Running a business is rewarding – not necessarily financially. More so than your employees you’re hostage to the fortune of the business, and it’s not uncommon for founders and owners to not take a salary in the early days or tough times. What you have is the sort of independence and agency it’s rare to enjoy as an employee – but it comes with tradeoffs. The risk of burnout is elevated, and the isolation of founders, CEOs and other business leaders is very much a recognised phenomena. Today we’re taking a look at that sense of isolation, and what you can do to counteract it.
The Risks of Isolation
The elevated position of the CEO comes with a sense of loneliness: when the buck stops with you, you can’t relate to anyone else on quite the same level. This can have negative effects for your business, and for your mental health: you need peers!
One way it can have an effect is on your decision making. Isolation and loneliness can lead to indecision, over-focus on small details and a lack of progress on the big issues your company is facing, simply because those big issues are overwhelming to face alone.
This can risk both your business in the long term, and your working relationships right away: alienating key employees through overmanagement because you’re frozen over a bigger issue can be a problem for your business even if that bigger issue is eventually solved.
Consultants can be a lifeline in this situation. As expert outsiders, they don’t fit into the structure of the employee/employer relationship. They function more as peers who can check and inform your decision making, and allow you to talk through your plans with experts who, unlike your employees, won’t be directly affected by them.
The benefits can last a long time, too: developing a competitor strategy with input from consultants means you have a guide to stick to when you come to those big issues that might set back a less prepared CEO. You can move forward quickly and decisively!
A Network of Peers
Networking isn’t just useful when you want to advance your career. We overlook its function as a basic social need. Attending business events, conference and seminars helps you meet other people in leadership positions. As long as you’re not in direct competition – so from a different industry or different area – this can be the release valve you need. A network of peers who understand how demanding it is to run a business, and with whom you can share your worries and discuss ideas without giving away an advantage.