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Tuesday, Mar. 7th 2023

Entrepreneur Loneliness: You are not Alone!

Entrepreneur Loneliness

Entrepreneurship loneliness isn’t the first thing you think of when becoming an entrepreneur. If you are like me, you think about being in charge of your own schedule or how you are going to make the world a better place. There are so many good things, but also know it can be very lonely. The loneliness of business ownership hit home in a big way for me last week.

It had been 10 months since I saw the owner of the take out place just down the street from my office. The owner’s charisma was still there. However, something was off. To put in bluntly, he looked awful. He was puffy and he got some little things wrong with my order. We made a plans to meet soon to discuss the furniture plans for his 2nd location. He had bought a building and was completely renovating it. I came home and couldn’t shake the feeling that all was not well. I planned what I would say at our meeting and how I would navigate the conversation to his health and that maybe the expansion wasn’t the best idea.

In the next 2 weeks, I called and e-mailed to meet. Nothing. I never heard back from him. Then, 3 weeks later, he passed away at 39. This business owner that everybody loved was gone. The comments on his business facebook page were filled with shock. It reminded me of the entrepreneur loneliness.

Years ago, I owned a franchise. Within days of owning the franchise, I knew it was a mistake. Thousands and thousands of dollars and 2 years later, it was still a mistake. I just couldn’t figure out how to get out. During that painful time of trying to save a struggling business, I was so lonely. Friends assumed I was living the dream. I couldn’t tell them that I had just put the few thousand dollars I had left into making payroll.  I did go to a therapist during those difficult times.  She told me I was in a situational depression.  Once the situation changed, I would be fine and she was right.   

Luckily, I sold the franchise for a big loss. I was out from under it. I had less than $3,000 left in my savings and 401K. Ouch! The day I was done with the business was the first night I finally slept the entire night in 2 years. I still had a lot of work to do on overcoming the feeling of failure. If I am being honest, the failure feeling was brutal. There was no way I could sugar coat it to myself. I had failed big time. This book I bought on Amazon helped. Great Failures of the Extremely Successful  I wanted to read about other folks that failed but weren’t failures.  I wanted to feel successful again!  

We can’t be afraid to fail. A failure we learn from is never a failure at all

~ Walt Disney

This story ends well for me. I went to work as a commission sales person in the commercial furniture business. 17 years later I am still in the industry with a dealership of my own. All these years later though, I remember vividly the pain of that failed business.

Since finding out my friend was gone, there have been so many conversations among other business owners that knew him. It was all there in front of us. He was struggling. Owning a business is stressful and you add the expansion he was planning, it would have been extra stressful. Could we have done more?

One of business owners and I talked about them opening a coffee shop that failed. They knew within 3 months, but kept trying. Finally, after 6 months, they closed the shop. I told them I admired them for shutting down and knew how hard that decision was. She said her and her husband still talk about all the stress it caused. She said just the day before a friend asked about the coffee shop and it still stings telling friends they closed it. However, that sting is nothing in comparison to the freedom and not having the stress of losing money every month.

I saved this podcast from 2 Kansas City CEOS talking about Founder Depression. It is their most popular podcast. It isn’t surprising to me. When you are going thru the pain of a struggling business, it isn’t your friends and family you go to for help. You go to google. It was months before I could talk about my failing franchise with those closest to me.

If you are the owner of a struggling business, here are key steps on how to close a business. Take the emotion out of closing the business and do what is best for you and your health.

And, if you are country western fan, this was the song that helped me. “If you are going through hell” by Rodney Atkins.

I regret that my friend and I didn’t connect in those final 3 weeks. If you know a business owner where something seems off, don’t wait…say something.

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