Business Leader campaign: Feeling alone as an entrepreneur and the importance of working

Christine MacKay founded salamandra.uk in 2014, a multi award-winning animation studio that specialises in animation for business (B2B) and visual problem-solving. Having worked both client and agency side on three continents, Christine has expert knowledge in building collaborative, frictionless teams, developing a strong company culture, and, as a serial networker, cross-pollinating businesses. As part of Business Leader’s campaign to support entrepreneurs, she provided this article.

Having always had a visual memory and an affinity for imagery – from my first childhood crush on the cartoon character, Marine Boy, to a deep emotional response eliciting welling eyes at Botticelli’s Primavera in Florence – I founded my multi award-winning B2B animation studios, salamandra.uk in 2014 to help businesses convey their complex messages visually.

At the time, I had only just settled back in England after expating around the globe for twenty years, and consequently found myself without any business contacts or connections here in the UK – which, as most businesspeople know, plays an integral part in getting a business off the ground. It certainly didn’t help that animation as a medium wasn’t so common within B2B communication, and I found myself a lone voice in the industry, crossing into relatively unchartered territory, armed only with a vision and inextinguishable passion and drive.

Being an entrepreneur is a lonely business at the best of times, but this was exacerbated by instead of building a business from existing connections and contacts, to doing it from a standing start. And the first two years of running salamandra.uk were probably the hardest of my professional career because of this. But a conviction in what you are doing and offering and a willingness to reach out and network, and connect others, helps to build up that network and start to get known.

Building your network

Though this can be a slow process at a time when you should be concentrating on getting the work and money over the line. So, it means juggling many things in the air and finding enough energy reserves to do this continuously. I recommend joining industry and business associations, and networking and finding speaking opportunities as much as possible. Also offering to make introductions and enthusiastically helping to connect others makes you feel better and helps with making firm business connections.

Even though seven and a half years have passed since then, and my studios have grown far beyond my expectations, I’ll never forget what it took to get here. Not only the pressure, nor the uncertainty – both of which are ongoing themes in my dreams – but the importance of working, staying engaged and having purpose. And I don’t just mean delivering your service or product, but what drives you to run a business in the first place.

I always likened what I do to a massive ongoing game of monopoly, and if you consider your business as your best hobby rather than a chore, it can become even more rewarding, because your approach is one of enjoyment, creativity and fun! That approach also opens up your positivity and mind to opportunities.

Feeling alone as an entrepreneur is, unfortunately, something that many new business owners and professionals are subjected to. But the important thing to remember – and what I’m ultimately leaving you with – is that the success of your business is only partly down to the investment of others. If you don’t personally invest, both physically and mentally, in your own business to begin with, the foundation won’t be there to enable growth and longevity.

Salamandra.uk is offering a free briefing session and 10% off a corporate animation, whether that be in 2D, 3D, AR, VR or anything in between. Please contact hello@salamandra.uk and editor@businessleader.co.uk quoting this article or check us out at www.salamandra.uk.

All responses and advice on this topic will be added below!

Feeling alone as an entrepreneur

Comments from Martin Spiller

Nobody prepares you, no matter how much you read or who you talk to, for the change when you become the founder of a business.  Suddenly, you must know the answer to the most challenging questions, and even if you have a co-founder or team, you can often have no one to turn to, particularly if the problem that you are facing links directly to them.

This challenge has only got bigger during the last 18-24 months during the various lockdowns. It has become abundantly clear that a lot of entrepreneurs and business leaders have really lost their mojo, as I have witnessed in my role as a part-time member of faculty at The Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship at Cranfield University, leading a number of courses including Peer Networks and Ready for Scale.

Perhaps because of the pressures on the businesses caused by COVID-19. Or perhaps it is because many businesses shifted to a working from home operating model, making it harder for entrepreneurs to separate their work and home lives. Either way, entrepreneurs appear to feel more isolated than perhaps ever before, impacting on their love for their business, which in most cases, will affect business performance. After all, if you don’t love your business, how can others be expected to?

The usual fallback option for most entrepreneurs is simply to work harder, but as Henry Ford said in this instance it will probably be “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”  Therefore, for me, there are three key steps you can take which can help you break the cycle and feel less lonely:

Step 1 – You are not alone

The first step to take is to realise that you are not on your own. Lots of entrepreneurs feel this way, so build up your business peer group in the same way that you have your friendship circle. There are lots of ways to do it, such as joining peer learning groups like The Supper Club or getting involved in your local Federation of Small Business chapter, or even reaching out to businesses in your office or on your street can provide support and show that you aren’t the only one.

A problem shared is a problem halved and all that…

Step 2 – What’s new pussycat?

Do something new personally or professionally, just ensure that you break the day-to-day by challenging yourself and allowing your mind to take a break from the routine. Obviously, I would recommend one of Cranfield’s business courses, but there are lots of things you can do, from a range of different sources, and you will be surprised at the ideas you generate from not doing the same thing repeatedly.

Step 3 – I need a plan

Make sure you have a plan to keep you from feeling lonely, to keep you working on your business, not in it, and to keep your mojo. Research suggests that it takes 50 repetitions or 21 days in order to form a habit, so make sure you have a plan to keep recognising the signs of loneliness and to take steps to prevent it.

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