People choose to be entrepreneurs because they want to go their own way, but with that decision come the problems of isolation.
Professor Michel Safars says that business founders should think seriously about their relationships: forming new ones with mentors who understand the pressures they are under and managing their existing ones with friends and family. “I frankly believe everybody needs a mentor,” he says. “It’s a way to fight against isolation and loneliness. To do without one is not an option, but it takes time to find a good one.”
Having a mentor who can listen to your business struggles can take the pressure off your other relationships, leaving you free to decide what to tell your family and friends about the business. This can provide a significant psychological benefit, says Professor Safars. By downplaying the business with people close to you, you can reduce the emotional cost of failure and worry less about how they will see you. Professor Safars recommends finding a mentor who shares many of your characteristics – such as gender and cultural background – but has at least 15 years more experience. “It’s a very personal choice,” he says.
Founders can also seek out accelerators and incubators, organisations which support fledgling companies with mentorship, teaching and finance. Researching their track record is essential, however. “Putting several companies together solves a bit of the loneliness of the entrepreneur, so they learn from each other a lot,” says Professor Safars. “The problem is there is a wide variety of levels of these guys.” Even with all this support, there’s only one person who can make the final decisions: you. Professor Safars says a strong CEO needs to find the balance between listening too little or too much. “You should have some periods of time when you listen a lot and then you make up your own mind and you stop listening so much or else you can never move,” he says. “Once you have your own opinion, then you stop listening and you do the things the way you like.
“Even with all this support, there’s only one person who can make the final decision: you.” ~MICHEL SAFARS, AFFILIATE PROFESSOR OF STRATEGY AND BUSINESS POLICY AT HEC PARIS
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LEARNING FROM THE EXPERTS: HOW TO START YOUR OWN BUSINESS