*Estimated Read Time: Approximately 7 minutes
You had the best of intentions when you struck out on your own. Maybe you started as a paraplanner or junior advisor at a larger firm. Maybe you just knew in your gut that running your own financial planning practice was the path for you when you finished studying for your CFP® certification. In theory, being your own boss and running your business your way sounds glamorous. You think: I’ll have full control! I’ll get to make all the decisions, work with only the clients I love, and define what a work life balance looks like for my unique situation!
It’s true. There are definitely upsides to being your own boss. You do get to define who your ideal client is, what your work life balance should look like, how you want to engage with clients or set up fees, and, well, everything else. But sometimes making all the decisions gets to be lonely.
This might have come as a surprise to you as an entrepreneur. You work with so many different people in a day, it may feel like loneliness snuck up on you and attacked when you least expected it. The cruel fact is that we all get lonely sometimes.
I firmly believe that if you’re in a client-facing role, you get lonely. It’s not because you don’t love what you’re doing. It’s not even because you don’t have a supportive network available to cheer you on. It’s just because it’s emotionally wearing to sell services to a group of clients, expertly perform those services and add value to their lives, all while keeping your own ship from sinking. Doing all of that alone is literally the definition of lonely.
Remember: No Man (Or Woman) is an Island
It’s okay to be lonely. That doesn’t make you a bad business owner, or mean you aren’t cut out for this lifestyle. What it does mean is that you need to evaluate how you can build a team of people in your life who help you move past the loneliness and focus on what you’re good at - growing and thriving in your business! Determining the kind of support you need, and taking care of yourself accordingly is the best way to ensure the success of your firm.
The first thing you need to do is take some time and do some self-evaluation. While this isn’t the most fun and exciting activity, it’s important to know what areas of your business are causing you to feel isolated. It might be a generalized feeling, but more than likely it’s connected to one of two categories of business activities:
- Client-facing tasks.
- Non-client-facing tasks.
If you find that selling clients is wearing you out and making you want to throw in the towel, you might need to grow a team that helps support your client-facing activity (like sales, marketing, etc.). If you find that building financial plans, bookkeeping, or doing admin tasks is bleeding you dry, you need a team that can support you in non-client-facing ways.
Is an Ensemble Right For You?
If you find that you’re getting overwhelmed being the only person in a client-facing role, it might be time to consider building your firm into an ensemble rather than a solo-shop. This can be done in so many ways it’s crazy, so you’re bound to find something that works for you. A few ideas might be:
- Combining practices in a partnership with one or two other advisors and sharing back-office, contracted team members like paraplanners, marketing professionals, bookkeepers, and assistants.
- Growing your practice through an acquisition or merger.
- Hiring an additional advisor to work under your umbrella.
The beauty of an ensemble group is that you’re never in it by yourself. You’ll always have a business partner (or multiple partners) to keep you on track, encouraged, and to bounce ideas off of. You can even have someone who specializes in selling prospects, while someone else grows relationships with existing clients.
The options for division of labor are wonderfully varied, and you can create an ensemble of planners who bring different strengths to the table that compliment your own. Often times, it’s a best case scenario to conquer loneliness, grow your practice, and keep moving forward.
Growing a Back Office Team
If you find that you love client-facing work and the actual nitty-gritty of financial planning, you might be dealing with general burnout and loneliness that comes with the day-to-day of running your own business. One way to combat this is by growing a team of professionals to help you handle the back-office tasks that keep your business running like a well-oiled machine.
You have two key options here, and neither is right or wrong.
- Hiring salaried workers, like paraplanners or an assistant, to work with you in person or virtually.
- Contracting work out to professionals who can help take over the business-focused tasks that leave you feel like you’re drowning. This might include a bookkeeper, a virtual assistant who works for you a few hours a week, a business coach to keep you on track, or a marketer to build and execute your strategy.
Having a salaried employee working for your business might help you solidify the “team” aspect you’re craving, but you truly can find that same “team” feeling with a team of well-coordinated contractors. The real key is finding someone who fits your business model, your values, and is willing to take over the tasks that are leaving you feeling zapped. Establish communication expectations with them to ensure everyone is on the same page (and that you’re actually talking to other humans about running your business - which will help reduce your loneliness).
Other Solutions: Accountability Partners, and More
If you’re not feeling ready to contract out work or grow your team, that’s okay. There are other ways to get you involved and reduce that “one is the loneliest number” feeling you’re currently battling. First, we’ll need to circle back to getting introspective for a minute. What about your business is making you feel lonely? The type of groups and people you seek out will need to support you in a way that effectively gets rid of this feeling - and different groups will help you in different ways.
I recommend study groups to just about every advisor I talk to. Whether you hook your wagon to a study group that already exists, or you seek out advisors who are in similar places with their practices as you are and build a new group - I think they’re a phenomenal idea. A study group can help you feel less alone when running your business, have a defined group of people to reach out to when you’re having problems, and be a catalyst for growth and new ideas that you wouldn’t have been able to think up on your own.
If you’re looking for a relationship with someone that’s a little bit more one-on-one, I recommend seeking out an accountability partner. If you find a business owner you connect with, either locally or virtually, see if they’d be interested in that kind of relationship. Set times up to connect and go over goals, what’s working in your businesses and what’s not, and any other areas of concern you want to discuss.
One thing I like to remind advisors of is that this partner doesn’t have to be a financial planner. Heck, they don’t even have to be in the finance industry! If you want a financial planning partner, that’s wonderful. Reach out on message boards, or in the XY Planning Network VIP Facebook Community to find someone. But having an accountability partner who isn’t in the industry can be just as helpful. Sometimes it’s nice to get a fresh perspective from someone who runs a business that isn’t finance-focused. You might be surprised at what you learn!
Renting an Office Space
If you think that working from home is the root cause of your loneliness - it’s time to take charge and change that! Invest in renting a full-time office space. Or, if the funds don’t cover full-time rent, consider seeking out a shared office space where you rent a room, cubicle, or desk space for a set number of days a month. If the funds don’t cover that either, head to a local coffee shop a few times a week. Sometimes just being around other people is enough to break you out of your funk.
Find Your People at XY Planning Network
Struggling to find a group of people to hold you accountable or bounce ideas off? As an XY Planning Network member, you have several amazing opportunities to find your people. XY Planning Network has a vast membership base representing a wide range of planning backgrounds and different niches. At XYPN, we pride ourselves in building a community of financial planners who want to answer questions for one another, connect with other highly engaged advisors, grow their professional networks, and share resources.
In addition to live events, webinars, study groups and such, XYPNers have access to a robust members-only online forum. Hundreds of supportive advisors are quick to respond with a helpful answer or anecdote. Being an entrepreneur with an army of support is a rare situation...the best of both worlds! Members are located all over the United States; there’s a good chance you can connect in person with a member near you. (To learn more about joining XY Planning Network, start with this video introduction.)
What You Want Is Enough
I understand feeling lonely in your own business. At one point or another, all business owners will combat this feeling. Even if you’re introverted, going it alone can get rough sometimes. And if you’re extroverted like me? You’ve likely been craving a team member from Day One.
No matter which path you go down in an attempt to reduce your loneliness and engage with a team or a support network, just remember: what you want is enough. When you evaluate what will make you happiest, go with your gut. Don’t listen to the people in your life (or your industry) who insist there’s a set way of doing things.
Dare to think outside of the box and do what’s best for you. Ultimately, as soon as you set aside the “shoulds” in your business, you’ll find that you become less lonely, more engaged, happier, and more successful. It’s a magical thing - but it’s 100% achievable. You can do it.
About Arlene Moss, Executive Coach
Arlene gets a kick out of helping financial advisors get over being overwhelmed and take on their frustrations so their businesses soar. Arlene works to ensure XYPN members are able to help their clients prosper while creating a sustainable business model. Through XYPN Academy and one-on-one coaching, members get the support they need to grow their businesses and overcome the challenges that come their way.