I was told that going out and starting a business was “brave” and “courageous.” After all, it’s a lonely road and it all comes down to you alone.

It sounded awful, to be honest.

I was already alone in my job at the time. And my colleagues were, frankly, not people I wanted to know any better. It was a toxic and mentally unhealthy place to work.

Yet, that “alone” thing couldn’t have been further from the truth when it came to my business journey.

In fact, this “lonely journey” has led me to being more connected than ever to people.

5 ways business owners can be better connected

  • Can’t find a networking group? Start your own at your premises or a cafe.
  • Partner with those who serve your target with different services.
  • Join a closed referral group like BNI, Bx, KBN, etc. They work.
  • Attend Chamber of Commerce of peak industry body events.
  • Comment on the posts of others on LinkedIn to start a relationship with them.

The myth of the lonely trailblazing business owner

There is such a false story being peddled about business owners being out on their own being brave pioneers.

The fact is that there were 2,569,900 active businesses in Australia in June last year.

So business ownership, while not being the default way that people make money in this country, isn’t exactly uncommon.

So are all those 2.6 million people “courageous” and “trailblazers?”

Of course not. Commerce has been around since we learned how to communicate with each other. It’s a natural thing for us to do.

The Larrakia, Yolŋu and other northern Australian indigenous groups were trading with each other for tens of thousands of years. They were trading with merchants from Sulawesi in Indonesia for at least the last 1000 years.

The First Fleet only landed 235 years ago.

So doing business is nothing new.

And given the examples above, it’s not lonely. It literally brings people together.

It takes a network to raise a business

By its very nature, a business can’t exist on its own.

A business needs customers. They are people.It needs suppliers. They are people. It needs workers. They are people.

So what exactly is it that is lonely about owning or running a business?

It’s only lonely because we choose to make it that way. And I’m talking about men, specifically.

There is some dysfunction in modern men that has us thinking that we have to be able to do it all ourselves. We should never have to ask for help. We must have all the answers. And learning to be better at it means that we are somehow a failure.

There is a lot wrong with men right now. This rugged individualism bullshit we’ve bought into doesn’t work. It just turns us into bitter, lonely fools.

I did originally buy into this Courageous Business Owner myth. Then I joined my first business network, a BNI group on the Gold Coast back in 2016. I learned how to work with others, sell myself and lean on my group to help grow my business. It was eye-opening just how much people were able to succeed by being connected to others.

Returning to Darwin in 2017 I couldn’t find a similar group, so I formed my own. Some of the people I met at that very first meeting are some of my greatest supporters now, and I consider them to be not only colleagues, but friends.

I would not be where I am now, if it was not for the people I made connections with back in 2017 when I started my own networking group.

Not everyone will be in it for the same reasons as you

Yes, sometimes there is a big bad wolf outside the door.

I will admit that, as nice and cosy as all this sounds, not everyone I’ve met has been in it for the same reasons as I was.

Someone came into that business network once who was looking to take it over and lead it in their own direction.

I’ve had people selling scams and schemes under the guise of “wellbeing” and “business opportunities.”

And I’ve had others who literally were there to undermine me and try to discredit me.

Wherever you get humans, you’ll get some of that. But would I stop doing what I am doing because of the underhanded behaviour of four people out of the 2000 or so that I’ve connected with?

Of course not.

Yet that is the mental game that so many of us play.

One bad interaction sends us into shutdown mode and we want to lock everyone out, claim that people suck and make out that you can only rely on yourself at the end of the day.

Come on, fella, you’re being a bit of a drama queen, aren’t you?

You don’t have to be a social butterfly

There’s no point trying to turn a Rhinoceros beetle into a social butterfly.

You are what you are. And while I reckon anyone should try and stretch themselves to try new stuff every now and then, some of us will need a lot of work before we’re taking the mic and revving up a crowd.

But running around claiming that being a business owner is lonely is a symptom of one thing: you chose to run your business that way.

The antidote is connection. And that involves actively showing up to things. I know networking feels like hell to some people. So tag along with someone you know.

If you’re in Darwin, hell, come to that event with me. We can be awkward together. But I know a few people around the joint and I reckon I could introduce you to a few that could be good for you to know.

Or start on LinkedIn. I’ve found myself connecting with some pretty great people on there that are local, national and international. You don’t have to be full of wisdom and posting content. Just connect with me, see who’s connected to me and I’ll introduce you to them.

Connection is not weakness. Community is not failure. Being new to somewhere isn’t lonely when you know at least one person.

Trying to do it all yourself is not what it’s cracked up to be.

It just makes things harder.