When I was first starting out in business in my early 20s, I had so many skewed thoughts. Some examples included the thought that the franchise model was the be-all, end-all of business. I used to think that no one (and by no one, I mean employees) could do things better than I could. I was definitely wrong about both of those, and although they held me back, the one belief I had in my 20s that held me back the most was that I could go it all alone.
Once I discovered that I could receive mentorship from an entire network of like-minded entrepreneurs and mentor others in turn, I unlocked an entire world of possibilities I’d never dreamed of before.
Before the Game Changer
I was a bit of a loner when I was in school and as a young adult. Part of it came from being an entrepreneur and simply thinking differently than many of my peers. Part of it came from having a kid early, so I felt alone. The truth of the matter is that, in some ways, I was alone. While all of my friends went out, I had to stay home because I was a teenage dad and had responsibilities. The house wasn’t going to clean itself, and those poopy diapers needed someone to change them. So I stayed home and was basically alone.
Being alone wasn’t all bad. I did have plenty of time to daydream about being rich, as well as study business and various business models. In that sense, it was a blessing and a curse.
It is often said that being an entrepreneur is the loneliest job in the world, and in many cases, that is 100 percent true. It is hard to talk about difficult times because most people don’t understand what you’re going through. You can’t tell your employees about hardships because you risk them getting spooked and looking for another job. I’ve actually come to believe that a business with a good culture isn’t as true as it used to be, but if you’re having a hard time making payroll and you tell all the employees, you do run a huge risk of losing some or all of them. If you’re not sure how to market or fix a problem with the business, you’ve got to watch out there, as well. It really can be lonely as an entrepreneur.
Why It’s Hard to Relate
Most of my friends who aren’t entrepreneurs don’t get it, either. When you’re stressed out about a situation with a customer or employee, it goes over a person’s head. If you have an opportunity, but you feel the risk level is a bit higher than normal, do you chat with your friends over dinner about this million-dollar decision? If they’re not entrepreneurs, it is hard for them to give advice or even understand the situation. Hell, running your business can even make dating difficult.
The loneliness doesn’t only cover the bad times; it affects the good times, as well. Having a great month or year financially? Watch out who you tell. They may want a raise or a handout, depending on who they are.
As an example, I drive a Porsche to work as often as I can. It was literally my childhood dream to own one. I’ve been told by both employees and consultants that I shouldn’t drive it to work because I don’t want to make too big of a show that I may be doing well.
I ignored that criticism. But I mention it to prove my point — it is lonely being an entrepreneur. Even when you’re doing well, you’re told you should be ashamed or hide it. That’s crazy talk!
Side note: To be clear, I’m a big believer in sharing the marbles with the people who help you achieve success, and this includes your employees. I’m not suggesting that if you’re having a great year, people in the organization don’t deserve raises or bonuses. You should never try to get ahead by holding others down. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be allowed to have nice things and enjoy your success.
Even with an entrepreneur friend, you have to be careful how much of the good times you share, because it can be easy for some entrepreneurs to get jealous of success.
Getting Past the Solitude
There’s no denying that a lot of business decisions will be made by you alone. You have to set the vision of the company, create the culture, hire, fire, and train. Next, you need to set the goals and priorities for the company, yourself, and the team. After that, you have to think about sales and marketing. Don’t forget about HR, taxes, and other regulations. We all have customers, and they have needs — some reasonable needs that should be accommodated and some unrealistic and totally unreasonable needs. All of our employees have lives, needs, and issues, both personally and professionally, which need to be assisted or managed.
Have you ever thought being an entrepreneur is something only crazy people do?
I know I’ve questioned my sanity a few times over the years. But the reality is that you don’t have to and shouldn’t go on this journey alone. And for me, that realization that I didn’t have to be lonely, that I could find people to relate to, came through mentorship.
In 2012, I joined a mentoring group that had 20 members, and it changed my life. This was the first time I had ever joined any type of coaching. Previously, I thought I didn’t need it. I thought I could go it alone, as I mentioned earlier, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The Benefits of Mentorship
Every great entrepreneur, athlete, actor, speaker, etc. has a coach. When you put like-minded entrepreneurs in the same room, you get an added bonus of friendships from people who get you. They’re people who are in the same or a similar boat.
I’m still great friends with many of the same 20 people that I met in that original group. I do business with some and can call any of them for help, despite that group dissolving years ago.
I’m convinced that having a coach and peer group to help you in business when there are hard times (and to share in the success of your business when there are good or great times) is one of the best and most overlooked strategies for entrepreneurs.
Personally, I use coaches and peer groups. I’ve had one and sometimes two at a time since I first discovered coaching at this level in 2012.
Think about it like this. Tom Cruise is one of the best actors in Hollywood. He may not be your favorite, but from a box-office standpoint, his films have grossed over 9.3 billion dollars worldwide. Whatever you think of him as an actor, it is hard to argue with 9.3 billion dollars of unadjusted ticket sales. Even with all his success, Tom has multiple coaches for acting.
Tom Brady, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, has a minimum of half-a-dozen coaches at any given time. Some of the coaches he personally pays above and beyond what the Patriots pay for. The point is this: No matter your job or your level of success, coaching and mentorship can help you more than going it alone ever could.
You will never be at the top of your game without coaching and a solid peer group. Seek out mentors, mastermind groups, and peers who can provide you with advice and perspective. Once you do that, you’ll reconsider what really constitutes a lonely job.