As a business owner myself, there is no shortage of fears and worries that I either want to ignore or don’t know who I can talk about them with. It has morphed over the years, and I definitely feel more comfortable talking about deeper issues and concerns, but it has taken me a long time to get to this point.
In retrospect, it was many times pride, fear of failure, and other times just the lack of someone (other than my wife) to talk to. After a few years of dumping on my wife, and some counseling, we concluded it wasn’t good for our relationship. Close friends may not be a good alternative either, because many times they just don’t have the experience or perspective to offer much value or guidance. Key employees are also generally not good choices due to confidentiality and the potential for your raw thoughts to be shared with other third parties.
But make no mistake, friend or no friends, these fears and worries are real and go home with the business owner every night, whether or not you consciously think about them.
The funny thing is, business owners are generally an optimistic bunch, and we really would much prefer to just focus 150% on running and growing our business and not waste energy on things out of our control. However, this mentality only creates a false sense of security that can easily unwind into unintended consequences; namely, we aren’t really prepared for the uncertain future that awaits all of us.
So, here are three fears you may want pay much closer attention to:
- Feeling isolated at the top—no one to talk to or be real with. Advisory boards can be great, but are not always the best venue for processing your inner concerns, hopes, and dreams. Unsure about whom to trust and with what information? Concerned that if you trust someone with confidential information about the business it could get leaked? The need for a true confidant to listen to your joys and disappointments without an agenda and to hold you accountable is invaluable.
- What if something bad happens?—get sick, die, divorce. Who is asking you the hard questions without sugar coating it? Is there a contingency plan to address these unfortunate potential events so your wife, family, and key employees aren’t left with a big mess to clean up? Does someone know you and your situation well enough to help guide your choices that will impact your life and business?
- Burnout caused by an out-of-balance life. Who are you without the business? Is there an overarching plan or legacy for all this hard work and time? Consider a broader view of your wealth that includes intellectual, financial, social, family, and spiritual capital. Many times the business and financial capital is well developed and other areas of life are immature.
I have lots of experience with these fears and many others and have carried them around for years. It was about 3 years ago that I finally realized the importance of facing them head on. The benefits have come in the form of lower stress, greater life satisfaction, and a clearer purpose and meaning for my life.
If you have questions about my journey in this area, please drop me a note and let’s grab coffee. I’d be happy to share my story.