More specifically, I’ve lectured widely on my varied experiences – the good,
bad, and the ugly! During these talks, I often take the time to recall the event
that led me to an important realization: being an entrepreneur can quite often
leave you in the land of the lonely.
Some years ago, I was presenting to and negotiating with a very successful senior venture capital team in Toronto. I was looking for
significant monies to fund an aggressive growth pattern for my expanding operation – with confidence, I might add – when the lead
gentleman looked at me intently, a slight smile forming on his face. “Nobody knows how lonely your job is,” he stated.
Well, I smugly thought, he doesn’t know me very well. After all, I have an amazing marriage, partner, and family, and I’m fortunate to have
an abundance of great friends. As I was reflecting on all that, though, the hammer hit out of the blue.
The presentation adrenaline that had been flowing through
my body only moments before packed up and headed down
the 401 (which could cause anyone to become weepy), and
my eyes welled up. I realized then that I simply yearned
to share the responsibility. It became clear as day that
very few people understand the degree of loneliness that
entrepreneurs quite often experience. As the boss, team
leader, debt holder, and inspiration, “the buck stops here,”
as the saying goes. It’s on you.
Typically, in the early stages of business, it is the entrepreneur
who needs to have all the answers. While this part of the
process can be very exciting, it can also be exhausting and
terrifying. Driven by passion, you are more likely to rely on
instinct and drive to create solutions than you are to draw
from any book of experience. Because you are operating
without the safety net of a boss giving you direction, it can
be very overwhelming.
The sooner you realize that you are not the first to endure
this experience, the better. It’s important to lift your head
out of the fire for long enough to discover that there are
support structures and tools available to you. Engage with
them, and you will find the trip much less solitary. If you look
around, you’ll see there are many mentor programs and
networks in our area; it is not a weakness to utilize available
resources. Quite the opposite: it shows you have the wisdom
to build upon your opportunities with experienced advice
and helpful tools.
The challenges and opportunities of the business phases
that follow can be multifaceted. Hopefully your business has
matured enough by then to be in a position to recruit the
specific talent necessary to accommodate healthy growth.
Moreover, hopefully you have been wisely “confident”
enough to hire employees in those roles who are better
than you! The most successful entrepreneurs look hard and
deep at their own skill levels and strengths to identify their
weakness and put in place a plan to fill those gaps. Basically,
they set their egos aside. I wish I had learned that in my first
businesses; early-career entrepreneurs often believe they
must deliver everything themselves.
Having stated the above, even if you have a talented
team of advisors to contribute to your company’s decision
making, you’re still the one who signs the cheques at the
end of the day. You alone are the one shouldering the true
weight of strategic planning and bank account balancing.
This element of responsibility, specifically, can be lonely for
an entrepreneur. If you own it, you can find ways to achieve
work-life balance in a healthy and productive manner.
When I speak to groups of entrepreneurs, or those
considering joining this world, I make sure that they
recognize the reality of their career path. I see that they still
have a need for camaraderie.
Would the lonely lifestyle ever stop me from being an
entrepreneur? Never. That said, I now know that my
entrepreneurial experience leaves me with tools share. If
you’re like me, I encourage you to bring your experience
to help mentor and foster new entrepreneurs. After all, you
speak their language – just a little more proficiently!
Karen is a Director of Windsor Essex Capital Angel Network (WECAN), a
very valuable asset for regional entrepreneurs. For more information, see