Those of a certain age may recall a book from the 1960’s by Alan Sillitoe called “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” and the film that was subsequently made starring Tom Courtney.
The tale was just a short story but both it and the film captured the grittiness and, yes, loneliness of life for the protagonist. I was reminded of this recently when I was running one of my Bristol Alternative Board meetings during the first month of the COVID-19 lockdown.
The meeting took place via Zoom technology as we were unable to meet in person, but everybody really welcomed the chance to catch up with their fellow Board members and see how they were feeling amidst the chaos that had descended with lockdown. It struck me, as everyone was chatting away to each other and sharing how the lockdown was impacting on them, that there was something very positive in the air. This was a group of friends, they started as business owners and had become friends, who were benefiting enormously from sharing their thoughts and fears at this exceptional time.
The Power of Like-Minded People
I’d always been a convert to the power of meeting with like-minded people and getting out of your own business bubble, but seeing the power of this at a much more intense time was incredible. The businesses within the group had experienced a range of impact from the lockdown. One had seen its turnover disappear overnight, another was working with vulnerable people and providing care and support. The latter business had seen the complexity of service delivery shoot up whilst having to support its staff as they delivered the service. Another was trying to deal with the uncertainty of their business model as it was tested for the first time only two years after starting the business. The two other businesses were feeling less extreme impacts but benefiting from the evidence that they weren’t as badly off as others were.
Out of this meeting came support from the most unexpected directions – The business that was impacted the most by the lockdown still found the time to help a fellow Board member source the hand cleansers that were essential for their business and in very short supply. It also allowed everyone to get some perspective on their situation and start to put in place tentative plans for the future, something that would not have happened if they’d just been sitting at home licking their wounds.
It really brought home to me that this group of business owners and leaders were not suffering from the loneliness that so many business owners experience and they were benefiting enormously from this fact. It just shows what business owners can learn from each other.
Tips for avoiding loneliness:
So, if you are running your business without any support from outside your business, I strongly encourage you to connect with other business owners so that you can share the burden, particularly at this time. You can do this in a structured way via an organisation like The Alternative Board, or in an informal way, but either way you will benefit enormously if you can ensure you:
• Don’t become isolated
• Be receptive to thoughts and ideas from outside of your own bubble, and
• Share your troubles and your successes
This will enable you to be more resilient and proactive during times like this and ensure you avoid the loneliness of being a long distance business owner.
Here are four more tips on how to help combat loneliness in business.