Note: This is an updated version of a blog post from December 2020. Check that post out here.
The pandemic changed a lot of our daily habits, and many of them haven’t come back to their pre-pandemic levels. Business travel, for example, is increasing slowly, but nowhere near what it was in 2019. And it likely won’t return to those pre-pandemic numbers. That is thanks to apps like Zoom, which saw an increase in revenue of 319% in 2020 and 53% in 2021. In 2022, revenue has been flatter, but still five times higher than it was in 2019.
Not surprisingly, ecommerce sales increased dramatically during the pandemic, up 43% from 2019 to 2020. And it is only expected to continue on that path, with an expected growth rate of 56% from 2021 to 2026, according to Statista.
One other big change that has been taking place – we are all spending more time alone. According to a US Census Bureau Time Use Survey, we were already trending in that direction before COVID, spending just under 4 hours per week alone vs with friends or companions in 2019. That number ticked up to nearly 9 hours per week in 2020 and just over 9 hours in 2021.
“Feels like I’m on an island”
And if you are a business owner, chances are you were already feeling somewhat lonely and isolated. A Harvard Business Review study showed that half of CEOs report feeling lonely in their role. And another poll showed that entrepreneurs are more stressed and more worried than other workers. And that was before COVID!
For you small business owners reading my post, I hear you. It’s lonely at the top of your small business. And it’s also lonely if you are a solopreneur, even if you’re not really “on top” of anything or anyone. You are still solo – making all the decisions on your own as you work to grow your business.
So how do you find connections and feel less lonely when you are the one wearing all the hats in your business?
And where do you find peers who understand where you’re coming from and are there to support you as you muster your way through the coming year of inflation, interest rate increases, and never-ending supply chain issues?
Don’t be a lonely business owner! Here are some ways to connect.
Look for live or virtual networking or coffee-talk events – or set up your own
With COVID cases on the rise, along with the flu, and for those with kids, RSV, we are experiencing what is being called a “tripledemic” right now. This might cause you to hesitate before hopping on that plane or even attending that big local networking event.
But don’t let it stop you from making connections. You just need to know where to look. For example, you might be surprised at the number of live networking opportunities available on Linked In these days. Check out some of the options and make some new connections! Just do a keyword search in Linked In, and then pick the “Events” filter to see what’s going coming up.
The great thing about these virtual events is that it doesn’t matter where you live. I have made connections with people all over the world through virtual events, and I would never have had that opportunity if my networking had stayed local.
But speaking of local – don’t neglect your fellow small business owners in your own community. Depending on your COVID comfort level, you can certainly meet your peers in person as well. Do you have business associates you miss chatting with? Or a coffee group or lunch group you don’t get to see anymore? Maybe it’s time to reconnect in person! It can be a nice break in your day to have a friendly conversation with no action items included. Set up a regular meeting to give yourself a break from all those emails!
Also check out Eventbrite to see what’s going on in person or online – or see what your local Chamber of Commerce or other traditional networking organizations have to offer.
Reach out to your fellow business owners and set up a mastermind group
If you’re looking for something more formal and motivating than a friendly chat with business buddies, then perhaps you should consider putting together a mastermind group instead. Don’t be intimidated by the term “mastermind” – it’s not actually a brand name. The term was originally coined by Napoleon Hill in his “Think and Grow Rich” book, an inspirational book on success originally published in 1937.
All you need to do is find one or two business owners, ideally at about the same stage or size as your business, and agree to meet on a regular basis. Mastermind groups typically meet weekly or every other week. Your group members can offer you the support you need as a small business owner, along with advice, an outsider’s perspective, a chance to celebrate your wins, and a way to hold yourself accountable.
In a similar vein, I currently meet every Friday with my “Get it Done” group. The four of us have set aside 90 minutes every Friday to work on tasks we have been avoiding. We tell the group about our dreaded task, and then we each turn off our cameras and mics and get to work. An hour later, we report back in on how we made out. It’s hard to procrastinate when you are in a group like this!
Anyone can start a mastermind or “Get it Done” group. Just look for a few small business owners who are interested in joining you.
There are, of course, paid mastermind groups out there as well. But in my opinion, just making a simple commitment to a couple other business owners looking to grow with you is all the support you need.
Consider a Business Owners Roundtable Group
Another way to connect AND find help with decision making and accountability, is through a Roundtable Group or Peer Group. If you are the founder or owner of your business and you are the one in charge of making strategic decisions, then a group like this can be a tremendous value.
Most groups are run similarly. There is a facilitator to make sure that everyone stays on topic, no one dominates the conversation, the meeting starts and ends on time, and the discussion is productive. The members of the peer group are from non-competing businesses that ideally also do not do business together.
The goal of these groups is to give business owners a place to share their worries and concerns, and to discuss them with others who understand their situation. Many of the conversations touch on the personal lives of the business owner, because if you own your own business, business and personal typically become intertwined.
While mastermind groups can be free and self-created, a successful Peer Group typically requires a financial commitment and a facilitator.
Peer Groups can help members increase their growth rate and operating margin as compared to the industry average, and generally experience better business results. And, of course, business owners in these groups now know that they’re not the only ones experiencing the problems they encounter, and that they can all help each other by sharing experiences, successes, and concerns on an ongoing basis.
Check with your business community partners to see if there is a roundtable group being run near you, or look for an online option to help connect you with business owners outside of your geographic region.
It’s only lonely at the top if you aren’t connecting with your peers. Don’t be a lonely business owner! Start making connections!
Are you ready to join a virtual roundtable group? Learn Start Grow is starting new groups in early 2023. Learn more about SoloPeers, a group for solopreneurs, Business+Personal Peer Groups for spouses running a business together. Coming soon – D2C and B2B Industrial Manufacturing peer groups. Contact me to get your name added to the waiting list.