Work & Wellbeing

Being an entrepreneur: How to overcome a culture of loneliness

6 min read

28 February 2019

When you start a business with friends, the camaraderie can be thrilling. But, when you go off and start something alone very different sorts of feelings manifest, the main one is loneliness. Whilst having these feelings often comes with being an entrepreneur, there are things you can do to combat them, I give you five tips to beat the blues whilst working alone.

Access to funding, a risk-averse lending climate and cashflow problems are just some of the most common issues that start-ups can face when trying to get their business off the ground.

According to a recent study by the Enterprise Research Centre, just over 57% of UK start-ups were still in business three years after being founded. The report pointed towards a number of different factors to explain why this was the case, including access to transport, a skilled workforce and a divide between rural and urban areas among them. However, these are just a number of the challenges entrepreneurs face, and not all of the stumbling blocks are monetary.

Loneliness: The entrepreneurial issue that isn’t talked about

There are, however, other factors that can stifle start-up growth which doesn’t get talked about as often. As we all know, launching a business takes a lot of faith in yourself, particularly if you’re a sole founder.

One of the things I faced in the early days of StepLadder was loneliness

Prior to launching StepLadder, I founded a business with three friends from university. The comradery and teamwork we had was missing when I started my next business alone. It meant that what had once been managed as part of a team – working together in an office– was suddenly gone. Long-term loneliness is considered to be as bad for your health as well-established health risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity and lack of physical activity.

From a business perspective, being the only one in the company means there’s no one to discuss ideas with, vent to when stressed or simply chat about last night’s TV. We’re social animals, and according to research from Barclays, I’m not the only start-up founder that’s ever felt lonely. 37% of entrepreneurs experienced feelings of loneliness while working from home.

Fortunately, there are a number of steps that company founders can take to beat these feelings and help drive their business forward. My top tips are:

1. Get out of the house

I’m most productive when using multiple spaces. Firstly, I’m more motivated and encouraged to finish the job in hand when I’ve made the effort to go somewhere specifically and do it. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, I’ve found another space alters my state-of-mind, offering a more positive outlook on things when I’m around different people. Of course, my kitchen table still has its place, but when I can feel myself getting lonely, I always try somewhere else to mix things up and make new connections.

2. Find something tangible to tackle

Starting your own business is exciting but it can also be daunting. At times, there can appear to be a mountain of work and no way of doing it all. Here’s where compartmentalising the different jobs at hand can be a simple, effective way to becoming more productive. For me, this has made work much more manageable whenever I’ve felt alone.

3. Share problems

As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. I try to make the most of the connections I have. That might be speaking to an ‘expert’ in a field such as marketing or banking. Other times, it could be chatting things over with a friend over a coffee or a pint. Whether it’s practical advice or simply words of encouragement, a fresh perspective can unlock new motivation to tackle any challenge.

4. Consider co-founders

StepLadder wouldn’t be where it is today without my co-founder Peter Rushton. He offers another perspective and means the workload is shared. Company is essential when brainstorming and coming up with creative ideas and in many cases, a partner will bring different skill-sets to the business that you might not necessarily have.

5. Move into a co-working space:

Once up and running, consider moving into a co-working space like Rise or Barclays Eagle Lab that provide a collaborative space for start-ups and offer a creative environment that’ll greatly expand professional networks.

The only way businesses make money is by connecting with others. As a founder, it’s vital that you can draw on a wide network to sustain and motivate you. Your customers come first but suppliers, advisors and partners are also significant.

We live in the most connected moment in history to-date but spending all our time by ourselves at home won’t help our companies grow. Everyone will have their own experience, but in mine getting out of the house, trying new environments and meeting new people are key to long-term happiness and business success.