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Edition 159 – Loneliness

In my 30 years of working with family business, one of the greatest impediments to success that I’ve observed is loneliness. Let me explain.

Every family business owner spends their day surrounded by people, noise and activity. On the face of it, they’re not lonely at all. Gee, they don’t even have time to be lonely.

However, I’ve observed plenty of these family business owners who are lonely simply because they don’t have the support of someone close to them.

I’ve seen family business owners whose spouse doesn’t work in the business. For the most part, not being a part of the day to day means they don’t see what is happening, why it’s happening and why the owner feels and acts the way they do about what happens in the business. However, and this is the important part, they can still act as a contributor to the success of the family business (and therefore, their own family) if they provide support, comfort, guidance and offer a counter viewpoint to their family business owner spouse.

On the other hand, I’ve seen relationships where the spouse offers no support or comfort whatsoever. They only question, usually negatively, what is happening and provide feedback that is mostly unhelpful and counter productive.

It is in these relationships where the family business owners are lonely. Some of them simply can’t deal with the element of being judged by their spouse for what is happening in the business, or making poor decisions, or always bringing home a raft of problems. So, they don’t bring it home and, in essence, shut off that part of their life from their relationship with their spouse.

Except, that is not healthy for the family business owner, the business or indeed the relationship.

If the key person in your life is second guessing you and questioning why you bother doing what you do every day, you’ll eventually be worn down. So you say nothing and, in the process, only have the conversation with yourself, in your own head, rather than with someone you know, love and trust.

Every family business that I’ve ever dealt with where a spouse is completely disinterested in the business, or criticises you in your business, rarely succeeds. Put simply, it is an emotion the owner can never quite put out of their mind because their spouse is the voice of doubt that sits on their shoulder.

Similarly, there are people in life who are not in relationships – some by choice and some by chance. For those family business owners, unless they have a very close relationship with someone in their family, usually a parent or a sibling, they too will struggle in business. Single family business owners need to have the ability to talk with someone they can trust, implicitly.

My first piece of advice today is this. If your spouse doesn’t support you in your quest to be in business, you need to have a conversation with them about what you need from them and why you need it. If they won’t, either your family business won’t succeed to the potential it could have, or your relationship will never be as fulfillling – or both.

My second piece of advice is for single family business owners. Have the hard conversation with someone in your family that you are close to about why you need their support, and how lonely life in business can be. Let them know that you need to have someone close to you, that you can trust, to be able to bounce things off, without judging you.

Verbalising, to someone close to you, what you’re thinking about your business is important in terms of resilience, eliminating self doubt and achieving your true potential.