The Blog

The Unexpected Loneliness Of The Business Owner


No water cooler banter for you, business owner, just the hard graft and isolation of being the sole person in the business responsible for everything.

I jest.

But for many that is a reality.

In fact according to the Federation of Small Business, in 2016, there were 1.3 million employing businesses and 4.2 million non-employing businesses.

Meaning 76% of businesses did not employ anyone aside from the owner.

Yes, it can be extremely liberating to be a business owner or sole trader. We're all metaphorically leaping around shouting "Freedom" like Mel Gibson in Braveheart. Except in much nicer circumstances.

It's exciting. It's rewarding. We're generally doing what we love. (*virtual high fives to all you business owners and sole traders reading*)

It can certainly have benefits like flexible working, and not having to get permission for holiday. No rushing to get your dates down on the calendar at the beginning of January before anyone else books it off!

We choose our commute, from the bedroom to the kitchen table, home office, or ShedQuarters in the garden.

And we know the trade-off can be working all the hours God sends because you have no one to hand-over to.

But who knew it could be lonely?

It's not something people necessarily think about when starting up a business, but I've seen it happen.

A cross party commission has been set up in memory of murdered MP Jo Cox this week to tackle "the Silent Epidemic of Loneliness". Because it needs to be taken seriously.

As a new mum I remember feeling lonely. It wasn't something I'd thought about or expected, but I've come to realise it's common.

Isolated. Trapped between nap time and feeds. Not able to get out and see anyone. I had one of those babies who wouldn't nap in a pram, meaning I had to stay at home for my sanity saving nap time.

You don't mess with it.

You need that nap time!

There were days when I really did feel alone.

Yes, I had my baby, but I was severely lacking in adult conversation.

Not unlike the plight of the solopreneur.

As humans, we weren't built to live an isolated existence, yet many of us are choosing to do so.

And often we choose to do so because of the flexibility we need to look after our families.

If we are not able to find an employer who can offer us work we enjoy, with the kind of flexibility we need, we set up on our own.

It makes sense. With so many people setting up on their own (4.2 million in 2016) our working culture is changing.

When you're working with a team in an office, there is a certain camaraderie. You've probably got some "work friends" you like, and some you don't. But there's always someone there to talk to or bounce an idea off. To share the latest drama with, or let off steam after you've kept your cool with really rude customer.

There's someone to listen. To hear you. And to talk back.

According to research from AXA Insurance almost 50% of home-based business owners say they often suffer from loneliness because of too much time spent in their own company with no one to talk to about their business concerns.

Only 14% of home business owners said they were able to discuss their business worries with family and friends

So if you're not one of the 14% what do you do?

I truly believe that working alone doesn't need to be lonely.

Some of us are likely missing good old conversation. Having people around to bounce ideas off and sense check things with. And missing that feeling of community.

In my bid to tackle the isolation, I've set up free new community for Business Owners "The Business Owners Conversation Club" which I hope grows in to a place where business owners come to share their experiences, have someone to talk to and be listened to by others in the same boat.

I appreciate it's not 'in person' conversation, I'll leave that solution to the brilliant "The Business Café" franchise, but importantly "The Business Owners Conversation Club" will connect people with people who have an understanding of what it feels like to be a business owner. Flexibly and virtually.

Creating a virtual support community that is so valuable to those of us who work alone.

Because working alone doesn't need to be lonely.

Lucy Griffin-Stiff is the Founder of Leading Conversations, a strategic communications & engagement consultancy and Starting Conversations, her new venture, that specifically helps Business Owners master their messaging and learn how to connect with the audience that matters to them. You can connect with Lucy@startingconv on twitter

Before You Go