This week (9 to 15 May 2022) is Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) in the UK. The theme this year is loneliness, which is something likely to strike a chord with lots of Supper Club members and others across the founder community. Despite often presenting as confident extroverts, many founders suffer from a wide range of mental health issues, one of the chief ones being the sense that they are completely on their own and that no-one around them understands them.
We want to understand more about founder mental health and launched a poll to start to collect the data that will allow us to begin to paint a picture of the mind and mental health of founders.We know that founders often feel frustrated, thinking that no-one else really understands what they are going through. If they have a senior team they don't really know what it means to be the founder and spouses and families don't understand the pressure of business. The fact "no-one else gets it or wants it as much as you" is one of the primary founder frustrations identified by Gino Wickman in Traction.
This highlights well the fact that loneliness is much more than being on your own. Plenty of people are alone and happy to be so, with many more wishing they could get more 'me' time. True loneliness is that terrifying sense of isolation and lack of connection with others. And, while it may have become a cliché, you can alone in a crowd. Or lonely at the head of a fast-growing business.
Founding and running a business can be a soul-destroying and lonely experience. There is immense pressure to succeed. This simple pressure, without anyone to share the burden, can morph into something darker, more akin to anxiety. This is one way the presence of one or more co-founders can help. It can ease the burden, although to be honest in some cases co-founders bring a range of other challenges with them. (Perhaps that should be a subject for another day).
As a business grows, the more likely senior staff will come on board who are able to offer assistance. But unless they are given a meaningful slice of ownership, they remain employees and will rarely think exactly like a founder. It will always be just a job. For founders, it is almost always more than that. To misquote the great Bill Shankly, business success for founders is not a matter of life and death, but something more important.
Along with any ego-driven pressure to make it a success, there are often significant financial stakes at play, which only grow as the company expands and more employees depend on its survival and success. But there are ways for founders to get the help and assistance to avoid the sense that they are alone and that no one else gets it.
Just as no one else “getting it” was identified by Gino Wickman, so he considers implementation of EOS to be the best way to overcome all the frustrations, including loneliness. Creating a shared vision, and offering your team the means to get involved, can help overcome that sense of alienation.
Here at The Supper Club we know another way to reduce or remove that isolation is to join a club or network of like-minded founders and start to interact with them at events. Club's like The Supper Club exist purely to help build connections and forge introductions at the point you need them most. So, no matter what you are going through you can be among a tight-knit group of founders who know what you are going through and who can help alleviate that sense of being on your own. Of course, as well as helping to reduce or remove the feeling of loneliness, you will also equip yourself with the skills, tips and insights to help you accelerate growth.