Q: I recently started a business. I miss the social interaction I used to have working in an office. What can I do to feel more socially engaged?
A: Many small business owners find themselves feeling isolated when they leave the labor market to start a business, on their own, with no employees. Often they choose to work from home. Suddenly instead of having people around to talk with on breaks or in meetings they are alone. It’s natural for humans to want the company of others. Over the years, solo entrepreneurs have developed strategies to overcome the isolation.
The first strategy is to find a mentor to work with. This could be a colleague from the old job or an industry associate or an advisor from the local Small Business Development Center. Schedule a time to talk with your mentor about strategies they have used to overcome the same feelings you have now. Talking with a mentor will help relieve the loneliness and also provide answers to other business questions that come up.
Join a group of other entrepreneurs. This may be a civic organization or chamber of commerce or a coffee club formed to share business stories and get advice. This could even be a class at the local community college. Entrepreneurs working together are often able to help clarify a problem and brainstorm solutions. This is a chance to build new relationships and may even help develop sales opportunities.
Get involved in the community. Volunteering some time is an opportunity to think about others and may provide a chance to open new doors. One caveat of volunteering is to balance it with other places time needs to be spent. Operating a business has many priorities that must be addressed. If volunteering is taking too much time away from those priorities it’s not the right avenue to pursue. Volunteer time in those places that allow meeting prospective customers or suppliers for your business that way you are actually working while helping your community to improve.
Spend time with family and friends to create a healthy work/life balance. Having a successful business cannot replace important personal relationships. Spending time with loved ones can be energizing for both you and your business. Remember to balance personal and business time in a way that is healthy for you. The answer is setting priorities and following through on obligations without over committing.
No one answer is right for everyone. Just as with a job there are times for working independently and times for engaging in social activities. Finding the right solutions may take trial and error to find the right balance.
The SBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network, the Oregon Business Development Department and Southwestern Oregon Community College. Arlene M. Soto has been the Director of the Southwestern Small Business Development Center since July 2007. To ask a question call 541-888-7001, e-mail email@example.com, or write 1988 Newmark Ave., Coos Bay, OR 97420. Additional help is available at the OSBDCN Web page www.bizcenter.org.