For many, starting a business can be a lonely place. Particularly if it’s the first time that you’ve worked without the structure – or colleagues – of an established company with many employees. You might feel isolated. You can feel that you are the only one who worries about the tough times. And, perhaps even worse, you can feel that you’re the only one who cares when a great success is achieved.
It’s one reason that many people choose to co-found startups with a close friend or someone that they can trust. This gives you someone to talk through plans, to confide in, to debate choices, and (perhaps most importantly) to share the highs and lows with.
So far, so good – in theory. But co-founders can find working together tricky, and still lonely, in other ways.
Thoughts for lone founders
- Lean on your friends and family. It’s not ‘soft’ and certainly nothing to be ashamed of to lean on your friends and family at what will be one of the most stressful (and rewarding) times in your life. Be honest and open with them, about your fears as well as your hopes. They may well be your first customers and as with all early customers a lot of openness about the current state of the product or service will go a long way.
- But don’t lean too much on friends and family! Treat them fairly, especially when money is exchanging hands. Don’t burden them with your woes, and don’t ‘up the stakes’ and get angry if (inevitably) they’re not as emotionally invested in your endeavour as you. Most of all, take their advice and suggestions as just that: one person’s opinion to add into the mix. But in the absence of evidence, remember it’s of no more or less value than your own.
- Take breaks. No, not just screen-breaks, but weekends or at least a day a week off. Otherwise it’s easy to end up totally isolated and disconnected from the world.
Thoughts for co-founders
- This will be one of, if not the, most important relationship in your life, for a time. Be honest with each other about that, and with partners.
- You’re not married. But ‘divorce’ can be just as messy. So have the ‘hard discussions’ up front – about how you split the equity, what happens in case of failure, or one leaving.
- Don’t forget there are other people in the world. There may be someone to discuss things with, but especially if you each ‘own’ certain areas, talking to others can really help with feeling less pressure.
Coaching can help
Feeling isolated at the top is one of the main reasons that business leaders cite for having coaching. It gives them someone independent to talk to, who isn’t emotionally-attached, but crucially is on their side. We believe that the transformative discoveries you can make during coaching sessions can unlock growth! Both for your company and for you as a leader and person.
And it can tackle some of that loneliness too.