. You don’t want to know what that means.

    17. Your college loans, mortgages, credit card debts, Madoff investments, and auto companies are exempted from Facebook ownership. See “Bailout and TARP” provision.

    18. By using Facebook, you agree to lower your “carbon footprint” by 15% per year by skipping every sixth exhale.

    19. If you use Twitter, you agree to follow @swoodruff, except if you are a spammer, in which case you agree to self-immolate (see #9 above).

    20. You agree to pick up the mess after walking the dog.

    21. You agree that outmoded discussions of “privacy” will not be indulged, either on Facebook or in any lesser sphere of life, since we now own you. Just shut up and keep spilling your guts. Wait a minute, that’s self-contradictory. Ah, whatever, this is white-on-white and no-one’s going to ever see it anyway! Toy boat! Toy boat! You’re all dolts! Ha ha ha ha…

    22. Facebook, its representatives or agents, may, at any time, and for any reason, choose to extract one of your kidneys.

    23. If you are currently single and choose to marry, a 10% dowry to Facebook is expected. If you met your spouse via Facebook, that becomes 25% plus a $200 gift certificate to Ruth’s Chris made out to Mark Zuckerberg.

    24. (we’re going to fill this in later. But you’re agreeing to it.)

    25. Resistance is futile.

Thank us for allowing you to be used by Facebook.

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Prior StickyFigure spoofs

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Five in the Morning 021609

fivesm

I hope you enjoyed the Five in the Morning guest posts last week! It’s my intent to pass around the Five spotlight (and link love) to two guest-hosts per week, so that we get the benefit of everyone’s interests and reading lists. Thanks to Arun Rajagopal, Lisa Hoffmann, Connie Reece, and Chris Wilson for helping out while I was busy “conferencing” last week!

Alan Wolk kicks us off this morning with a provocative post: Does Creativity Still Matter? Give it a read and add your comments, esp. if you’re an advertising wonk. Good stuff.

Mining the Thought Stream. Some thoughts on TechCrunch about Twitter’s unique capacity to reveal what people are thinking. Interesting.

Mashable‘s Social Media posts, all gathered together. Great idea. Warning: potential time sink!

How to Communicate Everything You Do. Can you condense your personal message into an effective introduction? Some valuable ideas from Dan Schawbel at the Personal Branding Blog.

The Brand New blog has been on a roll this month, with some great commentary on re-branding efforts, good, bad, and awful. Scroll down and enjoy!

PLUS – The Personal ROI of Social Media. A Sunday Muse.

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PLEASE NOTE: There is reason to believe that the Google/Feedburner changeover has created “issues” with RSS feeds for my blogs (and others). Here are the feeds for my three blogs; if you’re a reader, would you please re-subscribe just to make sure? Thanks!

:: Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog (that’s this one!)

:: Subscribe to the Steve’s Leaves blog (that’s my personal blog)

:: Subscribe to the Impactiviti blog (that’s a pharma-specific blog, for my consulting business)

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Five in the Morning 012709

twotofiveToday’s feature will be a little different – I’m going to point you to just one blog that has a whole set of interesting, well-designed posts. David Berkowitz has provided a fabulous set of session summaries from the 1-day OMMA social event – really great stuff. Thanks, David (link is to David’s  Inside the Marketer’s Studio blog – scroll down to see the string of posts)!

AND, just for variety – another Twitter-fueled customer service success story, from Cam Beck. We’ll see more and more of this.

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Five in the Morning 012109

mattjmcdWhere’s Five in the Morning today? Why, guest-hosted over at Matt J McDonald‘s blog, of course! Matt is a marketing strategist and active blogger based in Charleston, SC, and he has graciously volunteered to give us the high Five today. Thanks, Matt!

And while you’re at Matt’s blog, take a peek at this interesting recent post (great graphic), on a Brand Purpose Model.

(oh, and by the way – all that stuff on the whiteboard Matt is pointing to? It’s his Marketing Axiom of Total Terrestrial Job Maximization contra Displacement (MATTJMcD), for which he hopes to win a Nobel [or at least a Scoble] Prize).

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Five in the Morning 011309

Jason Falls brings us an interesting list of the Top 50 Educational blogs, with links aplenty. Nice.

Busy, busy. Jeremiah Owyang has been cranking out great content on his blog. First, reflections on his 20-day holiday from Twitter. Then, for lovers of statistics, a collection of Social Media Stats for 2009. Then, a summary of Forresters Wave Report on Social Media Platforms.

In recent days, Fast Company has highlighted some cool technology trends and products. Such as tiny pico-projectors that can fit in your hand. Or electricity without wires. And how does Sony’s new mini video cam match up against the Flip?

Is there room for anyone else besides Twitter in the micro-blogging space? Louis Gray has an interesting analysis.

Doug Karr talks coffee, and the lies of packaging. It’s what’s in the cup that matters!

————- Come on by tomorrow to find out who is guest-hosting Five in the Morning!

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Five in the Morning 011209

high-fiveReputation matters. A succinct and important reminder from Peter Kim. “After all, in a world of weak ties, what else do we have?”

The Worst Pitch in the World. From the Bad Pitch Blog. Not sure that there aren’t worse examples, but this one really is pretty pathetic!

Brands that Tweet. Yes, Paul Dunay published this a month ago. But maybe, like me, you didn’t see it. Good list with additional links. And, speaking of Twitter, Hubspot has improved their Twitter Grader algorithm, so we can all rest better at night know who the REAL elite of Twitter are!

Five Microbusiness Trends for 2009. From Dawn Rivers Baker on Small Business Trends blog.”…the nation’s microbusinesses are better structured to endure these difficult times, thanks to a lean operating style and creative business models.

BK’s Sacrifice 10 Friends for a Whopper promotion. Viral, creative genius. Who thinks up this stuff?? Hat tip: Brandeo.

And, just for the fun of it, a bunch of pictures from MacWorld courtesy of Guy Kawasaki. My favorite one is the “shoes off” pic (and the reason for it).

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Five in the Morning 010809

Real-time. Chris Brogan today talks about real-time coverage of events, using as an example his live-tweeting of a press conference last night. What do you think – how much of a game-changer is this? Frankly, I think that the convergence of the tools (cameras, smartphones, etc.) and the platforms (blogging, Twitter, etc.) has already fundamentally changed the game. Immediacy is now here, and we’re just realizing it. Latency is….well, a thing of the past.

2009 – The Year of Going Social. From the blog of Laura Fitton (Pistachio). “The bad news for business? You’re late. The good news? You’re not too late…”

Is Social Media the same as Marketing? Beth Harte‘s asking – what do you think? I’m guessing most of us have had this discussion, at least in our own heads. “…a good communicator does not always make a good marketer nor does a good marketer always make a good communicator. They are two different disciplines.”

Want a nice daily summary of some Social Networking headlines? Here’s one of my secrets. Business Week‘s Business Exchange. Worth a daily visit.

Jeremiah Owyang provides a nice summary blog post of Social Networking news each week. Well worth subscribing to. Here’s the latest.

PLUS – What’s Cramberry? A cool spin on an old technique. Too neat-o to pass up a link. From ReadWriteWeb. And, just because the headline is so imaginative: The Art of One Butt Cheek Blogging (from Copyblogger).

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Five in the Morning 010709

Customers. Where would we be without customers? Talk is cheap, so let’s invest a little time thinking about the people that really count…

That West Coast Diva of Customer Stuff, Becky Carroll, unveils her Top 3 picks for Customer Rock Stars of 2008. Check out these, plus the runners-up, listed on Becky’s Customers Rock! blog.

Meanwhile, back East, Doug Meacham on his NextUp blog (focusing on customer experience) does a riff on Guitar (Hero) Marketing. On that post, you will find my new favorite term. If you’re not following Doug on Twitter (@dougmeacham), you should, and if you miss the opportunity to have him chauffeur you all over Richmond with a belly full of BBQ ribs on your next trip to that fair city – well, you ain’t lived. Bring napkins.

Introducing Casey Hibbard’s book on customer case studies. Stories that Sell.

David Polinchock gets a “Five” mention 2 days in a row. I think that’s a first. But he deserves it, for this thoughtful post on how customer experience interacts with declines in retail stores.  “As we wrote in a piece for the Retail Advertising Conference last year, our walk through the luxury domain of the upper East Side showed that many of the stores up there were just ‘soulless, glorified, two-dimensional web sites; products are presented passively to consumers with no retail-as-theater.’ Who wants to spend time — and money — in a retail environment like that?”

Frank Martin over at Marketing Magic has Three Things you can do Right Now to Jump-start your Marketing. Well, there’s more than three, actually – Frank cheats by using sub-points! But he gets a pass, since this is a good reminder of the basics of taking care of ALL your customers.

Hey, a late entry. David “The Hat” Armano just posted this little blurb about a well-designed blog effort by a bank, making it easy for user interaction. I’m kinda real picky about on-line user design, and it’s nice to see a well-executed setup like this. And while we’re going late entries, we may as well add Drew McLellan‘s just-published post on MarketingProfs Daily Fix, about Dancing with the One who Brought You (talk to your customers!)

And, just for fun, a quick video laugh from Dave Taylor over at Brandgym. This is the top-rated YouTube video in the UK (and in the Top 5 globally) – who’da thunk it??

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You – Projected.

Over the past few weeks, there has been some blabbing going on over the social media networks about Personal Branding. I won’t attempt to re-hash it all here – a prior post on MarketingProfs Daily Fix gave a bit of a summary, with some of my thoughts on the subject.

I don’t question the concept of personal branding. I think the idea is valid and valuable. But semantics and varying definitions can confound the discussion.

projectorMy feeling is that if a concept is valid, we should be able to distill it down to a very few words that capture it well. So, with personal branding, here is my take. Two words. You – Projected.

Having narrowed it down, now let’s blow out each word a bit:

You – the real you. Not some faux image you want to project. Not some imitation. If it ain’t authentic, it’s worthless as a “personal brand.”

You – all of you. Not merely your words or pictures, but your personality, your tastes, your values, your thoughts, and your experiences. The most powerful personal brands create attachment because people gravitate toward whole people they can relate to.

You – unfolding over time. All brands take time to establish themselves, and there is an evolving process of growth and expression. The more that others see you over a long stretch of time, the more strongly your brand will make its imprint.

Projected – pro-actively. Personal brands can “just happen” I guess, but anyone involved in any kind of branding knows that you need to actively put forward your identity. I won’t go into the myriad of ways in which this is accomplished; just note that building a personal brand, like building anything, is not a passive endeavor.

Projected – accurately. If you’re a down-to-earth person, then writing blog posts with flowery Victorian language (even if well-crafted) will not be an accurate projection. The person you “see” in a picture, an avatar, a profile, a series of tweets, and on a blog must be the very person you meet in a restaurant.

Projected – by others. Here’s your reputation. Ultimately, the power of a personal brand multiplies when you have a great reputation among others. And when others actually do have an accurate knowledge of you, and word-of-mouth you to others, your brand is on its way to being well-established.

As simply as I can explain it, that’s a personal brand (at least from my perspective). What do you think?

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Five in the Morning 121008

Lists, lists, lists. It’s that time of year – lots of Top 10s. Louis Gray has a nice summary of Top 2008 web services (and their prognosis for 2009). Meanwhile, Rick Turoczy at ReadWriteWeb sums up the Top 10 Consumer web apps of 2008 (quite diff list from Louis’). And then, of course, there’s Time.com‘s Top 10 Everything of 2008. Plan on spending some time here…

Should bloggers/social media types self-promote? Mack Collier started up this discussion. I also chimed in, as did Lisa Hoffmann. Read the posts and the comments – what do you think?

Matt Dickman with some thoughts on HR in the age of Social Media.

Not Everyone likes Coffee. Consider your audience and their tastes as you serve “your stuff” up. Good thoughts from Jon Swanson over at Levite Chronicles. (Jon – strong! Cream and a little sugar…).

The Only Important Thing is….what??? You’ll have to let Doug Meacham tell you!

PLUS – Sarah sold me on Opera – sorta. How one voice can bring you into a new genre. AND – this Spouse 2.0 concept is just bizarre. Really. Don’t do it!

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Five in the Morning 111908

You do know that Social Media is not a Fad – Right? From Dawud Miracle.

CMOs – Time to Evolve. From MarketingVox.

15 Rules for Business Bloggers. Good review of the basics, by Ian Lurie.

How to be the Social Media Champion at your Office. Good stuff by Jason Falls.

Toby the Diva asks: What would you do if you could Just Do It? And here are the answers.

PLUS – you know your brand is successful when…(you’ll chuckle at the pictures)

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My Twitter “Full Disclosure”

twitter-logoSo you’ve decided to follow me on Twitter. Thanks for tuning in, and I look forward to tweeting with you!

I cannot provide you with all the answers to life, nor can I make all your relationships better or even guarantee improved hair control. Here, however, is what you’re in for:

:: WYSIWYG. Hopefully you’ll like what you see, warts and all. If not, feel free to unfollow. I won’t be hurt.

:: If you’re interested in pharma/healthcare, social media, branding, marketing, humor, and life, well, I do that.

:: I point to stuff on my blog(s) when I publish. If I didn’t have something to say, I wouldn’t be here.

:: I point to a LOT of other people’s stuff. Most of them are smarter than me.

:: I don’t auto-follow. If/when I do follow you, there’s a good reason for it. I think you’re interesting, funny, smart, engaging, a value-add, or some combination thereof. There’s a much higher likelihood that I’ll follow you if you @me with something directly.

:: Sometimes I’ll tweet or blog about things personal, philosophical, even political. And post pictures. See WYSIWYG.

:: At various times I may get a bit snarky, make puns, and engage in banter. Especially on Fridays. I even do spoofs at times, with some assurance that the victims have a thick skin. My followers deal with it; or better, enjoy it, and join right in. You might also get a wine recommendation or two, including pictures.

:: I do this because I like it, it’s a fulfilling creative outlet, I enjoy writing and sharing, and I’m seeking to build an opportunity network. I hope you feel the same way. We’re all evolving this space together, and it’s a lot of fun!

Oh, and if you haven’t yet followed me on Twitter, here’s where you can remedy that! If you want to know about my various footprints and networks on the web, it’s all at SteveWoodruff.com.

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Facebook: Share and Connect

TechCrunch takes FaceBook to task for its newly-minted tagline, conjecturing that it is the product of too many marketing meetings.

The new phrase, “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life” is actually quite accurate, and has a more “active” sense than the previous “Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you.” I prefer the new tagline because it explains what Facebook allows you to do, as opposed to what it is (plus, the term “social utility” is not so easy to digest for the newcomer).

The new tagline isn’t particular sexy or memorable, granted. But I’ve seen far worse.

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